Invasion of the phragmites

By Robin McCormick
Devlin correspondent

An invasive species is moving our way and has already reached Marathon. 

Eric Clelend is the director of the Invasive Species Program at the Ontario Region Nature Conservancy of Canada. He did a presentation at the NOMA conference held in Thunder Bay in April on invasive phragmites (European Common Reed), a plant species causing damage to Ontario’s biodiversity, wetland, and beaches.

The phragmites grow eighteen feet tall and are so thick that even birds and small animals can’t penetrate it. It chokes our spawning areas of some fish species. These phragmites have the potential to devastate our lakes, some species of animals, birds, and fish, and can kill rice plants. It can ruin beaches. It likes to grow in ditches as well, and because it is so tall it’s likely to impede the ability to see along roads. 

Its roots can grow up to 90 feet long, and another plant will pop up at each foot of root. Because it is so thick and dense, when it dries in the fall, it is an extreme fire hazard. The seeds can be carried by birds and animals, so it may thrive in areas that are not easy to access. 

The easiest way to kill it is with chemicals, but you can’t use chemicals in many of the areas it grows in without damaging the surrounding wildlife or environment. There is a native species of the same weed, but it is much smaller. It is believed there are some of the native species growing in the ditch just east of Fort Frances.  

If you see this invading species call the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or visit EDDMap to report a sighting.