You are on page 1of 46

A Guide to the

Control and Management

INVASIVE
phragmites
A Guide to the
Control and Management
of

invasive
phragmites
Partial funding for this program is supported by
a Cooperative Agreement from the U.S.
Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife
Service. Mention of trade names or commercial
products does not constitute their endorsement
by the U.S. Government.
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4

Table of Content
Introduction 1

Understanding Control Methods 9 Recommended A Call to Action 33


Phragmites 3 Management Strategies
Herbicides 11 List of Authors 34
23
The Problem 3
Table 1. Contact Information 35
…for Large, Dense
Illustration of the nonna- Herbicide Application
Stands of Phragmites on Reference Information 35
tive phragmites plant 4 Information 11
a Wet or Dry Site 24
Acknowledgments 37
Plant Description 5 Table 2.
…for Large, Dense
Herbicide Application
Native Phragmites 5 Stands of Phragmites in
Methods 12
Impoundments 25
Life Cycle 7
Prescribed Fire 15
…for Low-Density
Mechanical Treatment Stands of Phragmites on
17 a Wet or Dry Site 26
Water Level Management Table 3.
“Flooding” 21 Management Strategies 27
Long-Term
Management and
Monitoring 29
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 1

Introduction
An aggressive, nonnative variety of phragmites (Phragmites australis),
also known as common reed, is threatening the ecological health
of Michigan wetlands and coastal shorelines.

This invasive variety of phragmites is agers’ on-the-ground experience, to


becoming widespread throughout the control the nonnative variety of phrag-
Because this guide discusses tools Great Lakes and is displacing the native mites, hereafter referred to simply as
that are not readily applied by the variety of the same species, as well as phragmites. Control of phragmites is
many other native plants. Near-mono- one step toward a greater goal of restor-
average landowner, it is intended typic stands of this phragmites have ing native wetland plant communities
replaced high-quality, complex commu- and protecting fish and wildlife habitat.
primarily for land or resource man- nities of native plants over thousands of The easiest way to control phragmites is
agers from agencies, organizations, acres of Michigan wetlands and coastal to begin a control program as soon as it
areas. The rapid expansion of this variety is observed on your property, before
and businesses and extension agents or of phragmites has resulted in adverse the plants become well established.
ecological, economic and social impacts In many areas, especially those with
others in a similar position. on the natural resources and people of established phragmites, complete eradi-
the Great Lakes. cation may not be achievable. However,
through periodic management, it is
The goal of this guide is to provide
possible to maintain phragmites infesta-
information about effective methods to
tions at levels that allow for regeneration
control and manage phragmites. This
of native wetland plant communities
guide presents a compilation of tech-
and protection of fish and wildlife
niques, based on four years of research
habitat.
and more than 10 years of land man-
left: Dense stand of phragmites that has
displaced native vegetation. B. Avers
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 3

The Problem
Once phragmites invades,
it causes adverse ecological,
economic and social Understanding
impacts including:
* Threats to coastal and interior
wetlands, which are Michigan’s
Phragmites
most biologically diverse and
productive ecosystems.
To better control and manage phragmites it is helpful to understand
the physical characteristics of the plant, as well as how and when
* Domination of native vegetation, it reproduces and spreads.
displacing desirable native plant
species such as sedges, rushes and In Michigan, phragmites is found grow- Phragmites continues to expand within
cattails, and reduction of plant ing in coastal and interior marshes, Michigan, in part because it reproduces
diversity. bogs, fens, swamps, lake margins, road- through wind dispersal of seeds and vig-
* Reduction of wildlife habitat side ditches and other low wet areas. orous vegetative reproduction through
diversity resulting in loss of Typically it prefers the wetland-upland rhizomes. Rhizomes broken by natural
food and shelter. interface, though it can be found in dry actions, such as waves, or man-made
* Alteration of water regime, uplands. actions, such as dredging or disking,
causing “drying” of marsh soils readily reroot in new locations. Rapid
through increased evaporation expansion also is facilitated by other dis-
and trapping of sediments. turbances that give phragmites a compet-
itive edge, such as discharge of nutrients,
* Reduction of property values
wetland drainage, fire and road salt.
due to use impairment.
* Restriction of shoreline views
due to tall, dense stands.
* Reduction of access for swimming,
fishing and hunting.
* Creation of potentially serious fire on page 2: Tall, dense stand of phragmites restricting views and access to water,
hazard to structures due to dry and creating potential fire danger. J. Schafer
biomass during the dormant season.
Illustration of the nonnative
phragmites plant
[USDA NRCS plants database]

