What are Phragmites?

Phragmites – otherwise known as the common reed – are an invasive, perennial tall grass often found in wetlands or surrounding ponds and lakes. They are easily distinguished by their tall heights, which can reach fifteen feet, and feathery seed plumes.

A close-up on a patch of Phragmites.

Why Don’t You Want Phragmites?

What makes phragmites so troublesome? Phragmites are an invasive species that has spread throughout North America via railroads, roadways, habitat disturbances and shoreline development.

While they may start as unobtrusive patches – and may even be aesthetically pleasing initially – they can spread quickly, choking out native plants and waterbodies.

A wetland that has been overtaken by Phragmites.

As they grow and take over native spaces, Phragmites devalue properties and communities, rendering areas unusable and unsightly. Left unchecked, they can also wreak havoc on the local ecosystem, waterbodies, wildlife, plants, recreation and more:

  • Quickly absorb water, decimating waterbodies
  • Impede recreational use of water
  • Obstruct stormwater management systems
  • Threaten or even destroy waterfowl habitats
  • Choke out native and beneficial plant species
  • Form areas of dry, hazardous vegetation

How Do You Control Phragmites?

Timing is Everything.

Phragmites’ feathery plumes appear in June and fill with seeds by August. During September, they cross-pollinate before shedding and spreading their seeds in the fall and early winter.

During winter and its subsequent frosts, each phragmites plant stores nutrients in its rhizomes underground. In the spring, this rhizome network germinates new seedlings. This is how the plant sustains itself even as its stems, plumes and leaves turn brown and die off.

Phragmites Treatment Timing

Clarke’s Phragmites Control Capabilities

Clarke provides a complete assessment of your community’s Phragmites outbreak, combined with a selection of control methods to work with your needs and budget.

Surveys and Mapping

Clarke’s team conducts surveys via foot or Utility Task Vehicles to accurately chart
areas in need of treatment. Our in-house mapping department uses this data to create
guides for aerial and ground applications.

Flexible Application Methods

As Phragmites often grow in remote, difficult-to-reach areas, Clarke tailors every
application to provide the best method of control for each case:

  • Handheld Equipment: Handheld equipment can be used in very small areas with scattered or isolated plants and is particularly useful for directly targeting Phragmites without damaging native plants.
  • Backpack: Backpack sprayers work best in areas less than five acres with plants that are scattered to moderately dense. They allow applicators to spray close to the Phragmites while avoiding damage to native plants.
  • A Clarke UTV applying herbicide to phragmites.UTVs: Ground vehicles reduce treatment time and improve plant coverage when handling large areas. These are also often paired with backpack sprayers or adjustable sprayers to meet the site’s conditions.
  • Boat/Airboat: Clarke’s shallow draft boats allow Phragmites treatment from within waterbodies, which is helpful when Phragmites grow along shorelines and may not be reached via the shore. Some operating offices also utilize airboats, which allow access to marshes and swamps that are too wet for ground vehicles but not flooded enough for traditional boats. Handheld equipment, backpack sprayers or adjustable-pressure spray systems can all be used in tandem with boats.
  • Clarkes helicopter applying herbicide to phragmites in an aerial application.Aerial: When aerial treatments are the most efficient and effective means of control, Clarke’s team uses its Bell 206BIII helicopter, equipped with a GPS guidance system. Aerial treatments can be used for dense areas of several acres but may also affect native plants. Upon the completion of an application, Clarke provides a pre- and post-treatment map of the treatment site and a post-treatment report.

Choosing Clarke Aquatic Services

Clarke brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to successfully addressing aquatic invasive species, including Phragmites, for municipalities, agencies at the national, state and local levels as well as lake associations and subdivisions.

Our in-house staff includes biologists, environmental scientists, regulatory agents, helicopter pilots and licensed applicators, each working to keep Clarke OSHA compliant, DOT certified and NPDES compliant.

Contact our team at here or at 1.800.323.5727