The Facts About Phragmites
Phragmites has been present in Delaware's marshes for a long time. In fact, research shows that Phragmites (Phragmites australis) has been a part of the wetland ecosystem of North America for over 11,000 years.
But, in the 1950s, Phragmites began to become a problem in North American wetlands. Why? A certain non-native type of Phragmites that came from Europe began to wreak havoc on Delaware's marshes.
Native vs. Non-Native Phragmites
The native type of Phragmites appears on the left. It has a light green color. In contrast, the non-native type on the right is dark green. Photo by Bob Meadows.
The native type of Phragmites is differentiated from the non-native type by leaf color and stem texture. The native type is light green in color and has a smooth and shiny stem texture. That's compared to the dark green color and rough and dull stem texture of the non-native, introduced species (see photo). Another notable difference is that the native type sheds its leaf sheath and the non-native type doesn't.
Phragmites is a member of the grass family and spreads through an underground rhizome that can extend down as much as one meter and out more than 30 feet. This enables non-native Phragmites to spread more quickly than the native vegetation and form a complete monoculture. Because of this, Phragmites cannot be controlled by mowing or burning alone -- the rhizome allows new shoots to quickly re-establish.
Help for Landowners
The Division of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers a program that helps landowners afford the cost of Phragmites control, called the Delaware Phragmites Control Cost-Share Program.
To date, more than 90 public and private landowners have benefited from the program Landowners can enroll as little as five acres and as much as 200 acres. Herbicide is applied by helicopter in the fall for three consecutive years. This year a total of 11,068 acres were sprayed on public and private lands. If you are interested in learning more about this program please call Bill Jones at 302-284-4795 or Click here for more information.