Invasives to Watch | Yellow Floating Heart

This last fall, in a pond on the University of Michigan (UofM) Dearborn Environmental Study Area in Wayne County, a high threat aquatic invasive plant known as yellow floating heart was found and removed as part of the state’s Early Detection and Response Program through a joint effort of the MDNR, MDARD, and MDEQ. 

Learn more about this invasive plant that has escaped from water gardens in the United States.


As early as 1891, yellow floating heart (YFH) has been sold in the United States as a water garden plant, and has been both accidentally and intentionally released into lakes and rivers with some nuisance populations becoming established.   It has now been detected in 20 states, but even more interesting is the historical connection to the 300 acre Environmental Study Area in Dearborn. This area is adjacent to the former home of Henry and Clara Ford, whom they suspect originally planted the yellow floating heart sometime before her death in 1950.

Being a perennial herb that grows in lakes, ponds, swamps, and channels with slow moving water puts the Great Lakes at risk for introduction.  YFH can form dense floating mats of vegetation that block sunlight from reaching native plants and algae, which could have far greater impacts on the fisheries and complete food web for the Great Lakes.  If reduction of native plant species occurs, we could witness degradation to the habitat for fish and wildlife, and if the impacts are large enough whole species may be forced to relocate.  The dense mats can also form sediment layers which decrease oxygen levels in the water, which will have an adverse impact on fisheries and aquatic species.

Since yellow floating heart is prohibited in Michigan, the best forms of management include physical hand-pulling and mechanical removal because the stems are easily cut by hand tools, or through the use of chemical aquatic labeled formulations of herbicides containing the active ingredient glyphosate, which provide the best herbicide control for this species.  The herbicide must be applied to the leaf surface when there is minimal chance of rain or wave wash-off.

However, yellow floating heart looks similar to our native pond or bullhead lilies, but can easily be identified by the distinctive flower of five fringed petals, whereas yellow pond lilies have a large yellow cup-like flower without fringed petals. Yellow floating heart generally blossoms between May and October depending on water temperatures.  In an attempt to keep the Great Lakes clear of yellow floating heart, if you find some, the best thing to do is report it using the MISIN app so quick steps can be taken to control and eradicate the problem.

Visit the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) and register now to be ready to respond:

This article is part of the ongoing series on invasive species funded in part with funds from the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program through the Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, and Agriculture and Rural Development

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