The Invasive Common Reed: Phragmites australis
Phragmites invasions generally begin as small stands at the edge of wetlands. Also known as common reed, this invasive plant can spread throughout a wetland, crowding out other more productive plants with its dense roots and vegetation to establish a "phrag" monoculture.
How does it become a monoculture?
- Reduces the amount of light reaching the lower ground plants
- Forms an impenetrable, dense network of roots and rhizomes
- Spreads by sending out horizontal rhizome runners 10 feet or longer
- Produces hundreds to thousands of seeds that may be spread by wind and water
- Establishes new plants from rhizomes fragments that may be transported downstream or to new sites by heavy machinery (e.g. road construction, telephone pole installation)
Invasive Phragmites Degrades Wetlands by
- Changing the structure of the marsh ecosystem
- Altering the hydrology by trapping sediments, which creates a drying effect
- Providing little or no shelter for wildlife
Control of Phragmites can help restore the productivity of the wetlands ecosystem. Noticeable improvements in habitat conditions for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent migratory birds have been observed when Phragmites is controlled.
Fragmented Phragmites: overview and identification of Introduced Exotic and Native Forms of Commone Reed (Phragmites australis). PowerPoint PDF Prepared by Jill Swearingen, National Park Service, June 14, 2006 (1.7MB PDF)
Phragmites Field Guide: Distinguishing Native and Exotic Forms of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) in the United States. by Jil Swearingen, J. and Kristin Saltonstall. 2010. Plant Conservation Alliance, Weeds Gone Wild.
Phragmites: Controlling the All-Too-Common Common Reed. Massachusetts Wetlands Restoration Technical Notes, Wetlands Restoration & Banking Program, Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Technical Note Number 1 April 1995. Prepared by Ralph Tiner, Wetland Scientist, Massachusetts Wetlands Restoration and Banking Program.
Invasive Plant Atlas of New England - The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England’s (IPANE) mission is to create a comprehensive web-accessible database of invasive and potentially invasive plants in New England that will be continually updated by a network of professionals and trained volunteers.
TNC Global Invasive Species team - part of The Nature Conservancy's response to abating the damage caused to native biodiversity by the human-facilitated introduction of non-native, harmful invasive species. This web site provides many resources designed to help all conservationists deal most effectively with invasive species.
More on Salt Marshes