What is Phragmites?

Phragmites is one of the highest-threat invasive species in Michigan. Phragmites grows up to 14 feet tall, forms extensive dense stands, and harms native habitat by crowding out native plants. It limits water access, damages property values, blocks viewsheds, and is very expensive and difficult to control once well-established.  It will take several years of surveying and control efforts because Phragmites is so aggressive.

There is a native variety of Phragmites that is not aggressive. It is important that we protect this native variety and all other shoreline plants to help protect water quality. Disturbing shorelines, such as by beach grooming, only aggravates invasive Phragmites.

What if I Suspect Phragmites on My Property?

If you are unsure whether Phragmites on your property is native or invasive, Grand Traverse  Baykeeper John Nelson can visit to provide identification. He can be reached at 935-1514 ext 3.

If you want to know how to begin the process of treating Phragmites on your property, please contact The Watershed Center at 935-1514.

If you live in Leelanau County, contact the Leelanau Conservation District at 231-256-9669. If you live in Antrim County, contact the Antrim Conservation District at 231-533-8363.

How Do I Apply for Phragmites Treatment Permits?

Great Lakes shoreline property owners must apply for a permit to treat any plant below the ordinary high water mark with herbicides.  See the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Aquatic Nuisance Control page for permit forms and more info.  Applications for single-season Aquatic Nuisance Control permits must be postmarked before August 15 in the year of the proposed chemical treatment.

See Michigan’s list of approved pesticide contractors.

Great Lakes shoreline property owners must apply for a seperate permit to mechanically treat any plant below the ordinary high water mark.  Mechanical treatment includes mowing and cutting.  See the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Great Lakes Shoreline Management page for permit forms and more info.  These permits are good for five years.

Working with your neighborhood association or township will help lower your costs.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources solicits bids for treatment along the Bay in townships that have established control programs. The DNR directs contractors who apply glyphosate.

When Should Treatment Occur?

Treatment must occur in late August through September, when nutrients in the plant are moving from the stems and leaves into the roots. It is very important to use the right herbicide at the right time of year, or efforts will be ineffective — worse yet, they harm native plants and wildlife.

In other words, please do not rush to the hardware store and buy herbicides to apply yourself, as you may harm wildlife, aquatic animals and water quality. It is best to use a licensed contractor with expertise in Phragmites control.

Treatment does not occur the week before or on Labor Day weekend. Landowners receive a letter at least seven days before treatment about the process and the chemical, along with information about what they should or should not do in the treatment area. Also, the shoreline is staked to show that the contractors’ treatment is complete.

Why Do We Have to Use Herbicides?

Aquatic-sensitive formulations of glyphosate and Imazapyr, brand name Rodeo, are the only effective control methods to date for this highly aggressive plant. Rodeo contains .5% surfactants, which is 14 times less than those contained in Roundup.

Although the Watershed Center does not advocate spraying herbicides into Grand Traverse Bay by any means, we must chose the lesser of two evils at this point in time. The preferred method of application is using individual backpacks and hand swiping~not aerial spraying.  We fully support ongoing research to identify effective control methods that do not involve herbicides.

Go Beyond Beauty

Did you know that many plants that are most invasive arrived originally by way of gardens? The Go Beyond Beauty project supports the purchase of plants at local nurseries at through landscapers that have committed to not selling high-threat invasive ornamental plants, which are not only beautiful, but benefit wildlife habitat, clean waters and bountiful gardens.

Get Hooked on Clean Boating

Boaters can help reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species by undertaking these easy clean boating practices:

  • Remove all aquatic plants, mud and animals from your boat and equipment, including propeller, anchor, trailer and any other place they may be.
  • Drain all the water from your boat, motor, bilge, live wells and bait wells.
  • Dispose of any leftover bait in the trash, not in the water.  Never release any bait, fish, animals or plants into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.
  • Rinse your boat and all fishing equipment with hot water (at least 104 degrees) OR thoroughly dry your boat and all fishing equipment and leave them in the sun for five days.

These are invasive species you’ll help reduce by using clean boating practices:

  • Quagga mussels: The quagga mussel is a thumbnail-sized mussel native to Ukraine.  It is believed to have been introduced to the Great Lakes region through the ballast water of trans-oceanic vessels.  Quagga mussels outcompete native organisms; they eat algae and filter out plankton, making the water clearer and disrupting the ecosystem. Clearer water forces light-sensitive fish deeper and increases populations of aquatic plants, which can cause problems for boaters.  Quaggas easily colonize hard surfaces. A mature female can produce up to one million eggs annually.
  • Eurasian Water Milfoil: Eurasian watermilfoil was accidentally introduced to North America from Europe.  It spreads quickly as it is able to produce new colonies from a single strand as short as two inches long. This species smothers native plants by forming thick, tangled stands of stems underwater and vast mats of vegetation on the surface of the water. It causes environmental and economic problems, including impairments to water-based recreation, navigation, and flood control systems; it also causes the degradation of water quality, fish and wildlife habitats, and accelerated filling of lakes and reservoirs.
  • Purple Loosestrife: Although this is a lovely purple flowering plant, it can choke out native vegetation in only a few years.
  • Round Goby: Round Gobies are bottom-dwelling fish that compete with other native bottom-dwellers, such as Sculpins and Log Perch. Round Gobies also prey on the eggs of other fish, like Smallmouth Bass; this contributes to the population decline of a multitude of sport fish populations.
  • Eurasian Ruffe: A member of the Perch family, these fish compete with Yellow Perch and other native species for Zooplankton, the miniscule animals at the base of the food chain. Ruffes reproduce quickly and, because of their spiny and slimy bodies they do not make good food for native fish.
  • Rusty Crayfish: The Rusty Crayfish is native to Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. This species is spread by anglers who use it as bait; the Rusty Crayfish severely reduce lake and stream vegetation, which deprives native fish of food and cover. Rusty crayfish also deplete native crayfish populations.
  • Spiny Water Flea: The Spiny Water Flea is a crustacean that originated from the lakes of Eastern and Western Europe and China, they invaded North America in the 1980’s and are now established in all the Great Lakes. The Spiny Water Flea grows to an average of 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) and feeds on other small aquatic animals that small fish depend on. Larger fish eat the Spiny Water Flea but they are difficult for small fish to ingest, potentially causing starvation.
  • Fishhook Water Flea: The Fishhook Water Flea was discovered in Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay in September 1999. This crustacean originates from the Caspian, Black, Azov and Aral Seas, and was most likely brought to the Great Lakes region through the ballast of ocean-going freighters. The Fishhook Water Flea is notable by its long tail spine which can reach up to ½ inch and the kink near the end of its tail. Like the spiny water flea the Fishhook Water Flea feeds on Zooplankton and is not easily ingested by small fish.
  • Sea Lamprey: The invasive Sea Lamprey parasitizes other fish by attaching its sucker-like mouth to suck out blood and body tissues. Lampreys can decimate populations of Lake Trout and other predator fish which allows for an explosion of smaller fish such as alewives. Chemical controls toxic to Lamprey larvae have been applied to spawning streams and electric weirs have been constructed in major tributaries throughout the Great Lakes in an attempt to control the Sea Lamprey. Locally, lampricides have been used in Mitchell Creek and the Boardman River.

Invasive Species Resources

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