Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Cabomba caroliniana
(Carolina fanwort)



Cabomba caroliniana (Carolina fanwort)


  • Last modified
  • 18 March 2020
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cabomba caroliniana
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Carolina fanwort
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. caroliniana is a highly adaptable submersed aquatic macrophyte whose attractive flowers and finely dissected leaves have lead to widespread use and trade in the aquatic industry. It also has a high natural dispersal potential (...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cabomba caroliniana A. Gray, 1837

Preferred Common Name

  • Carolina fanwort

Other Scientific Names

  • Cabomba aquatica DC., 1821
  • Cabomba australis Speg., 1997
  • Cabomba caroliniana var. pulcherrima R. M. Harper, 1993
  • Cabomba pulchurrima (R. M. Harper) Fassett, 1993

International Common Names

  • English: cabomba; Carolina water-shield; fanwort; fish grass; gray fanwort; green cabomba; green grass chrysanthemum; purple cabomba; Washington grass; Washington plant; water shield grass
  • Spanish: cabomba; cabomba verde
  • French: cabomba de Caroline; cabomba verte; cabombe de Caroline; eventail de Caroline
  • Arabic: abu qarnain; alcabompa; kabompa
  • Chinese: shui dun cao shu

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: cabomba
  • Germany: Grüne cabomba; Grüne haarnixe; Haarnixe; Haarnixenkraut
  • Japan: gurin kabonba; iero kabonba; kabonba karoriniana; kamonba; kyabonba kakoii
  • Korea, DPR: kabomba; kabumba karol lynn lana
  • Korea, Republic of: kabomba; kabumba karol lynn lana
  • Netherlands: cabomba
  • Russian Federation: kabomba karolinskaya; karolinskoy kabombe
  • Thailand: bua sarai

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. caroliniana is a highly adaptable submersed aquatic macrophyte whose attractive flowers and finely dissected leaves have lead to widespread use and trade in the aquatic industry. It also has a high natural dispersal potential (Hogsden et al., 2007) due to its ability to readily fragment and spread both actively and passively. It can reach nuisance levels even in portions of its native range. The plant is typically associated with habitats that have low diversity (Lyon and Eastman, 2006). The plant also causes decreases in the biodiversity of native aquatic plants (Zhang et al., 2003).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Nymphaeales
  •                         Family: Cabombaceae
  •                             Genus: Cabomba
  •                                 Species: Cabomba caroliniana

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Cabomba caroliniana A. Gray is a member of the water-shield family, Cabombaceae, a bi-generic family containing both Cabomba and Brasenia. The genus Cabomba Aublet, Hist. Pl. Guiane was first described in 1775 and is characterized by submerged rhizomatous stems, floating peltate leaves, petiolate dissected leaves and emergent hypogynous flowers (Mackey, 1996). Multiple sources report 5 species within the genus, C. aquatica, C. caroliniana, C. furcata, C. haynesii, and palaeformis (e.g. USDA-ARS, 2008; Flora of North America, 1993). With regards to the species C. caroliniana, there are two varieties. In parts of the southeastern United States, the existence of a purple-tinted flower leads botanists to treat this population as variety C. caroliniana var. caroliniana whereas South American plants having yellow flowers are treated as variety C. caroliniana var. flavida Ørgaard (Flora of North America, 1993+). However, many synonyms exist for C. caroliniana var. caroliniana, including C. caroliniana var. pulcherrima, C. australis, and C. pulcherrima (USDA-ARS, 2008).


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C. caroliniana is an herbaceous, submersed, rooted aquatic species (ISSG, 2008) that often grows in water from 0.4-1.2 m and up to 6 m deep (Yu et al., 2004; Schooler et al., 2006). The plant has both submersed and floating leaves. Submersed leaves are oppositely arranged and 1-3.5 x 1.5-5.5 cm on petioles up to 4 cm long and finely dissected, having 3-200 terminal segments. Floating leaves are blades 0.6-3 cm x 1-4 mm with margins either notched or entire at base. Flowers are from 6-15 mm in diameter, flowers are white to purplish or yellow. Petals are obtuse or notched, with 3-6 stamens, 2-4 pistils and 3 ovules. Fruits are 4-7 mm, the 1-3 seeds are 1.5-3 x 1-1.5 mm long with tubercles in 4 rows (Flora of North America, 1993). The plant is fully submerged and occasionally produces floating leaves and flowers. The plant is rooted, but can survive in a free-floating state for six to eight weeks (ISSG, 2008). The plant produces fragile rhizomes, the erect shoots are green to olive green and sometime reddish brown, and are simply upturned extensions of the horizontal rhizomes (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2008).

