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On the Look Out for Problematic Phragmites

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis) is an invasive species that landowners should be familiar with. It is a priority in the Great Lakes region and can tolerate harsh conditions, allowing it to populate various habitats. Phragmites is also known for changing habitat conditions to be more favorable for the invasive species. The best way to recognize phragmites, it to look for tall grass about eight feet tall, with long, narrow leaves and stems that turn yellow-brown in winter. The plant will also have a seed head that resembles a plume of feathers.

However, once you have located a population of phragmites on your property, we strongly recommend you remove it as soon as possible. A population can quickly spread and create a dense monoculture, outcompeting native plant species. They reproduce quickly by growing a network of underground roots called a rhizome. A network of rhizomes can grow new stems that even exchange resources. Since the plant can reproduce underground, this makes the soil viable for dispersal and physical removal impossible. Similar to other plants, phragmites also reproduce through seeds. The large seed heads at the top of the plant can release thousands of seeds by wind or mud.

If this plant introduced to a new habitat, removing the species will be challenging and may take several years. In some cases, the plant species may emerge years after treatment in an attempt to re-establish a population. Many landowners who attempt to take on this challenge alone sometimes have to mow repeatedly or cut all stems below surface water-line. Luckily for people in WRISC’s jurisdiction landowners can enroll in our cost-share program. We provide affordable and efficient ways to control many invasive species, such as Invasive phragmites. Otherwise always remember to clean you equipment or any off=road vehicles after use.

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