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Phragmites is a strange kind of plant that appears as a tall perennial grass.
They have been present in the marshes of Delaware for a long time. In fact, as history goes, Phragmites have been a significant part of North America’s wetland ecosystem for more than 11,000 years.
But, in the '50s, these phragmites started causing major problems. A non-native European hybrid of phragmites called Phragmites australis or common reed was identified that began to wreak havoc on the coastal marshes.
Phragmites australis occurs throughout the eastern part of the U.S. and in Colorado. In New York, it is easy to find this non-native variety growing in swales, marshes, brackish wetlands, lake and pond edges, etc. Today, we will talk about these odd plants and the massive problems that invasive Phragmites have caused in the ecosystem.
Essentially, there are four commonly accepted species of phragmites: Phragmites australis, Phragmites karka, Phragmites japonica, Phragmites mauritianus. In the '50s, another non-native variety of Phragmites called common reed was discovered. It's a type of invasive plant that grows very quickly and ruins an ecosystem.
Invasive Phragmites are an aggressive plant variety that quickly spreads, leaving the native species battling for water and nutrients. These invasive Phragmites release biochemicals from their root fragment into the soil to hamper the growth of the surrounding plants. Thus, they pose a serious ecological risk.
Many times, identifying invasive Phragmites from the native ones becomes difficult. But understanding the difference between the two is important.
Essentially, the native Phragmites are differentiated from the invasive plants by stem texture and leaf color. The native variety is light green in color and has a shiny stem texture. In comparison, the invasive Phragmites are dark green in color and have a non-shiny stem texture. If you have seen both varieties, it's easy to understand the difference between the two.
Another significant difference is that the native type sheds its leaf sheath whereas the invasive plant does not. The invasive Phragmites plant tends to be taller and grow more densely. The native plants are not as dense and seldom impede biodiversity.
Phragmites is cultivated as a decorative plant in different aquatic settings, such as ponds, lakesides, shallow water, ditches, and tidal wetlands. Because it can be easily colonized by the invasive plant, it must be sited with utmost care.
Common reed is found in most parts of the world, ranging from cold temperate zones to the tropics. It grows best in places where the daytime temperatures are within 50-86 °F (10-30 °C). Mowing and digging can control their growth.
The growing season of Phragmites is mid-to-late spring. At the beginning of the growing season, the patches of old stems of Phragmites show lively green shoots that pop from the soil.
Phragmites are known to serve several uses. Some of the most common ones are as follows:
Phragmites is a wetland plant species that is extensively used for phytoremediation water treatment. In this, all the wastewater from dirty units is routed to an underground septic tank where the solid waste is eliminated. The water trickles through a well-constructed wetland or synthetic reed bed where bioremediation bacterial action takes place. This water is then suitable for groundwater recharge and irrigation.
The common reed species is also used for thatching roofs. Because of the long stems, this plant belonging to the grass family finds extensive usage in this regard. The leaves, seeds, stems, and roots of the Phragmites are edible. The seeds and rhizomes of the plant can be ground to make flour. The rhizomes allow new shoots to develop which can be cooked or consumed raw, just like bamboo shoots. Many herbivores graze onto these plants and offer reciprocal benefits by generating more milk, leather, and wool.
The seeds and rhizomes of reeds were extensively used in traditional Chinese medications. These medications helped sick people suffering from high fever, cough, sticky and white phlegm. A mixture of reed roots is also believed to cure fever and restore body fluids.
Q. Are Phragmites good or bad?
A. Phragmites is a herbal species that is generally good. It also offers many edible and medicinal benefits. However, invasive Phragmites or common reeds can be disastrous. It is very different from the native species and can affect the biodiversity and ecological functions of the invaded habitat.
Q. Why are Phragmites a problem?
A. Invasive Phragmites grow very quickly and densely. Every single plant material that falls eventually grows back, creating huge concentrations of dry vegetation that increase the likelihood of fires. These fires can ruin wetlands ecology as well as damage developments on surrounding uplands.
Q. Are Phragmites poisonous?
A. Invasive Phragmites are believed to have originated in Eurasia. This specific variety radiates a highly toxic acid from its roots that disintegrate the structural protein in the roots of neighboring plants, thus collapsing the native vegetation.
Q. What are Phragmites?
A. Phragmites are a vigorous type of perennial grass that grows up to 11.8 ft (3.6 m) tall. There is an invasive Phragmites variety that grows very rapidly and densely. It is difficult to eradicate once established.
Q. Are Phragmites invasive?
A. The non-native Phragmites are invasive phragmites that can quickly form dense groups of stems, crowding the native vegetation in wetland areas. These invasive Phragmites can ruin a habitat by altering marsh hydrology, decreasing the salinity in wetlands, increasing fire potential, changing local topography, and out-competing plants.
Q. What can Phragmites be used for?
A. The plant has a wide range of local uses. Many people consume different parts of this species for medicinal purposes. It is also used for thatching, biomass, and as a material for basketry.
Q. How do you identify invasive Phragmites?
A. Invasive Phragmites species are often characterized by tall and enormously dense monoculture growths that stop the sunlight from reaching other herbal species. These invasive stems break down very slowly, further contributing to thick and dense vegetation.
Q. Where are Phragmites native to?
A. Phragmites is a plant species native to Europe and Asia. Many people believe that phragmites australis is native to Australia. However, that is not true. As of now, the species has invaded almost all the wetlands in eastern North America.
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