Plant Type

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Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated


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C. caroliniana is native to subtropical temperate areas of northeastern and southeastern America (Zhang et al., 2003). It is fairly common from Texas to Florida, Massachusetts to Kansas in the USA, and occurs in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northeastern Argentina in South America (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2008). The species has two varieties with different distributions. The purple-flowered variety C. caroliniana var. caroliniana occurs in the southeastern USA, while yellow-flowered C. caroliniana var. flavida occurs in South America. Widespread trade in the aquarium industry has led to its introduction in areas outside of its native range. It is widely reported as problematic in Australia, Japan, and parts of the USA (Hogsden et al., 2007). The plant is preferentially associated with low-energy, nutrient-rich systems and is commonly found in water depths from 0.4 to 1.2 meters (Yu et al., 2004).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 12 May 2022
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


MalaysiaAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresent


GreeceAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
NetherlandsPresent, Few occurrences
SerbiaPresent, Transient under eradication
SwedenPresentIntroducedFirst reported: 1980 - 1989
United KingdomPresentIntroduced1969

North America

United StatesPresent, Localized
-District of ColumbiaPresent
-New HampshirePresentIntroduced1956
-New JerseyPresentIntroduced
-New YorkPresentIntroduced1955
-North CarolinaPresentNative
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroduced
-South CarolinaPresentNative


-New South WalesPresentIntroduced
-Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced
New CaledoniaPresent
New ZealandPresent, Few occurrences
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroduced

South America

-Minas GeraisPresent
-Rio Grande do SulPresent
-Sao PauloPresent

History of Introduction and Spread

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C. caroliniana was first introduced beyond its native range in the eastern USA. Though native to the southeast, it was found in Massachusetts in 1920 and subsequently spread northward to Ontario, Canada by at least 1991. It is very commonly used as an aquarium plant due to its attractive flowers and finely dissected leaves, probably contributing to its introduction and spread. People in the water garden industry grow plants in Florida, Australia and Asia for distribution and sale to Europe and other parts of the USA (ISSG, 2008). Humans are the main vectors of dispersal, probably introducing the plant by either intentional water garden plantings or through inappropriate disposal. Additionally, since the plant reproduces via fragmentation, boating activity facilitates the spread of the plant; fragments are frequently observed in lakes with heavy motorboat activity (Les and Mehrhoff, 1999).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia USA 1967 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Mackey (1996)
Canada 1991 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Wilson et al. (2007)
China 1980s Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Yu et al. (2004)
Connecticut USA 1937 Yes Les and Mehrhoff (1999)
Massachusetts USA 1920 Yes Les and Mehrhoff (1999)
New Hampshire USA <1957 Yes Les and Mehrhoff (1999)
New York USA 1955 Yes Les and Mehrhoff (1999)

Risk of Introduction

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C. caroliniana spreads largely through activities related to the aquarium trade. The species is widely available from aquarium plant distributors and has long been recommended for use in aquarium gardening. The repeated and multiple introductions observed in southern New England as evident from haphazard herbarium collections indicates that accidental or intentional release from cultivation probably explains the introduction of this species in its adventive range (Les and Mehrhoff, 1999). The plant spreads most often through vegetative means, primarily through stem fragments and rhizomes (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2008). Thus, the spread of the plant increases with boating activity; it has long, trailing stems that become wrapped around boat propellers and consequently is transported within and among water bodies (Les and Mehrhoff, 1999). Though the plant flowers from May to September in the southeastern USA, the plant self-pollinates and produces seeds that germinate, though germination is not readily reported in the field (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2008).


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C. caroliniana has broad environmental requirements. It often is rooted in the mud in low-energy streams and rivers as well as in ponds, sloughs, lakes, ditches, reservoirs and ponds (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2008). It can grow in water with pH from 5.7-9.2, is highly tolerant of anaerobic conditions and can survive in high alkalinity water (USDA-NRCS, 2008) and/or water with high turbidity. Growth is highest at medium turbidities, but the plant still thrives in high-turbidity water, and moderate-to-high turbidity water facilitates the production of adventitious roots (Mackey, 1996). The plant prefers warm sub-tropical climates with temperatures from 13-27 degrees C (ISSG, 2008), although it can tolerate below freezing temperatures (Mackey, 1996). In China, the plant is particularly aggressive and problematic in nutrient-rich waters.

