Phragmites australis is an aggressive invasive plant with no natural controls to keep it in check. It is recognized as Canada’s worst invasive plant due to the environmental, economic and social effects of it’s dense growth and rapid expansion. Learn more below.
Phragmites australis (Phragmites) (FRAG-mite-tez) is an alien, invasive plant with origins in Europe which has found its way to the Long Point area and is expanding rapidly.
Phragmites australis is an aggressive, spreading grass capable of reaching heights greater than 5 m and densities of over 200 plants per square metre. It typically colonizes a new site from seeds, which can be dispersed by winds up to 10 km, or by plant parts such as rhizomes, stolons, and stems in flowing water. Human activities, particularly those that disturb the soil are a major contributor to the rapid spread of this plant. Unlike our native phragmites this invasive strain out-competes all native vegetation and once established can expand into massive stands void of other plant life.
Phragmites australis was first recorded in the Long Point wetlands ~20 years ago. In 2014 it was estimated that Phragmites covered ~40% of those same wetlands and continues to expand at an exponential rate each year.
Increased Fire Hazards
The high percentage of dead stalks within a stand are highly combustible especially during the dormant season when conditions are dry.
Economic and Social Impacts
Phragmites has many negative social and economic impacts. It can impede drainage leading to reduced crop production. It can block sight lines at intersections creating driving hazards. Along infested shorelines it may reduce property values, recreational opportunities and aesthetic enjoyment.
Loss of Biodiversity and Species Richness
Phragmites australis significantly reduces biodiversity of native plants and animals once it develops into monoculture (aka 100% Phragmites) cells. Only the edges of these areas are used by native species while the interior is effectively a dead zone.
Loss of Habitat
Monoculture stands replace natural habitat and food supplies for various wildlife species, including Species at Risk. Phragmites stalks are rigid and tough, and do not allow for wildlife or humans to easily navigate.
Changes in Hydrology
Phragmites lowers water levels through high evapotranspiration rates resulting in the dewatering of shallow isolated pools. The dead plant stalks are resistant to decay and overtime a thick layer of dead plant material can build up and fill in open ponds.
Changes in Nutrient Cycling
Phragmites does not break down as easily as native plant species and therefore significantly alters nutrient cycling, levels and availability in a system. This species effectively outcompetes native plants for available nutrients and is capable of sending roots downward several metres to obtain required nutrients and water.
To learn more about the negative impacts of Phragmites please refer to:
The Long Point region (including the Turkey Point wetland complex and lower Big Creek watershed) is a biodiversity hot spot and part of the Carolinian Life Zone. This unique ecosystem extends north from the Carolinas to southwestern Ontario.
This area comprises less than one per cent of the country’s land mass and is home to 25 per cent of Canada’s population. It contains productive agricultural lands, forests and wetlands. The area provides habitat for nearly 25 per cent of our country’s species at risk, including:
Due to the abundance of biodiversity locally, the Long Point Walsingham Forest has been recognized as 1 of 11 “Federal, Provincial, Territorial Priority Places” in Canada under the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada. The wetlands and natural areas surrounding Long Point also have other significant designations including:
Through a variety of surveys, monitoring and assessment Phragmites has been identified as one of the major threats to biodiversity in the Long Point region. Since 2015, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in partnership with the Long Point Phragmites Action Alliance (LPPAA) have been implementing a collaborative approach to Phragmites management in the Long Point region to address the significant impacts of Phragmites and protect the region’s globally significant biodiversity and diverse land use.
Since Phragmites australis has no natural controls to keep it in check, human intervention is required.
Herbicide is the most efficient and cost-effective method of control and is therefore preferred for large well-established infestations.
Control in the Long Point region has taken place as both aerial and ground-based application of a water safe herbicide for control of Phragmites. This work is conducted with special permission from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). The product used, Roundup Custom (active ingredient glyphosate), is only permitted to be used in the coastal marshes of Long Point and the Big Creek watershed in Norfolk County at this time.
There are other glyphosate and imazapyr products registered for use in Canada that can be used for control where standing water is not present. An imazapyr-based product that can be applied in and around aquatic sites is being assessed for registration by PMRA. Herbicide control is often effective after one or two applications.
The Long Point Phragmites Action Alliance (LPPAA) is a community Group made up of 29 partnering organizations all with a common interest in eradicating the invasive Phragmites australis.
The LPPAA provides several programs to assist landowners in the Long Point region, Big Creek watershed and Norfolk County with invasive Phragmites control.
The LPPAA is interested in providing Phragmites Control Services to treat and kill Phragmites on your land at no cost to you. Herbicide treatment should only be undertaken by licensed professionals and is offered free of charge for any landowner in Norfolk County who would like Phragmites controlled on their property.