seed head plumes


purple-brown-silver;
6-20 inches long and up to 8 inches broad

flat, stiff leaves


0.5–2.0 inches wide near the base,
tapering to a point at the end

rhizome
horizontal, underground stem;
sends out roots and shoots from its nodes

Nonnative (background, left; dark


leaves) and native phragmites (front,
right; light green leaves) at Montezuma
National Wildlife Refuge, NY.
B. Blossey, Cornell University
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 5

Native Plant Description


Phragmites Phragmites is a perennial, warm season grass that can grow in dense
typically has the following stands and is long living.
distinguishing traits:
Plants can reach 15 feet in height, yet Before attempting to control phragmites
* Stems are reddish in the spring more than 80 percent of the yearly bio- it is important to be able to identify the
and summer and are smooth, mass is contained below ground in a native phragmites and other native plants
shiny and flexible, while nonnative dense mass of roots and rhizomes. Stalks that grow under similar conditions in
phragmites stems are tan and support flat, stiff leaves that are 0.5–2.0 Michigan’s coastal and interior wetlands.
rough, dull and rigid. inches wide near the base, tapering to a Field guides and other resources can be
* Leaves of native phragmites point at the end. Phragmites has gray- used to identify other wetland plants,
are lighter yellow-green, green foliage during the growing season, and a website through Cornell University
as opposed to dark blue-green. with distinctive purple-brown-silver seed (http://www.invasiveplants.net/phragmites/
* Rhizomes rarely exceed head plumes appearing by late July. phrag/morph.htm) can be used to identify
15 millimeters in diameter These plumes form at the end of stalks, native and nonnative phragmites.
and are yellow, as opposed to are 6-20 inches long and up to 8 inches
white to light yellow. broad, and have many branches.
Phragmites turns tan in the fall and most
* Co-occurs with other plants,
leaves drop off, leaving only the stalk and
while nonnative phragmites
plume-topped shoot throughout winter.
typically grows as a monoculture.
Dorm
ant

Jan
d c Feb
De
he
dS
See
es &

Ma
No
Food to R hizom

Germ
ination
Apr
Oct

y
Sep

Ma
Fl

Au
Jun
ow

ri g
e

ng h t
&S Jul row
eed G
Set et ative
Veg
Primar y
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 7

Life Cycle
Phragmites reproduces through rhizomes, horizontal stems growing
under the ground.

Rhizomes generate roots and stalks at Mature plants produce as many as 2,000
regularly spaced nodes. An individual seeds annually. Germination occurs in
plant can multiply into a large stand the spring, generally on exposed moist
through its rhizomes. Rhizomes may soils. Although seed viability is consid-
exceed 60 feet in length, grow more than ered low and germination is a slower
6 feet per year and readily grow into new process than spreading by rhizome frag-
plants when fragmented. ments, new stands of phragmites will
develop from seed. Water depths greater
In addition to facilitating reproduction,
than 2 inches typically prevent germina-
phragmites rhizomes can penetrate the soil
tion of seeds.
to a depth of more than 6 feet. This allows
the plant to reach low-lying groundwater Effective control of phragmites hinges
and tolerate a variety of conditions, upon attacking the right portion of the
including dry upland sites and wetlands plant at the proper times within the life
with water depths exceeding 2 feet. cycle to slow or stop current and future
growth.

left:
Approximate timing of the life cycle stages
of phragmites throughout the year.
Photos: D. Avers.
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 9

