What is Phragmites?
What can be done to control Phragmites?
Also known as common reed, Phragmites is a large, coarse, perennial grass often found in wetlands. Although scattered clumps of phragmites provide cover for small mammals and birds, it usually forms large, dense stands that provide little value for wildlife. This invasive species reduces the diversity of plant and wildlife species.
It grows in wet areas including fresh or brackish marshes, creeks, edges of ponds and lakes, ditches, and the dune systems of barrier coastal islands. Dense stands of phragmites usually are associated with areas where soil has been exposed or disturbed. The plants are less competitive when water levels vary by seasons and years. The exact abundance and current rate of spread of phragmites in Maryland is unknown. However, it is increasing in abundance and distribution.
Phragmites has a thick stalk that can reach 13 feet in height. It has a large plume-like flower that persists throughout the winter. Phragmites spreads by creeping rhizomes (roots). All stands have vertical and horizontal rhizomes, and young stands have long surface runners that help in rapid expansion of the colony.
Techniques used to control phragmites may include chemical treatment (i.e., spraying herbicides) or physical treatments such as mowing, flooding, and draining. Multiple treatments are usually necessary to effectively control a heavy stand. Controlling phragmites in wetlands by any method may require advance approval by state and federal agencies before treating. Based upon experience obtained in Maryland and other states, the most practical method of controlling phragmites is treating the plants with herbicide.
courtesy of Larry Allain
Photograph of phragmites plume-like flowers courtesy of Robert Soreng @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
- Donald Webster, Waterfowl Habitat
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