Habitat List

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FreshwaterIrrigation channels Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterIrrigation channels Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
FreshwaterLakes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterLakes Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
FreshwaterReservoirs Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterReservoirs Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
FreshwaterRivers / streams Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterRivers / streams Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
FreshwaterPonds Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterPonds Principal habitat Productive/non-natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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C. caroliniana is an aggressive plant, and in many instances has seriously impacted biodiversity. C. caroliniana has a broader niche than, and may pose a threat to, native species such as Ceratophyllum demersum, Vallisneria spp., and Utricularia spp.(Cao et al., 2006). Zhang et al. (2003) report C. caroliniana presents a significant threat to Ottelia alismoides, a once common species that is seldom seen after the introduction of C. caroliniana.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Ottelia alismoidesHydrocharitaceaeWild host

Growth Stages

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Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Pre-emergence, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

Biology and Ecology

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The family Cabombaceae is one of the basalmost lineages of angiosperms (Aoki et al., 2004). Randomly amplified polymorphic DNA studies show the genetic variation within the genus to be low (Xiaofeng et al., 2005). In 1991, the genus Cabomba  was revised by Orgaard (1991), who recognized five species, C. aquatica, C. palaeformis, C. furcata, C. haynesii and C. caroliniana, and three varieties, C. caroliniana var. caroliniana, var. pulcherrima, and var. flavida var. nov. and also suggested a basic chromosome number of x = 13. Flora of China (2001) indicates chromosome number of C. caroliniana varyingly as 2n=26, 78 or 104.
Reproductive Biology

C. caroliniana is a perennial species that produces solitary hypogenous flowers with three sepals, three petals and six stamens. The flowers are 1-2 cm across and are white, yellow, pink to purple-violet. The flowers are usually pollinated by small, nectar-seeking flies (Schneider et al., 2003). Flowers are bisexual and often self-pollinated (ISSG, 2008). However, vegetative reproduction is probably the most important means of spread. The plant produces rhizomes which can easily break into fragments. Fragments can be transported both actively and passively to new areas. A fragment can regenerate into a full plant as long as it bears at least one pair of leaves (Peconic Estuary Program, 2006).
Physiology and Phenology
The plant flowers during the summer months of May to September in the southeastern United States although the plant generally self-pollinates and field germination rates are low (ISSG, 2008). In fact, the plant doesn’t produce seed in the northern parts of its range, but multiplies clonally and spreads quickly by stem fragmentation. At the end of the growing season, the stems become defoliated, brittle and hard (Mackey, 1996). These turion-like stems produced at the end of the growing season can break free and remain green at the sediment surface and help the plant to over-winter under adverse conditions (Wilson et al., 2007). Defoliated stem fragments can remain buried in mud under ice, and will regrow starting in April (Mackey, 1996). North of Queensland in Australia, C. caroliniana flowers throughout the year, while in southern Queensland, the plant may overwinter and sexual reproduction has not been documented (Mackey, 1996). In the summer in southeastern Queensland, buoyant stems up to 6 m long can grow at 5 cm per day. In the same region in July and August, the stems lose buoyancy and fragment on the soil surface. After the winter months, these fragments will re-root and grow into new plants. In mild winters, dieback may not be observed (Mackey, 1996).

C. caroliniana is highly adaptable, and will probably be found growing in habitats along with a great many other submerged aquatic plant species. However, no close associations are reported in the literature. In fact, C. caroliniana was more commonly found in areas with significantly lower biodiversity (Lyon and Eastman, 2006). Co-dominant plants observed in C. caroliniana communities in China were Ceratophyllum demersum, Hydrilla verticillata, Vallisneria natans, Potamogeton crispus and Myriophyllum spicatum (Yu et al., 2004).
Environmental Requirements
C. caroliniana grows rooted in the mud in low energy streams, rivers, pools, ponds, reservoirs, impoundments and lakes. This species is not at all drought tolerant (USDA-NRCS, 2008), and grows in water at least 0.4 m deep (Yu et al., 2004). In China, Yu et al. (2004) report finding C. caroliniana typically in waters with pH 6.19-7.51, total nitrogen 0.14-3.27 mg/L, total phosphorus 0.044-0.838 mg/L and dissolved oxygen from 1.23-7.32 mg/L. The plant prefers soft, silty substrate and grows with decreased success on harder media (ISSG, 2008).