Control Methods
Control programs can result in significant reduction of phragmites,
This section will provide an overview but this requires commitment to an integrated approach and a long-
term management strategy.
of four broad control methods and
Few techniques are fully effective when The use of herbicide treatment(s)
recommendations based on field used alone, and reinvasion by phrag- (initial and spot treatments) is recom-
mites is likely when the management mended as the primary control method
experience. Prior to implementation
strategy is not maintained. The meth- and the first step toward effective con-
of any control methods, safety factors ods to be used for a particular site will trol. After the initial herbicide treat-
depend upon existing conditions and ment, one or more follow-up methods
and permit requirements must be taken management goals. Effective control of at each site will be required, such as:
phragmites, particularly larger well- prescribed fire, mechanical treatment,
into consideration. Many control
established stands, is likely to require or water level management. These fol-
actions require permits from local, multiple treatments using a combina- low-up methods will not only help pro-
tion of methods. vide multiple stresses on the plants, but
state and/or federal agencies. also will prepare the site for subsequent
years’ herbicide treatments. Creating
stresses through a regime of multiple
treatments on the plants is the most
effective way to control phragmites.

left: Aerial phragmites herbicide applica-


tion at Nayanquing Point State Wildlife
Area, Saginaw Bay, MI. D. Avers
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 11

Herbicides
Two broad-spectrum herbicides, glyphosate and imazapyr, are
commercially available and known to control phragmites effectively
when used properly.
These chemicals are nonselective and will Improper use of the terrestrial formula-
enter any plant species through contact tions in an aquatic habitat may harm fish
with the leaves or stems. Therefore, and macroinvertebrates and is a violation
impacts on other native plants may occur of federal and state laws.
if the product is applied incorrectly.
left: Spot treating phragmites with a Glyphosate and imazapyr can be used
Both herbicides are available in separate
backpack sprayer. L. Esman individually or combined to control
formulas for application either on
phragmites (Table 1). While the cost per
aquatic (wet) or terrestrial (dry) sites.
below: Table 1.
Herbicide Application Information

Imazapyr Glyphosate Combination

Apply to actively growing green Apply after plants are in full Apply after plants are in full
foliage after full leaf elongation bloom in late summer up to the bloom in late summer up to the
Treatment Timing and up to first killing frost (i.e., first killing frost (i.e., late first killing frost (i.e., late August
June up to first killing frost) August up to first killing frost) up to first killing frost)

High Three pints glyphosate and three


Six pints per acre Six pints per acre
Herbicide Volume pints imazapyr per acre
Rate Low 1 - 1.5% solution 1 - 1.5% solution No recommended rate is available
Volume
Cost High Low Medium

High Medium
High
Effectiveness Allows treatment earlier in the Good results where water level
Recommended for most sites
growing season management is available
Table 2. Herbicide Application Methods

Phragmites
Method Stand Site Conditions Treatment Technique Precautions
Characteristics

Effective in areas where Cut plants to waist height.


Seed heads should be removed
Injecting Scattered or impacts to desirable, Add one drop of herbicide
from the site after cutting to
Stems isolated native plant species must to hollow stems with a squirt
prevent seed spread.
be avoided. bottle or syringe.

Effective in areas where Cover (wipe) each individual


Use care not to over-saturate
Hand Scattered or impacts to desirable, stem using a cotton wicking
or drip herbicides on native
Swiping isolated native plant species must glove worn over a chemical
vegetation.
be avoided. resistant glove.

Use on low-wind days to


Scattered to Utilize flat fan nozzles
Backpack prevent drift outside the Spray close to leaves using
moderately to minimize non-target
Sprayer treatment area. Use care- low pressure.
dense stands exposure.
fully to avoid native plants.

Saturate absorbent material


Targets phragmites without
Moderately with low pressure sprayers
impacting shorter plant Herbicide will not be effective
Wick or dense to dense attached to an ATV or
species. Useful when com- on stems broken or damaged
Dauber stands greater tractor. The area must be
plete eradication of all by the equipment.
than 1 acre covered twice, in opposite
plants is not desired.
directions.

Use on low-wind days to


Dense stands Herbicide will not be effective
Boom prevent drift outside the Attach low pressure boom
greater than on stems broken or damaged
Sprayer treatment area. Use care- sprayers to an ATV or tractor.
1 acre by the equipment.
fully to avoid native plants.

