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Projects > Phragmites (Common Reed) Control Project

In June 2005 York County Soil & Water Conservation District was awarded a grant through the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. The Expanding Southern Maine Community Invasive Plant Control Phase 1 project encompassed developing an Integrated Pest Management plan (IPM), creating a steering committee, hosting workshops for ID & control of noxious weeds as well as distribution of education materials. As part of the second phase of this grant, this summer the Spruce Creek Association will be working with Joe Anderson of YCS&WCD in an effort to remove the invasive species phragmites in the shoreland zone of Spruce Creek to allow native plants to re-establish themselves on invaded wetlands, restoring the biological viability of these important ecosystems.

Invasive plants are non-native plants that outcompete and overrun native species, grow rapidly and spread to unmanageable levels in short periods of time. They change animal habitat by eliminating native foods, altering cover, and destroying nesting opportunities. Phragmites (or common reed) traps debris within its stands and can increase the elevation of the marsh surfaces, which can reduce the frequency of tidal inundation and ultimately alter the natural ecosystem. We’ve enclosed some hand-outs from YCS&WCD on invasives and phragmites and encourage you to review them.

For this project, the Spruce Creek Association will provide volunteer labor under Joe’s guidance for a couple of hours one day mid- to late-summer (after the phragmites tassles have appeared) to cut the plants and place a small amount of Rodeo on each stem. Our volunteers would then return in the fall (after the first frost) for a second cut to additionally stress the plants.

What is "phragmites" or "common reed"?
Common reed is a very agressive, robust, densely growing member of the grass family. Its height and density allow it to form monocultures or near monocultures that outcompete and overrun most nonwoody native wetland plants. The buildup of litter from previous years of growth prevents other species from germinating or establishing. It is capable of occupying and degrading vast areas of important wetland habitat, growing outward at a rate of 10 feet per year. It is tolerant of a wide variety of environmental conditions. Wetlands composed of mixes of naitve plants provide habitat for more wildlife species than do wetlands overrun by common reed. Common reed is problematic in both coastal and inland wetland types. In coastal situations, debris trapped within stands of common reed can increase the elevation of marsh surfaces, which can reduce the frequency of tidal inundation and ultimately alter the natural ecosystems.

How do you control phragmites?
Phragmites plans are susceptible to extended periods of flooding, wave action and changes in salinity. Long term tidal flushing is beneficial in all thse cases, minimizing the influence of fresh water and highter nitrate levels, both of which aid the plant. Herbicides are effective in the short term of four to five years; glyphosate, formulated for use in wetlands, should be applied after the plants form their fluffy flower clusters, when the plants are sending carbohydrates to the rhizomes. These herbicides can only be applied by a licensed herbicide applicator (such as the staff at YCS&WCD). Combined cutting, burning, herbicide application and water management plans can help control the plant by removing old canes and allowing other vegetation to grow. Plant stands can actually increate when cut early in the season. For effective management, cut plants in late summer, in several successive years. Monitoring the spread of this plant is crucial because of its tendancy to reinvade. Control techniques may need to be repeated indefinitely.

Spruce Creek Phragmites Stands
We have identified nine stands of phragmites in the Spruce Creek Watershed. We'd like to thank the land owners who've given us permission to participate in the YCS&WCD grant program for the next two years to monitor the progress, including the Town of Kittery, Shepards Cove, the Faith Baptist Church and several other residents.

How Can You Help?
If you spot a site with phragmites growing, please let us know and we'll contact the land owners to see if the site might be included in future program. You can pretty much spot the reed any time of year - in fall/winter the dead stalks remain with their tassles, and in the spring and summer the new reeds grow up among them. If you've found a location, note it down and let us know.

Learn More
You can also view more information on this grant and other invasive terrestrial plants at the York County Soil & Water Conservation District website.

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