An invasive, non-native variety of phragmites australis (frag-MY-teez) is taking hold of Michigan’s wetlands and the Great Lakes shoreline and putting at risk animal habitats and humans enjoyment of the waterfront for personal use, tourism and hunting. This wetland grass can grow as tall as 15 feet in height and can create a stand that is so thick animals cannot pass through it. It degrades wetlands and coastal areas by literally crowding out the native species of plants and animals and throws out roots that can crawl for 60 feet, rapidly expanding the size of a thicket without landowners even being aware that the root system is taking hold.

One of the only truly effective ways to treat phragmites is with an initial herbicide treatment, aquatic-sensitive formulations of glyphosate and Imazapyr, brand name Rodeo.  Treatment must occur in late August through September, when nutrients in the plant are moving from the stems and leaves into the roots. Phragmites and water quality specialists urge landowners to work with their neighborhood associations, township officials or local conservancy to treat their infestation. Do not head to the hardware store and buy Round Up. The wrong herbicide can have horribly damaging effects on the ecosystem in which the phragmites lives. It is best to use a licensed contractor with expertise in Phragmites control. After the initial treatment, there is often years of rigorous management to ensure that the phragmites does not take hold again. It is generally agreed that early detection is a huge key to the management of phragmites on any property.                                                                                              

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Carl Levin (D-MI) worked for the inclusion of $45,642,000 for seven Michigan projects in the FY 2010 Appropriations bill which provides funding for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, rural development programs, and related agencies. The Senate passed this bill but it still needs to be agreed to by a House-Senate conference committee before given final approval by Congress and being sent to President Obama for his signature.

Unfortunately, this stimulus money is held up in budget debates, causing the Michigan DNR to postpone funding of this year’s treatment of invasive species. Even if the money comes through, the DNR feels they would have missed the window of opportunity to treat invasive phragmites which is in the few weeks before the first frost. Some local governments are going forward with treatment this fall, however, using different funding options. Contact your local government or any of the resources below for information.

Beaver island has been working very hard on managing and preventing the spread of phragmites on the island. This video made on Beaver Island illustrates the damage that phragmites can do and to steps every landowner should be aware of in identifying and treating a phragmites invasion. Charlevoix County provides some good information here.

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay is the lead organization for managing invasive phragmites in Grand Traverse County.  They work with Peninsula Township and Acme Township on their control programs.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has received grants to help pay for treatment in fall 2009 and provides some extensive information for landowners here.  The shoreline for both townships has been surveyed by the Watershed Center, Michigan Natural Features Inventory and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. If you are unsure whether Phragmites on your property is native or invasive, Grand Traverse Baykeeper John Nelson can visit to provide identification. 935-1514. If you want to know how to begin the process of treating Phragmites on your property in conjunction with your neighborhood association or township, please contact Policy Specialist Ellen Kohler at or 935-1514.

Here are just some of the organizations who can steer you in the right direction. Or contact your local township.