Use on low-wind days to Spray area from helicopter Large scale application may
Dense stands
Aerial prevent drift outside the booms using proper droplet affect adjacent plant commu-
greater than
Application treatment area. Use care- size, boom length and nozzle nities. Using a skilled pilot is
5 acres
fully to avoid native plants. type. imperative.
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 13

-Herbicides-
gallon of imazapyr can be significantly applied to wet the leaves and, when pres-
higher than glyphosate, results from ent, the flower plumes of the target
recent studies suggest that imazapyr used plants. Excessive application, such that
alone or in combination with glyphosate the chemicals are dripping off the plants,
can control phragmites for a longer should be avoided because it is more
period of time (Getsinger et al., 2007). costly, can cause increased injury to
In most cases, herbicides should be used desirable nontarget species and often
in conjunction with burning or mechan- decreases the success of control. Visual
ical methods, and reapplied in subse- effects, such as browning or withering of
quent years to spot-treat individual the plants, may not occur for several
plants or patches of plants that were not weeks. If the herbicide is applied close to
eliminated completely in the first appli- the first killing frost, symptoms may not
cation. have time to appear before the plant dies
back for the year. In this case, control
Numerous methods may be used to apply
effectiveness may not be determined
these herbicides depending on the size of
Consult the Michigan Department of until the following growing season.
the phragmites stand and existing site
Environmental Quality (MDEQ) conditions, as identified in Table 2. When using herbicides, always read and
Application rates for low-volume spot follow directions on the manufacturer’s
website at http://www.michigan. treatment methods, such as injecting label. These directions must be followed
stems, hand swiping, wicks and backpack in order to achieve legal, safe and effec-
gov/deqinlandlakes or contact the spraying, are calculated by percent of tive treatment of phragmites. Only
MDEQ Environmental Assistance solution (e.g., 2 ounces of herbicide in 1 trained individuals should apply herbi-
gallon of water yields a 1.5-percent solu- cides. Pesticide use certification, which
Center (EAC) at 1-800-662-9278 tion). Application rates for high-volume can be obtained in Michigan through the
treatment methods, such as boom Department of Agriculture, is required
for more information about Aquatic sprayers, hand gun and aerial applica- prior to the use of imazapyr and recom-
Nuisance Control Permits. Contact tions, are calculated on a per-acre rate. mended prior to the use of glyphosate.
Permits are required in Michigan when
To ensure the herbicide is taken up by
local municipal offices for information applying herbicide to phragmites in
the plants, a state-approved nonionic
standing water or below the ordinary
on city or township requirements. surfactant must be used in conjunction
high-water mark of the Great Lakes and
with the herbicide(s) at the rate recom-
Lake St. Clair.
mended on the label. Spray should be
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 15

Because phragmites stands burn hot

and fast, safety is paramount when

using prescribed fire and a burn plan


Prescribed Fire
should be prepared prior to initiating Prescribed fire is a tool that can be used after an herbicide treat-
ment to remove excess biomass, potentially kill any living rhizomes
any work. Preparation of a burn plan and promote native plant growth.
will help prevent unintended spot-fires
In situations where prescribed fire can be heads, removes dead stems, and helps kill
and minimize adverse impacts to implemented it is easier to locate phrag- any phragmites plants that survived the
mites regrowth and spot-treat those plants initial herbicide treatment. Burning dur-
wildlife, sensitive plant species and with herbicides once a site has been cleared ing this time frame also will provide for
adjacent property owners. Prescribed of the thick, dead stems. In situations where green-up of native plants before first
it can be implemented safely and effectively, frost. Late summer prescribed fires
fire must be handled carefully and prescribed fire is a cost-effective and eco- should be conducted when conditions are
logically sound tool to help control phrag- as dry as possible to achieve a complete
should be conducted only by properly mites. Prescribed fire is recommended burn of plants.
trained individuals. More information where phragmites exists in large dense
If it is anticipated that a prescribed fire
stands. Use of prescribed fire without first
cannot be accomplished during the sum-
can be found on the Michigan treating with herbicides does not control
mer period, then an earlier burn in the
phragmites, and instead may encourage
Prescribed Fire Council website at winter (January until prior to spring
rhizome growth and cause phragmites pop-
green-up) following an herbicide treat-
http://www.firecouncil.org.
ulations to become more vigorous.
ment is recommended. A winter burn
Prescribed fire should be conducted the can prepare the site for subsequent her-
Approval from the local municipality
year following herbicide treatment, either bicide treatments and removes dead
and fire department will likely be in late summer (mid-July through stems, allowing sunlight to stimulate new
August) or winter (January until prior to growth of many plant species. Once a site
required prior to the prescribed fire. spring green-up). Both options are very has been cleared of the thick, dead stems,
effective in controlling phragmites and it will be easier to locate phragmites
encouraging native plant growth. regrowth and spot-treat those plants with
herbicides. Be aware, however, that burn-
Prescribed fire conducted in late summer
left: Using prescribed fire after an ing during this time frame can also stim-
as a second-year treatment following an
initial herbicide treatment, ulate growth of phragmites plants that
herbicide treatment is preferred. A pre-
Erie Marsh Preserve, MI. H. Braun survived the initial herbicide treatment
scribed fire in late summer destroys seed
(Getsinger et al., 2007).
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 17

