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Invasive Phragmites can take over your waterfront

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

Phragmites at the Narrows Lock
Phragmites at the Narrows Lock

While travelling the roads of Ontario, you may have noticed large patches of very tall reed grass with fluffy seed heads. What you likely see is the very invasive European common reed also known as Phragmites (pronounced “frag-MY-tees”); the scientific name is Phragmites australis. It was likely introduced to North America in the 1800’s in contaminated ship ballast and through horticulture. It can grow to over 5 meters tall and forms dense stands.

Why is Phragmites a concern?

Close-up view of Phragmite head
Close-up view of Phragmite head

The scientists at Agriculture and Agrifood Canada recognized this grass as Canada’s worst invasive plant in 2005. Its dense growth habit prevents any other vegetation from surviving, reducing the plant and wildlife diversity wherever it becomes established. By altering habitat and nesting sites, it threatens a high number of species at risk, including shore dwelling birds like the endangered King Rail, wetland reptiles such as Blanding’s turtle, and various marsh and aquatic plants and fish. It grows rapidly and propagates through seeds as well as spreading though a thick root system.

There is also a species of non-invasive phragmites that is native to Ontario. It can be difficult to distinguish this from Invasive phragmites. The density of growth, stem colour and leaf characteristics are a few ways to tell these apart.

What can I do to help?

It is best to deal with Invasive Phragmites when it is beginning to establish in an area. Large stands are very difficult if not impossible to eradicate.

1. Learn more about Invasive Phragmites and how to identify and prevent it:

2. Join your neighbours on Upper Rideau Lake to collectively prevent and control Invasive Phragmites:

Contact Trudy Counter, URLA Board member at memberatlarge.urla@gmail.comif you suspect that you have some Invasive Phragmites on your property or are interested in volunteering on the Invasive Species working group. As an Association, we can coordinate help and resources that are available from special programs and apply for grants to help us deal with this potential threat.

3. You can also personally report stands:

· Call the OFAH’s Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711

· Get in touch with the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre through


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