Invasive Phragmites

The invasive Phragmites australis, common reed, can be found throughout North America, and is becoming a serious problem. Anyone who has spent any time driving on a major highway has witnessed this tall, ugly, dominant weed in the ditches along the road as well as many other places. Phragmites is a perennial grass originally transported from Eurasia, and is now causing severe damage to many beaches and wetlands throughout North America. It is very quick at reproducing, and disperses seeds mainly through wind and water, which allows it to take over areas. Phragmites often persists in large stands, which immediately reduces plant biodiversity of the area, and destroys habitat for other species, including many important Species at Risk. It completely transforms an area from a natural watercourse, into a dry “island” bed of phragmites. There are many waterfront properties along the coast of Lake Huron that had sandy beaches and beautiful views of the lake only a few years ago, and now there are only large fields of phragmites.


Large phragmites stand being measured by an MNR plant biologist 


before invasion


after invasion

There are many management projects ongoing to help fight the phragmites problem, however in most cases it is largely an uphill battle and phragmites is here to stay. Some techniques currently underway include:

Herbicide Application


Mowing and Compressing/Rolling


Controlled Burning


One of the biggest problems with phragmites is that once the plant is killed, by means of herbicide, mowing, rolling, etc. the dead plant material must be removed from the area, especially if it is in a water course. This adds countless hours onto the job, and usually results in the phragmites being hauled into a pile and burned to avoid further spread, created by even the dead plant matter.

Further Readings and References

Ontario Invasive Phragmites

Ontario Phragmites Working Group

Invasive Phragmites Best Management Practices

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