This week’s invasive species is invasive Phragmites. This plant, like many other invasive species, has a native species look-a-like. However, there are some key differences to keep in mind when trying to tell them apart.
Other names: European common reed, common reed
Native to: Eurasia
Identifying Features: This species is a perennial grass that is generally found growing in areas near water, such as the beach or wetlands and can grow to 5 meters tall. Invasive Phragmites usually has a tan or beige stem with dense seedheads, whereas native Phragmites has more of a reddish-brown stem with much less dense seedheads. Invasive phragmites usually grows in very thick patches (up to 200 stalks per square meter), whereas as native Phragmites does not generally grow quite a densely as this. A good rule of thumb for identifying invasive Phragmites is if you come across a patch of the plant and do not have a clear view through to the other side because of its density, it is most likely invasive Phragmites.
Why it’s problematic: One of the big problems with invasive Phragmites is that it releases toxins into the soil which prevents surrounding plants from growing and thriving. It does not provide a good habitat or food source for animals, including several Species at Risk. In addition to this, invasive Phragmites grows into such dense patches that it crowds out other native species. All of these factors result in a loss of biodiversity.