Ornamental Grass can be a Huge Problem for the Park

Ornamental grasses, including non-native phragmites (also called common reed), pampas grass, miscanthus grass (also called maiden grass) can become a huge issue for our State Parks.  Each year, volunteers and DNR rangers try to address various invasive plants (such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, black locust, Japanese barberry, etc) and now ornamental grasses have become an increasing threat.

Non-Native Phragmites (or common reed) is a perennial wetland grass that grows as high as 15-20 feet tell.  It is an invasive, non-native, that is becoming widespread and is threatening the ecological health of wetlands.  It can rapidly form dense stands which crowd out or shade native vegetation; this then turns rich habitats into mono-cultures without the diversity needed to support a thriving ecosystem. Non-native phragmites can alter habitats by changing marsh hydrology; decreasing salinity in brackish wetlands; changing local topography; increasing fire potential; and, out competing native plants, both above and below ground. These habitat changes threaten the wildlife that depend on our wetlands for survival.

We believe birds (or wind) drop the seeds in the park, and then these invasives thrive in our moist fertile soils, kettles, and marshes.

This September, volunteers from the Friends of Lapham Peak worked with DNR Park Rangers to begin the work to remove a large patch of phragmites from a cat-tail marsh on the West Side of the Park - among the prairies and oak savannahs there. A large mower was used for as much as possible, and then the rest that was standing in ankle deep water and marsh muck was cut manually using a brush saw.  Herbicide treatment and/or burning will probably be required next year.

This grass is very hard to eradicate because it's root system is so profuse. Phragmites forms a ticket of roots and rhizomes that can spread 10 or more feet and several feet deep in one growing season.  Each phragmites plant produces thousands of seeds each year, but fortunately, seed viability is usually low.

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