Source: Sherman Publications

Killing phragmites a few at a time

by Mary Keck

August 29, 2012

There’s a plant “changing the ecology of Michigan,” said Wild Ones Linda Lapinski.

The offending plant is phragmites, a reed that grows up to fifteen feet and has a feathery top.

Phragmites Australis are considered “invasive” by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) because they are not native to Michigan, and the plants spread rapidly creating monocultures that crowd out native vegetation.

“We as Wild Ones are trying to educate people about the problem,” said Lapinski.

She has lived in Independence Township for forty-three years and is disturbed by the rapid growth of phragmites she’s observed in the area.

“I don’t want to look out my window and see phragmites,” she said.

According to Lapinski, phragmites “have no natural predator, and so it takes over areas that could be used by native wildlife.”

Plants like Blue Vervain, Goldenrod, Boneset, and Wild Blue Aster can’t compete with phragmites; therefore, pollinating insects attracted to native plants are reduced, and birds and amphibians relying on insects for food have diminished.

“I can’t hear the spring peepers,” said Lapinski. “It’s quiet because there’s no activity.”

“Redwing blackbirds nest in native cattails and not in phragmites” causing a decline in the blackbird population, said Lapinski.

They have reduced duck habitats too, she pointed out.

Phragmites also “send out an acid in its root system, which kills native plants” and pollutes water, Lapinski explained.

“They are dangerous” because they are dry, flammable plants, Wild Ones Elizabeth Wagner added.

Wagner said phragmites fueled the fire in May that resulted in an evacuation of the Auburn Hills Golf Dome.

Since 2010, Wagner has organized workshops to educate local homeowners and eradicate phragmites where she lives at Deer Lake Farms Subdivision and beach.

Wagner, along with other homeowners, learned how to kill phragmites and have “mostly eradicated” the plants near their houses.

According to Wagner and Lapinski, there are numerous ways to combat phragmites such as cutting individual stalks and dabbing each plant with chemicals.

Cutting phragmites regularly “every two to three weeks” when the plant is green or changing the water level in the area where phragmites are growing can kill stands of it too, said Lapinski.

“My hope for this year is to continue workshops and show people how to get rid of it on their property,” Wagner said.

“It will take everyone’s help,” said Lapinski.

To educate and encourage community members to identify phragmites and start combating them, the North Oakland Wild Ones have planned a workshop on Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Daniel Church Cushing Center.