Source: Sherman Publications

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Invasive phragmites control sought

by David Fleet

March 21, 2012

Atlas Twp.- A common reed is producing an uncommon problem.

Township Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones is spearheading a drive to raise land-owners' awareness of an invasive reed that is growing at an alarming rate.

Phragmites australis is native to Michigan. An invasive, non-native, variety is becoming widespread in the state and is threatening the ecological health of wetlands and the Great Lakes coastal shoreline including low areas of the township.

"It's taking over many areas of both wetlands, lake shores and engulfing other plants," she said. "In some places it's more than 10 feet tall and over growing trees."

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the invasive variety of phragmites creates tall, dense stands which degrade wetlands and coastal areas by crowding out native plants and animals, blocking shoreline views, reducing access for swimming, fishing, and hunting, and can create fire hazards from dry plant material.

In January, the township board voted to explore a special permit from the state to give landowners the ability to use herbicides to control the growth. The MDEQ permit costs $75 for individuals. A township wide permit may make it more affordable and easier to obtain for land owners, Kautman-Jones said.

Anne Hokanson, MDEQ, Wetlands, Lakes and Streams Unit said two treatments are recommended.

"Controlling phragmites is a two-part process," she said. "We suggest applying a herbicide, either glyphosate or imazapyr in the late summer, followed by mowing or burning in the wintertime. The herbicide is necessary to kill the plant. Mowing alone may not be effective-the root remains and when it comes back it could be double the size."

"The phragmites are now all over the state, it's pretty bad. It shades out native plants and wildlife can't eat them. It spreads very fast and is very robust-it prompts other disturbances that give phragmites a competitive edge, including removal of nutrients and wetland drainage. The plant can exceed 60 feet in length and grow more than six feet per year, and readily grow into new plants."

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