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B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Tolerated < 860mm precipitation annually
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BWh - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation, low altitude, average temp. > 18°C
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Tolerated Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
D - Continental/Microthermal climate Tolerated Continental/Microthermal climate (Average temp. of coldest month < 0°C, mean warmest month > 10°C)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
45 12

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -30.56 41.1
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 11.6 25.4


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall10201520mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Hydrotimetes natans Herbivore Plants|Stems to genus
Paracles Herbivore

Notes on Natural Enemies

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C. caroliniana does serve as a source of food for wildlife (Mackey, 1996). In an attempt to identify a suitable biological control agent for the species, several natural enemies were discovered in South America. Of the several insects, snails, and limpet evaluated, the most promising biological agents were the stem boring weevil, Hydrotimetes natans and the aquatic moth Paracles spp. (Schooler et al., 2006). The bulk of the existing biocontrol research centers on the species H. natans, the adults of which feed on foliage and the larvae mine the stems. The larvae are divers that can live under water for hours on end by holding an air bubble around the abdominal sternites. Field and laboratory studies indicate that this species is specific to fanwort (Walsh and Mattioli, 2007). The plant has been reported to be a source of food for water fowl. The Texas river cooter, Pseudemys texana feeds preferentially on C. caroliniana.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

C. caroliniana
disperses mainly vegetatively by rhizomes and fragments. Passive spread of fragments and seeds by water movement allows the plant to expand its population locally. Clonal multiplication happens quickly (Wilson et al., 2007), with growth rates of up to 5 cm per day (Mackey, 1996). 

Vector Transmission

In parts of its range where sexual reproduction has been recorded, seeds are probably dispersed by water birds, which allows for spread among waterbodies (Mackey, 1996). Plant fragments may also travel as hitchhikers on waterfowl or wildlife.

Accidental Introduction

C. caroliniana
has long been used by aquarium enthusiasts. It is one of the most popular aquarium plants available from distributors. Therefore, improper disposal of aquarium specimens probably leads to a number of accidental introductions. Long fragments can also easily be wrapped in boat motors or become entangled in boating equipment, and since the plant is highly capable of reproducing via fragmentation, boating activity has definitely facilitated population expansion. In fact, more fragments are often observed in lakes with heavy motorboat activity (Les and Mehrhoff, 1999).

Intentional Introduction

Because of its value to the aquarium industry, the plant is often intentionally cultivated both in its native and adventive range, where it is harvested for sale and distribution worldwide. It is suspected that at least some of the invasive populations in Queensland, Australia were intentional introductions related to the aquarium trade (Mackey, 1996). Additionally, the same qualities that make this plant attractive as an aquarium plant may also lead people to plant it in outdoor water gardens, posing a risk for release and population expansion.

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Human health Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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C. caroliniana is an economic asset given its heavy trade in the aquarium industry. In Australia, even despite its declared status, the plant is still traded by northern growers, although its economic value is less than AUS $10,000 annually (Mackey, 1996). The economic costs of this species can be quite substantial. Infestations increase the colour of potable water, thus increasing the cost of treatment up to AUS $50 per mega litre. Dense populations can interfere with recreational activities and matted vegetation can decrease aesthetic value, resulting in a decrease in tourist dollars. For example, commercial fishing camps in the USA have been forced to close or have had incomes severely impacted and private camp owners have closed due to heavy infestations (Mackey, 1996). Economic losses are probably less severe in Australia, where natural lakes are fewer, although decreased amenity values, health risks and safety issues still threaten significant economic impacts (Mackey, 1996).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitat

This plant is extremely productive, and can be a nuisance even in its native range (Hanlon et al., 2000). In Queensland, C. caroliniana have been shown to negatively impact water quality. The winter dieback that occurs in harsher areas of its range can cause substantial nutrient release, especially manganese pulses. This sudden manganese release can impact the manganese cycle and impact water quality. Additionally dense stands can cause water loss through seepage and overflow, thus impacting hydrological regimes (Mackey, 1996). Compared with native macrophyte beds, light is significantly attenuated under C. caroliniana beds (Hogsden et al., 2007).

