August 10, 2011

Does this look familiar? If you live in the United States it probably doesn’t.

I took this photo last week while I was in Michigan as a keepsake for a quickly disappearing plant. Typha, or cattails, are rapidly losing ground to an invasive reed called Phragmites. If you’ve driven down I-95 past the Philadelphia Airport or gone past any inlets at the Jersey Shore you can’t miss these towering weeds.

As I drove through mid- and northern Michigan last week, most low-lying areas still contained typha, but I noticed spots of Phragmites sprouting up here and there. The farther south I drove on I-75 the more reeds I saw until I got to the southern part of the state where phragmites had completely taken over every last ditch and swamp. The invasion continued along the turnpikes through Ohio and Pennsylvania where I didn’t see a single stand of cattails.

Phragmites chokes waterways and messes up the balance of aquatic ecosystems by releasing chemicals that are poisonous to native species. Someone has got to do something about this menace! But apparently it isn’t easy: most recommend herbicides and burning over multiple years.

I don’t know which of these invasives I despise more: Phragmites or the awful European Starling!?


One comment

  1. To control a renewable problem/resource like this, you must make some sort of profit on it. This plant can be pelletized, and sold to Europe. It can be digested into methane or brewed into ethanol. There is no need to plant a biofuel crop on farmland, there is plenty of weed biofuel waiting to be controlled by harvest. Typha, too! Typha is a super dessication machine and siltation machine. Look at Africa’s Lake Chad. Then there are papyrus, water hyacinth, lettuce and spinach.

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