In Michigan, mowing and cutting Mechanical Treatment


phragmites below the ordinary
Mechanical treatments are used most effectively following an
high-water mark of the Great Lakes herbicide treatment to remove dead stems and promote native plant
growth. This also aids in the identification of new phragmites
and Lake St. Clair requires a permit growth for subsequent herbicide spot treatments. When burning
from the MDEQ, Land and Water is not feasible, mechanical treatment is recommended.
Management Division. Mechanical treatment should be limited If mechanical treatment methods are
to only those areas where phragmites is chosen as part of a phragmites manage-
Permit applications can be obtained
present, and should not include broad- ment plan, it is critical to adhere to the
from the MDEQ website at scale mowing of other wetland vegeta- following timing recommendations.
tion. Mechanical treatments should not occur
http://www.michigan.gov/ until at least 2 weeks after herbicide
Mechanical control of phragmites
treatment to allow plant absorption of
deqwetlands. Mowing stands of includes the use of weed whips, small
the herbicide. To remove dead stems on
mowers, brush hogs, and flail mowers or
phragmites in inland wetlands may also dry sites after an herbicide treatment,
hand-cutting of stems and seed heads.
mechanically cut the treated plants once
require a permit. Before initiating any The use of mechanical equipment is
within a period from late summer or fall
highly dependent on the size and wetness
until prior to spring green-up. On wet
cutting or mowing regimen, contact the of the site and the density of phragmites.
sites, mechanically cut the treated plants
Weed whips or handheld cutting tools are
MDEQ EAC at 1-800-662-9278 once when the ground is frozen to mini-
ideal for use on wet or dry sites with low
mize soil disruption. Mowing/cutting
for more information about Land and plant densities. Small mowers can be
should occur only during time frames
used effectively on low density sites.
that will avoid soil disturbance.
Water Management permits. Larger mowers can be used on sites with
a higher density of plants, but the site Once an area has been mowed or cut,
must be dry enough to support the thatch should be raked, bagged and dis-
weight of the mower in order to avoid posed of in an appropriate location to
soil disturbance. prevent seed spread and to allow sunlight
left: Using a brush hog to mechanically
remove dead phragmites stems after an
herbicide treatment; St. Clair Flats
Wildlife Area, MI. J. Schafer
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 19

-Mechanical Treatment-
to reach the soil surface. This ensures minimize impact on small animals and
that the native seed bank will have an native plants. Mechanical treatments are
advantage during the subsequent grow- not intended to create the appearance of
ing season. Use of a flail-type mower can a manicured lawn, but to allow reestab-
eliminate the need for thatch removal, lishment of native wetland vegetation.
since it will destroy most plant parts ade- Cutting/mowing should occur only in
quately. those areas where phragmites is present.
Under limited circumstances, for exam- Mechanical methods must be used care-
ple, when isolated plants or low density fully to avoid stimulating growth of
stands of phragmites exist and herbicide phragmites. Mowing alone leaves the
treatment is not feasible, mechanical plants’ rhizomes behind. Regeneration
treatments alone may be used to reduce from those rhizomes may cause an
phragmites and encourage native plants. increase in stand density. Improper use
In these situations, cutting individual of mechanical methods, such as cutting
plants or mowing small areas of phrag- during the wrong time of year, cutting
mites once during late summer/fall too frequently, too short, or where native
(September to first killing frost) appears plants are present, can disrupt wildlife
to have the best results because it elimi- and destroy existing native plants. Disking
nates the surface biomass of the plant soil is not recommended as a mechanical
when it is using most of its energy for control method for phragmites, since it
flower and seed production. Cutting/ results in the spread of rhizomes and the
mowing in late summer also eliminates production of new plants. Equipment
potential disruption to the breeding and used to manage phragmites must be
nesting seasons for most birds. If a cleaned properly of all debris before it is
left: Using a weed whip to mechanically
mower is used instead of handheld tools, removed from the treatment site to pre-
treat a small stand of phragmites;
then the mower deck should be set to a vent the unintended spread of seeds or
Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area, MI.
mowing height greater than 4 inches to rhizomes to other areas.
D. Avers
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 21

