Saturday, January 12, 2008

Alien Grass Invading West Michigan

Phragmites along the Grand River
photo by Ken Stevens, Muskegon Chronicle
Phragmites, pronounced frag-MY-teez, is a giant, perennial grass that can grow to 15 feet tall. Although there is a native species of the grass, the invasive one is crowding out native plants and reducing good wildlife habitat.

The biggest problems are found in eastern Michigan, but it's moving westward.

"Once it gets a toe-hold, it grows like crazy," said Bobbi Sabine, president of Aamazon Natural Resources Consulting in Grand Haven. "You can manage it if you're aggressive and persistent, but you'll never get rid of it."

The invasive Phragmites is becoming a problem on Grand Haven's Harbor Island. Additionally stands of the plant also have been found along portions of Muskegon Lake, White Lake, the Lake Michigan beach at Little Sable Point in Oceana County, and at the Upper Macatawa Natural Area near Zeeland.

The large number of natural wetlands makes it easy for the plant to spread. The invasive strain was probably imported to North America in the early 20th century in packing material and ballast that European ships dumped in ports.

Possession of the plants or their seeds is prohibited in Michigan.

Killing the plant involves cutting and treating with herbicide. A state permit is required to do this below the ordinary high water mark of the Great Lakes.

The battle is southeast Michigan is already considered to be lost, and only in sensitive areas is control being attempted.

from the Muskegon Chronicle, "New invader is a tough perennial grass", by Jeff Alexander, Jan 11, 2008
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