The life histories of Myriophyllum spicatum L., Elodea canadensis Michx., and Potamogeton crispus L., serious aquatic nuisances in many regions of the world, are reviewed to provide insights into the life style of successful aquatic nuisance plants. Specifically, their distribution and spread in North America; their life cycle, productive and reproductive potential; and their ecosystem relationships are reviewed. Hopefully this review will improve a manager's ability to deal with aquatic nuisance problems. It also provides suggestions for basic research needed to develop more effective management practices. It was found that all three species possess a number of adaptations, including an ability to rapidly propagate vegetatively, an opportunistic nature for obtaining nutrients, a life cycle that favors cool weather, and a number of mechanisms which enhance photosynthetic efficiency, which allow them to proliferate. These three species do provide benefits to the ecosystem through their roles in materials cycling and energy flow. Therefore, management of these species should take an integrated approach which recognizes these benefits. The life history information available about the three species varies tremendously; however, a better understanding of resource gain and allocation is needed to manage all three species. Specifically, more research is needed to provide a better understanding of: 1) the role bicarbonate plays in photosynthesis, 2) the role roots play in supplying CO2 to the plabts, 3) resource accumulation and allocation under different temperature and light regimes, 4) resource allocation on a seasonal basis, and 5) nutrient cycling under different management regimes. ?? 1986 Dr W. Junk Publishers.