Water Level Management


“flooding”
In impounded sites where water levels can be readily manipulated,
phragmites can be controlled effectively through an herbicide
In Michigan, a permit from the MDEQ, treatment followed by prescribed burning and flooding.
Land and Water Management Division,
Although phragmites is intolerant of If phragmites is on site or in the sur-
is required prior to manipulating water persistent flooding, increasing water level rounding landscape, managers should
alone is not effective in controlling it. use caution when timing drawdowns.
levels in impoundments. The permit Drawdowns should be conducted in late
Traditional moist soil management, in
application can be found at http:// summer (late July) to maintain and pro-
which impoundments are drawn down
mote native vegetation and to avoid
to produce mud flats in early summer,
www.michigan.gov/deqwetlands. reestablishment of phragmites.
may encourage growth of phragmites.

left: Pumping station used for controlling


water levels in a wetland impoundment;
St. Clair Flats Wildlife Area, MI.
J. Schafer
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 23

Recommended
Management Strategies
Because of the physiology of phragmites, well-established stands
are difficult to control with only one herbicide treatment.
An initial herbicide treatment stresses Before control methods are implement-
the plants, making them particularly ed, it is important to evaluate the site
vulnerable to subsequent treatments. properly to determine the density of
Creating multiple stresses on the plants phragmites within the overall stand of
is the most effective way to control plants, the wetness of the site and the size
phragmites. Herbicide treatment in con- of the area infested by phragmites. Using
junction with prescribed fire, mechani- this information and recognizing that
cal treatment or flooding have proven to control of phragmites likely will require a
be effective in controlling phragmites long-term commitment, a comprehen-
and allowing native plants to reestablish. sive management plan can be formulated
and implemented.

The following three management strategies have been developed based on past efforts
to control phragmites. The three strategies provide information and steps in control-
ling phragmites under certain conditions. These strategies basically follow one of the
three general approaches in table 3. Together these strategies and approaches to man-
aging phragmites can be used to develop more comprehensive management plans.

left: Dead stems of phragmites the summer


after an aerial herbicide treatment and
natural vegetation regrowth; St. Clair
Flats Wildlife Area, MI. J. Schafer
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

24 part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4

Management Strategy
for large, dense stands of
phragmites on a wet or dry site

1. Treat phragmites stands with herbicide in early summer or late summer,


depending upon the type of herbicide used (see Herbicides section).
Wait at least two weeks to allow plant exposure to the herbicide.
2. Conduct the prescribed fire in the year following herbicide treatment either in
(a) late summer (mid-July through August) or
(b) winter (January until prior to spring green-up),
if prescribed fire cannot be accomplished during the summer.
3. Check site the following growing season for phragmites regrowth and spot-treat
with herbicide if needed.

If prescribed fire is not possible, beginning in late summer or fall until


mechanically treat wet sites when ground prior to spring green-up. Herbicide spot
is frozen to minimize soil disturbance. treatment will be needed during the next
On dry sites, mechanically cut treated growing season.
plants once after an herbicide treatment

left: Large, dense stand of phragmites.


