Home » Invaders » Terrestrial Invasive Plants » Invasive Phragmites


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Common Buckthorn
Rhamnus cathartica

Dog Strangling Vine (Vincetoxicum rossicum) photo by Ken Towle
Dog-Strangling Vine
Cynanchum rossicum and Cynanchum louiseae

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Garlic Mustard
Alliaria petiolata

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) photo by  Karen Rimmer
Giant Hogweed
Heracleum mantegazzianum

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) photo by Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration
Himalayan Balsam
Impatiens glandulifera

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Invasive Ground Covers

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Invasive Honeysuckles

Invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis) photo by Wasyl Bakowsky
Invasive Phragmites
Phragmites australis subsp. australis

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Japanese Barberry
Berberis thunbergii

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Japanese Knotweed
Reynoutria japonica var. japonica

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Japanese Stiltgrass
Microstegium vimineum

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Kudzu
Pueraria montana

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Miscanthus
Miscanthus sinensis & M. sacchariflorus

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Purple Loosestrife
Lythrum salicaria

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Wild Chervil
Anthriscus sylvestris

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Wild Parsnip
Pastinaca sativa

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Winged Euonymus
Euonymus alata

Invasive Phragmites
Phragmites australis subsp. australis

What Ontario is Doing

To prevent the further spread and introduction of this unwanted invader in the province, Ontario has regulated invasive Phragmites as restricted under the Invasive Species Act. For more information on the Invasive Species Act and Regulations visit www.ontario.ca/invasionON.

Background

Invasive Phragmites (European Common Reed) is an invasive plant causing damage to Ontario’s biodiversity, wetlands and beaches. Invasive Phragmites is a perennial grass that has been damaging ecosystems in Ontario for decades. It is not clear how it was transported to North America from its native home in Eurasia.

Invasive Phragmites is an aggressive plant that spreads quickly and out-competes native species for water and nutrients. It releases toxins from its roots into the soil to hinder the growth of and kill surrounding plants. While it prefers areas of standing water, its roots can grow to extreme lengths, allowing it to survive in relatively dry areas.

Impacts of Invasive Phragmites

  • Crowds out native vegetation, thus resulting in decreased plant biodiversity.
  • Generally provides poor habitat and food supplies for wildlife, including several Species at Risk.
  • Grows very quickly thereby causing lower water levels as water is transpired faster than it would be with native vegetation.
  • Increases fire hazards as stands are composed of a high percentage of dead stalks.
  • Can affect agriculture, cause road safety hazard and impact recreational activities such as swimming, boating and angling.

How to Identify Invasive Phragmites

One factor making the identification of invasive Phragmites difficult is the existence of a closely related native subspecies. Generally, native Phragmites does not grow as tall as the invasive plant and does not out-compete other native species. A number of characteristics of the plant can be useful in distinguishing between the native variety and invasive Phragmites. The following information can help in identifying invasive Phragmites.

Invasive Phragmites:

  • Grows in stands that can be extremely dense with as many as 200 stems per square metre.
  • Can grow so densely that it crowds out other species.
  • Can reach heights of up to 5 metres (15 feet).
  • Has stems that are tan or beige in colour with blue-green leaves and large, dense seedheads.

Native Phragmites:

  • Grows in stands that are usually not as dense as the invasive plant;
  • Well-established stands are frequently mixed with other plants; and
  • Usually has more reddish-brown stems, yellow-green leaves and smaller, sparser seedheads.

What You Can Do

  • Learn how to identify invasive Phragmites and how to avoid accidentally spreading it through its root fragments and seeds. This is especially important if you are planning to do work in an area which contains invasive Phragmites.
  • Learn how to effectively manage Phragmites on your property. The guide to Best Management Practices for Phragmites describes the most effective and environmentally safe control practices for this species.
  • Never buy or plant invasive Phragmites. It is against the law to buy, sell, trade or purposely grow invasive Phragmites.
  • Stay on designated trails and keep pets on a leash. Leaving trails or entering areas containing invasive Phragmites can encourage the spread of this plant.
  • When leaving an area containing invasive Phragmites, inspect, clean and remove mud, seeds and plant parts from clothing, pets (and horses), vehicles (including bicycles and ATVs), and equipment such as mowers and tools.
  • Do not compost invasive Phragmites in your backyard composter. Both seeds and rhizomes (horizontal plant stems growing underground) can survive and grow in compost, unless high enough temperatures are reached to kill the reproducing structures. Contact your local municipality to determine if plant material can be brought to their composting facility. Ontario composting facilities monitor the compost process and meet provincially regulated temperature requirements.
  • If you have any information about the illegal importing, distribution or sale of invasive Phragmites, report it immediately to the MNRF TIPS line at 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free anytime. You can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
  • If you’ve seen invasive Phragmites or other invasive species in the wild, please contact the toll free Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or visit EDDMapS Ontario website to report a sighting.

Other Resources

OFAH/OMNR Invading Species Awareness Program. (2012). Invasive Phragmites. Retrieved from: http://www.invadingspecies.com. This factsheet may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes.

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Icon of Best Management Practices in Ontario - Invasive Phragmites Best Management Practices in Ontario - Invasive Phragmites (3.8 MiB)
Icon of Fact Sheet - Phragmites Fact Sheet - Phragmites (300.6 KiB)
Icon of Phragmites Field Guide Phragmites Field Guide (2.6 MiB)
Icon of Brochure - Grow Me Instead (Northern Ontario) Brochure - Grow Me Instead (Northern Ontario) (11.9 MiB)
Icon of Brochure - Grow Me Instead (Southern Ontario) Brochure - Grow Me Instead (Southern Ontario) (6.3 MiB)
Icon of Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (3rd Edition) Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (3rd Edition) (3.5 MiB)