Impact on Biodiversity

The impacts of C. caroliniana on biodiversity have been widely reported in the literature. It has a different ecological niche than most other aquatic plants, thus impacting native species (Zhang et al., 2003). C. caroliniana populations are often associated with areas with decreased species diversity (Cao et al., 2006). Hogsden et al. (2007) showed that while native macrophytes could be found in C. caroliniana beds, their abundance was both low and uneven. They also found that epiphytic algae is more commonly present on C. caroliniana plants, and although the community composition of macroinvertebrates was not different from native plants, C. caroliniana plants supported higher abundances of macroinvertebrates. An additional study found that species composition and species number were greater in sites without C. caroliniana (Ding et al., 2007).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Ottelia alismoidesNo detailsZhang et al. (2003)

Social Impact

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While C. caroliniana has high social value as an aquarium plant, in natural systems the plant can cause substantial nuisance to recreational users by impeding navigation, tangling fishing line and wrapping motor propellers. Thick vegetation can also decrease aesthetic value. This species can also reduce swimming access and potentially cause human health safety issues (Mackey, 1996).

Risk and Impact Factors

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  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Conflict
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts cultural/traditional practices
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Transportation disruption
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition (unspecified)
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Economic Value

C. caroliniana has been grown and distributed worldwide as part of the aquarium business. In Australia, trade of C. caroliniana is a $300,000 per year business. C. caroliniana is also used in reclamation activities, primarily to remove lead from contaminated water supplies. Lead removal by C. caroliniana was 80-90% efficient at lead concentrations of one and 10 mg/L after 12-15 days of exposure (Yaowakhan et al., 2005). 

Social Benefit

Many people value C. caroliniana for its use as an aquarium plant. Many find its flowers and feather-like foliage quite attractive. Its tolerance of a wide range of environmental conditions means it is relatively easy to grow in home aquariums.

Environmental Services

C. caroliniana is a productive aquatic macrophyte which can cause nuisance problems. However, in highly degraded systems, it does sequester nutrients, which means it can be useful in the revegetation of impacted ecosystems. It might help to shift a waterbody away from an algal-dominated state. The plant can also provide environmental benefits typical of plants of similar ilk. Fanwort provide oxygen to the surrounding water, habitat to macroinvertebrates and fish, and is used as food by water fowl and wildlife (Mackey, 1996).

Uses List

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  • Landscape improvement
  • Revegetation
  • Wildlife habitat


  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Sociocultural value

Human food and beverage

  • Flour/starch
  • Nuts
  • Sugar


  • Chemicals
  • Essential oils

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical

Detection and Inspection

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Aquatic plant surveys by qualified aquatic botanists are generally necessary in the detection of this species.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Due to the petiolate finely dissected leaves, C. caroliniana can be readily confused with Ranunculus aquatilis. Such misidentification has been reported in the literature (Les and Mehrhoff, 1999). It is also easily confused with a number of other species by those who are not practiced in the identification of aquatic plants. The leaf morphology looks similar to that of Ceratophyllum spp., Myriophyllum spp. and Megalodonta beckii, or other such species. However, C. caroliniana is differentiated from these species by its petiolate leaves and white, yellow, or purple flowers. Differentiation of the five Cabomba species is a bit more difficult, and must take into account seed size, shape and surface quality (Mackey, 1996).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.


The vegetative propagules of this species are very easy to spread. Therefore, educational programs are usually necessary to decrease human-mediated spread. Teaching users how to clean equipment in a way that decreases the chance of transmission is one way to lessen the impact of the human vector. This species has been declared noxious in several states and countries.

Rapid response

Because this species reproduces vegetatively quite quickly, rapid response to decrease the population spread is integral to successful management. This species has been shown to be relatively resistant to physical and chemical management techniques, therefore an integrated management plan should focus on early detection and rapid response (Wilson et al., 2007).

Public awareness

Numerous educational campaigns have been directed at informing the public about the danger of aquatic invasive species. Areas in which C. caroliniana is particularly problematic commonly distribute informational materials about its identity as well as how to report new invasions. Other educational campaigns have been directed toward informing the public about how to clean equipment in order to prevent the movement of invasive species.


No reports of eradication exist in the literature.


