Phragmites to be burned in autumn

Things are about to heat up in the fight to combat invasive phragmites along the Grand River.
Alex Doty
Aug 9, 2014


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will conduct a prescribed burn on the river in Spring Lake Township sometime this summer or early fall, when weather and other burn conditions are favorable.

“It is an excellent way to remove all of the biomass, because you get them decomposing as fast as possible,” Spring Lake Wetland Watch President Leslie Newman said.

DNR officials will burn 15 sites that range in size from an eighth of an acre to 2 acres. Phragmites produces thick, impenetrable vegetation that provides little value to native wildlife.

“The management of phragmites has a two-pronged approach, in that it is first sprayed with herbicide and then burned the following year,” said Nik Kalejs, a wildlife biologist for the DNR in Ottawa County. “This management technique has been very effective in the past in mitigating the spread of this aggressive invader.”

Kalejs said that a prescribed burn is necessary for the health of wetlands and many wildlife species.

“Phragmites control is an ongoing collaborative project with the DNR's Wildlife and Forest Resources divisions," he said. "The health of the habitat of this area will be much better off for many years as a result of this burn.”

The Grand River burn will take place on state-managed land on Dermo and Poel islands. Newman said burning treated phragmites is an option the state has due to the size and scope of the islands.

In more confined areas and areas near populations such as Harbor Island, a different approach has been used.

“When we did it on Harbor Island, we used a vehicle to smash it down,” Newman said.

Read the complete story in Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.




RISKS/IMPACTS: Common reed grows in vast unbroken stands along marsh edges,
forming dense, impenetrable “fence-like” masses. These stands provide poor nesting
habitat for waterfowl and other native birds; however it does provide adequate hiding and
thermal cover for ducks and big game species, such as deer. This aggressive competitor
tends to out-compete and eliminate other marsh species with similar habitat requirements.
In some coastal wetlands, phragmites has replaced more desirable brackish water plant


MANAGEMENT/PREVENTION: Control of this grass is difficult. Repeated cutting
can slow its growth and possibly hinder its spread, but will not eliminate it altogether.
Disking, plowing, and dredging can also be used to slow the spread. Burning stands of
common reed does not eliminate the plant since its rhizomes are not affected by fire and
can quickly regenerate new plants. The best method to eliminate Phragmites is the foliar
application of a systemic herbicide when the plants are actively growing. While some
herbicides may “burn” the foliage, a systemic herbicide will transfer to the rhizome and
kill the plant. When the plants are growing near water, only approved aquatic herbicides
labeled for phragmites must be used. Permits may be necessary when treating around
public lakes or streams.
Like all invasive species, the key to preventing their spread is knowledge! You
can help by practicing a few simple techniques for stopping the spread of phragmites and
other aquatic invasive plants


This species continues to be sold by a few landscape nurseries.
Although the common reed is not an important wildlife food, it can be high quality
livestock food in its early growth stages and can be cut for hay.


We recommend burning as a way to clear above ground biomass of invasive phragmites, to be done at least two weeks after a systemic herbicide is applied in early fall. Burning allows the seed bank of native plants to get a good sunny start in the spring.
Leslie Newman, Wetland Watch


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.