B. Avers
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 25

Management Strategy
for large, dense stands of
phragmites in impoundments

1. Treat phragmites stands with herbicide in late summer (late August and
Note: September), followed immediately by flooding to a minimum water depth of
For small, scattered stands of phrag- 6 inches. (It is not necessary to dewater the site prior to herbicide application.)
mites within an impoundment, steps 2. Allow the site to remain flooded until the next summer, and then dewater in late July.
1-5 may not all be necessary. In these 3. Keep the site as dry as possible until mid-August, at which time use prescribed fire.
cases, treat with herbicide and maintain 4. Immediately following the burn, flood the site to a minimum water depth of 6
inches and maintain this water depth for at least one year.
water levels throughout the next grow-

ing season. Spot treatment with herbi-


5. Check site the following growing season for phragmites regrowth and spot-treat
with herbicide if needed.
cide may be needed the following year.

If prescribed fire is not feasible for a site, a frozen condition to remove the dead
it is recommended that the site be plants that have persisted from the
mechanically treated during the winter in herbicide treatment.
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

26 part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4

Management Strategy
for low-density stands of
phragmites on a wet or dry site

1. Treat phragmites stands with herbicide in early summer or late summer,


depending upon the type of herbicide used (see Herbicides section).
Wait at least 2 weeks to allow plant exposure to the herbicide.
2. Mechanically treat site beginning in late summer or fall until prior to spring
green-up, or when the ground is frozen for wet sites with hand tools, weed whips
or small mowers where dense stands of phragmites are present.
3. Check site the following growing season for phragmites regrowth and
spot-treat with herbicide if needed.

left: Low-density stand of phragmites


at St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area, MI.
J. Schafer
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 27

Table 3. Three integrated multi-year approaches to managing phragmites.

A PPROACH 1 A PPROACH 2 A PPROACH 3


Jan
Feb
Mar
April
May
Year 1

June herbicide treatment with imazapyr


July
OR
Aug
Sep herbicide treatment with glyphosate or imazapyr/glyphosate combo
Oct
Nov mechanical
Dec
treatment
Jan
Feb prescribed burn
Mar
April
May
Year 2

June spot treat with imazapyr (if necessary)


July
prescribed burn OR
Aug
Sep spot treat with glyphosate (if necessary)
Oct
Nov
Dec
Jan
Feb
Mar
April
May
Year 3

June spot treat with imazapyr


July
OR
Aug
Sep spot treat with glyphosate
Oct
Nov
Dec
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 29

Long-Term
Management and
Monitoring
Management of a site to control phragmites does not end with the
successful implementation of one or more of the control methods
described above, but rather begins with these initial steps.
Because of the pervasiveness of this Annual maintenance is essential to the
species and its ability to aggressively recol- success of any habitat restoration plan
onize through seed or rhizomes, long- and should focus on selectively removing
term management and monitoring are pioneer colonies of phragmites. Once
necessary. areas of phragmites have been controlled
(e.g., greater than 85-percent reduc-
The control methods described above are
tion), it is recommended that an annual
likely to be successful in controlling
maintenance control program be imple-
phragmites for one to two years without
mented. Successful long-term manage-
additional action. However, phragmites
ment plans should incorporate one or
typically begins to recover three years after
more of the control methods, including
treatment and will become reestablished if
spot treatment with herbicide, mowing
follow-up management is not imple-
during the recommended time and/or
mented. After removal from a site, phrag-
use of prescribed fire. For example,
mites will continue to recolonize from
annual spot treatments of pioneer
remnant and neighboring populations
colonies of phragmites with herbicides
and the existing seed bank in the soil.
left: Restoration site in year three of a can provide up to 100-percent control
phragmites control plan, Bay City State of phragmites and discourage its spread,
Recreation Area, MI. Note dead stands while enhancing the recovery and growth
of phragmites and native vegetation that of native plants.
has reestablished. B. Avers
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 31