Cultural control and sanitary measures

Fragments are easily transportable, thus it is extremely important to decrease the instances of accidental introduction by addressing humans as a vector. By establishing guidelines on how to properly clean equipment, dispose of aquarium water, and identify target plants, it is likely that instances of accidental transportation and release will be fewer.

Physical/mechanical control

Mechanical harvesting has been used to control C. caroliniana, but since the plant spreads via fragmentation, mechanical control cannot be expected to provide any benefit beyond temporary nuisance relief. Draining and drying are viable means of physical control (Wilson, 1997). Benthic barriers, drawdown, sediment removal, rotovation and shading are additional techniques that have been used with some success (USACE-ERDC, 2008). Since fanwort needs direct sunlight for growth, shading may be a good control method for small populations or early infestation (Peconic Estruary Program, 2006). However, other authors report that the plant has been shown to be relatively resistant to mechanical management techniques (Wilson et al., 2007).

Movement control

Since plants can spread via fragments, much attention has been given to decrease human-mediated dispersal. The plant has been officially listed as a noxious weed in the USA and Australia. Some states have put in place legislation to regulate the sale, transportation and introduction of C. caroliniana.

Biological control

Schooler et al. (2006) state that no effective population control measures exist to control fanwort populations. Therefore, surveys to identify biological control agents have been conducted in the plant’s native range of South America. The most promising agents are the stem-boring weevil Hydrotimetes natans and an aquatic moth (Paracles spp.). The stem-boring weevils were predicted to have a larger impact on deep-water C. caroliniana populations, while the moth larva is expected to control shallow-water populations (Schooler et al., 2006). Additionally, triploid grass carp have been used as biological control agents in Florida (Hanlon et al., 2000); however, there remains some concern with incomplete sterilization and release of this non-selective grazer.

Chemical control

It is generally reported that C. caroliniana is resistant to chemical control techniques. C. caroliniana is sensitive to 2,4-D (Wilson, 1997). Fluridone has been shown to give good control, in all treatments tested, significant reduction of shoot dry weight was achieved; however, the rates that gave more than 80% control had undesirable effects on non-target water marigold species (Nelson et al., 2002).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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More research needs to occur to evaluate potential control techniques, as well as the specific ecosystem impacts and the species’ effects on native plant species.


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Aoki S; Uehara K; Hasebe M; Ito M, 2004. Phylogeny and divergence of basal angiosperms inferred from APETALA3- and PISTILLATA-like MADS-box genes. Journal of Plant Research, 117(3):229-244.

Cao P; Yu M; Jin X; Ding B, 2006. Studies on niche characteristics and interspecific association of main populations in submerged communities invaded by Cabomba caroliniana. Journal of Zheijiang University Agriculture and Life Sciences, 32(3):334-340.

Ding B; Jin X; Yu M; Yu J; Shen H; Wang Y, 2007. Impact to native species by invading subaqueous plant Cabomba caroliniana. Oceanologia et Limnologia Sinica, 38(4):336-342.

EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2001. Cabombaceae. Flora of China, 6. 119-120.

Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 1997. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 3. New York and London, USA and UK.

GBIF, 2008. Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

Hanlon SG; Hoyer MV; Cichra CE; Canfield DE, 2000. Evaluation of macrophyte control in 30 Florida lakes using triploid grass carp. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 38:48-54.

Hogsden KL; Sager EPS; Hutchinson TC, 2007. The impacts of the non-native macrophyte Cabomba caroliniana on littoral biota of Kasshabog Lake, Ontario. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 33(2):497-504.

ISSG, 2005. Global Invasive Species Database (GISD). Auckland, New Zealand: University of Auckland.

ITIS, 2008. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution/NMNH MRC.

Jin X; Ding B; Gao S; Jiang W, 2005. Invasion and spreading of Cabomba caroliniana revealed by RAPD markers. Chinese Journal of Oceanology and Limnology, 23(4):406-413.

Les DH; Mehrhoff LJ, 1999. Introduction of nonindigenous aquatic vascular plants in Southern New England: a historical perspective. Biological Invasions, 1(2/3):281-300.,18,19;journal,25,26;linkingpublicationresults,1:103794,1

Lyon J; Eastman T, 2006. Macrophyte species assemblages and distribution in a shallow, eutrophic lake. Northeastern Naturalist, 13(3):443-453.

MacKee HS, 1994. Catalogue of introduced and cultivated plants in New Caledonia. (Catalogue des plantes introduites et cultivées en Nouvelle-Calédonie.) Paris, France: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, unpaginated.

