Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis) are reeds that can grow up to 15 feet tall and in thick patches. They have a feather like-top and leaves that attach to the stem in an alternating pattern. Their leaves are a blueish green or silver green color.
You can find this species near lake shores, ponds, the road sides, drainage ditches, agricultural areas, and other places where water may collect.
There is also a native species of Phragmites that is a smaller variety and co-exists in sparse patches. For more information about the differences between the two, visit the resources section below.
This species can grow and spread rapidly due to their extensive underground root & rhizome system and the large amount of seeds they produce. They can quickly fill in an entire shallow pond, eliminating habitat for native animals and plants. The density in which this species grows prevents native plants from colonizing the area and limits water access for native animals and for human recreation.
Find out more in this [video] from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)!
Additional problems this species can cause include: fire hazards from dry biomass (as they burn very hot and are hard to contain), disruption of visibility for motorists on roadways, and their presence can decrease property values.
Phragmites removal increases property values (Isely et al. 2017)
There are multiple treatment options for invasive Phragmites. These include both chemical and non-chemical options.
Non-chemical control methods:
– mowing or cutting: the plant is mowed using a heavy-duty mower or cut using hand-tools. Note: this methods may be effective for removing biomass, but does not kill the plant.
– cut to drown: the plant is cut below water, as close to the substrate as possible, may require several cuts throughout growing season. Note: this method only works if the Phragmites are consistently in over 1.5 feet of water
Chemical control methods:
– foliar spray: herbicide is sprayed onto the foliage of the plant. This is the most common method used to treat large patches, often done by contractors.
– cut and dab: the plant is cut and herbicide is poured into the hollow stem.
– A homeowner’s guide to small-scale control of invasive Phragmites [PDF of Guide]
– A Guide to the Control and Management of Invasive Phragmites by Michigan.gov [PDF of Guide] *this guide includes comparisons of native and invasive Phragmites
– Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) [Website]