-Long-Term Management and Monitoring-


To reach the goal of reestablishing and initial control efforts and the types of
restoring native wetland plant commu- follow-up control methods that are nec-
nities, controlling invasive species is a essary. Monitoring may be as simple as
necessary step. Implementing selective establishing and using fixed photo points
control, as needed, will not only keep on the site to record changes over time,
phragmites from reestablishing domi- or more involved, such as comparison of
nance, but also will pave the way for the aerial photographs taken over time or the
recovery of beneficial native species of use of quantitative measurements and
wetland vegetation. Seeding an area after inventories of vegetation using sampling
phragmites control to restore native wet- grids or transects. At a minimum, each
land communities typically is not neces- treated site should be inspected annually
sary since native seeds normally are during the growing season.
present in the soil. It is recommended
In the future there may be an effective
that native vegetation be allowed to
biological control for phragmites, just as
reestablish naturally. However, if moni-
beetles can now be used to control pur-
toring determines that native plants are
ple loosestrife in certain situations.
not responding, some sites may require
Currently there are no commercially
seeding or planting using native geno-
available biological methods for the con-
types to reach restoration goals.
trol of phragmites; however, several
Monitoring and adaptive management insects and microorganisms native to
are integral components of a successful Europe are known to attack phragmites.
phragmites control plan. A detailed Ongoing research at Cornell University
monitoring plan should be developed is exploring the possibility of using these
prior to implementation of control species as a means of biological control
measures. Monitoring provides the data (http://invasiveplants.net).
needed to determine the effectiveness of
left: Great Lakes coastal wetland at
St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area, MI.
J. Schafer
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 33

A Call to Action
Whether the goals are to restore native plant communities and
wildlife habitat or improve a lakeside view and recreational
opportunities, the charge is the same—to control phragmites in
coastal and interior wetlands of Michigan.

Before an agency or organization engages While phragmites control can involve a


in efforts to control phragmites, it is significant expenditure of resources, the
important to establish realistic goals and environmental and social benefits
realize that achievement of these goals derived from restoring native wetland
will involve an ongoing commitment and communities to the coastal and interior
an annual investment of time and wetlands of Michigan are even greater.
resources. Agencies and organizations
have the opportunity to work together
and may be much more effective by
pooling resources to achieve control in
targeted geographic areas.

Many species—and people—benefit from wetlands: (top to bottom) recreational bird watcher;
black tern, J. Schafer; fox snake, J. Schafer; king rail, endangered, USFWS.
far left (page 32): Mallard ducklings, Al & Elaine Wilson
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

34 part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4

List of Authors
The following authors provided information for this guidebook:

Barbara Avers Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Wildlife Division


Ray Fahlsing MDNR, Parks and Recreation Division
Ernest Kafcas MDNR, Wildlife Division
John Schafer MDNR, Wildlife Division

Tracy Collin Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Land and Water Management Division
Laura Esman MDEQ, Water Bureau
Emily Finnell MDEQ, Office of the Great Lakes
Amy Lounds MDEQ, Land and Water Management Division

Russ Terry Ducks Unlimited

Jim Hazelman U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)


Jim Hudgins USFWS

Dr. Kurt Getsinger U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center

David Schuen Michigan Department of Transportation


understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 35

Contact Information
For technical assistance regarding phragmites control
or additional information:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Water Bureau, Aquatic Nuisance Control
P.O. Box 30273
Lansing, MI 48909
517-241-7734
www.michigan.gov/deqinlandlakes
email: deq-lwm-anc@michigan.gov

Reference Information
More information on phragmites control can also be found
in the following:
Getsinger, K.D., L.S. Nelson, L.A.M. Glomski, E. Kafcas, J. Schafer,
S. Kogge and M. Nurse. 2007.
Control of Phragmites in a Michigan Great Lakes Marsh—Final Report—Draft,
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS,
120 pp.

Tu M., C. Hurd, and J.M. Randall, 2001.


Weed Control Methods Handbook: Tools and Techniques for Use in Natural Areas
available at http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/handbook.html
understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

36 part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4


understanding phragmites control methods recommended management strategies further information

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 37

Acknowledgements
The Following Organizations Contributed
to the Development of this Guidebook
Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Wildlife Division
MDNR, Parks and Recreation Division
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Water Bureau
MDEQ, Land and Water Management Division
MDEQ, Office of the Great Lakes
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Private Lands Office
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Michigan Department of Transportation
Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation

Printing of this Publication


was made Possible by Funding From
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Coastal Program
St. Clair Flats Waterfowlers, Inc.
Harsens Island Waterfowl Hunters Association
Michigan Duck Hunters Association—Blue Water Chapter

Layout and Design by


J. Kleineberg, Ducks Unlimited, Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office
.
.
.