Mackey AP, 1996. Cabomba (Cabomba spp.). Pest status review series - Land Protection Branch. Australia: Queensland Government Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

Nelson LS; Stewart AB; Getsinger KD, 2002. Fluridone effects on fanwort and water marigold. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 40:58-63.

Orgaard M, 1991. The genus Cabomba (Cabombaceae) - a taxonomic study. Nordic Journal of Botany, 11:179-203.

Peconic Estuary Program, 2006. Fanwort Cabomba caroliniana. Invasive Species in the Peconics. Yaphank, USA: Peconic Estuary Program.

Schneider EL; Tucker SC; Williamson PS, 2003. Floral development in the Nymphaeales. International Journal of Plant Science, 164(5 Suppl.):5279-5292.

Schooler S; Julien M; Walsh GC, 2006. Predicting the response of Cabomba caroliniana populations to biological control agent damage. Australian Journal of Entomology, 45(4):327-330.

Siti-Munirah MY; Chew MY, 2010. Cabombaceae, a new family record for Peninsular Malaysia. Malayan Nature Journal, 62(3):241-248.

USACE-ERDC, 2008. Aquatic Plant Information System. USA: US Army Corps of Engineers - Engineer Research and Development Center.

USDA-ARS, 2008. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory.

USDA-NRCS, 2008. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center.

Walsh WC; Mattioli F, 2007. South American Biological Control Laboratory. 2007 Annual Report. Hurlingham, Argentina: USDA-SABCL.

Washington State Department of Ecology, 2008. Technical information about Cabomba caroliniana (Fanwort). Non-Native Freshwater Plants. USA.

Wilson A, 1997. Fanwort, Cabomba. 'Agnote 707. Darwin, Australia: Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development.

Wilson CE; Darbyshire SJ; Jones R, 2007. The biology of invasive alien plants in Canada. 7. Cabomba caroliniana A. Gray. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 87(3):615-638.

Yaowakhan P; Kruatrachue M; Pokethitiyook P; Soonthornsarathool V, 2005. Removal of lead using some aquatic macrophytes. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 75(4):723-730.

Yu M; Ding B; Yu J; Jin X; Zhou H; Ye W, 2004. Basic characteristics of submerged plant communities invaded by Cabomba caroliniana and its habitat in China. Acta Phytoecologica Sinica, 28(2):231-239.

Zhang X; Zhong Y; Chen J, 2003. Fanwort in eastern China: an invasive aquatic plant and potential ecological consequences. Ambio, 32(2):158-159.

Distribution References

EPPO, 2022. EPPO Global database. In: EPPO Global database, Paris, France: EPPO. 1 pp.

GBIF, 2008. Global Biodiversity Information Facility. In: Global Biodiversity Information Facility, GBIF.

Hogsden K L, Sager E P S, Hutchinson T C, 2007. The impacts of the non-native macrophyte Cabomba caroliniana on littoral biota of Kasshabog Lake, Ontario. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 33 (2), 497-504. DOI:10.3394/0380-1330(2007)33[497:TIOTNM]2.0.CO;2

Les D H, Mehrhoff L J, 1999. Introduction of nonindigenous aquatic vascular plants in Southern New England: a historical perspective. Biological Invasions. 1 (2/3), 281-300. DOI:10.1023/A:1010086232220

NPPO of the Netherlands, 2013. Pest status of harmful organisms in the Netherlands., Wageningen, Netherlands:

Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435.

Siti-Munirah M Y, Chew M Y, 2010. Cabombaceae, a new family record for Peninsular Malaysia. Malayan Nature Journal. 62 (3), 241-248.

Washington State Department of Ecology, 2008. Technical information about Cabomba caroliniana (Fanwort). Non-Native Freshwater Plants. In: Technical information about Cabomba caroliniana (Fanwort). Non-Native Freshwater Plants, USA:

Zhang X, Zhong Y, Chen J, 2003. Fanwort in eastern China: an invasive aquatic plant and potential ecological consequences. Ambio. 32 (2), 158-159.

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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12/06/08 Original text by:

Alison Mikulyuk, Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources, Science Operations Center, 2801 Progress Rd, Madison, WI 53716, USA

Michelle Nault, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2801 Progress Rd, Madison, WI 53716-3339, USA

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