“Mighty” in that it is huge, aggressive, invasive and really, really strong. “Phrag” as in the invasive species Phragmites. 

Have you noticed any large or small stands along your shoreline of what looks to be beautiful grass that blows in the wind and produces a reddish flower/seed head in the fall? You may be looking at it daily if you commute on highways to work or to and from your cottage. It is rampant in the gullies on the 404, 407, the 401 and parts of the 400. It lines many shorelines in Georgian Bay and other bodies of water in our province.

Invasive Phragmites is an invasive grass that has been outcompeting native wetland species in freshwater and coastal wetlands and it has definitely invaded Honey Harbour. There are stands of it visible in many channels that we are all familiar with including Bide a Wee, behind Deer Island, and along the shore beside the Parks Canada docks.   Below you will find  a map of some of the known Phragmites stands in the Honey Harbour area compiled by cottagers using the Phragspotter app (more on this below), but there are doubtless many more.

Phragmites can and will choke out most other native vegetation. Most people don't even realize that it’s an invasive plant growing along the road, or along the shoreline.  To help you recognize it, here’s a picture of a stand in the centre of Honey Harbour.

Currently it is challenging to get rid of an established stand in Ontario.  Different groups advocate somewhat different approaches to eradication.  A herbicide-based approach (which is limited in its use in Ontario as a result of both Federal and Provincial laws) can only be considered in cases where large stands have become established that are NOT in water (no herbicide is licensed for use over water) – and even then only with a Letter of Opinion (basically permission) from the Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry.  For smaller stands, including over water, team cutting events can be effective but require annual repeats over 3-4 years in order to finallly kill the plant.  The bottom line is the earlier you identify a new stand, the easier it is to get rid of, so learning a bit and keeping your eyes open could help you avoid real problems on your property.

Last August I had the opportunity to participate in a pilot eradication project in conjunction with folks from both Georgian Bay Forever and Stop the Invasion. We used a process of cutting below the water line and bagging the Phrag for removal to a municipal recycling/burning site. The weed was tough, hard to cut, hard to bag, and had a root system that went on forever. The dangers of trying to remove Phrag in this manner is the potential to just spread the weed even further by allowing the spread of pieces of the root system or seeds. Any errant pieces will happily re root themselves in a new location. One current thought for boat access locations is to cut the plant at the root level and bag it in brown recycling bags to dry out and burn on site.

A great site to learn more about Phrag is www.StopTheInvasion.ca ,brought to you by the folks who brought us Stop the Drop. As you saw above, members of this online community are currently mapping Phrag stands all over the Province, trying to help raise awareness among people and governments.  They could use all of our help. We need to map as much Phragmites as possible in our area to help our municipality get a handle on how serious this problem is.  Please visit their site to access the free mapping app which will make it easy for you to upload photos, along with their geo-locations, of what you know or think might be a Phrag stand on or around your property.  

For your information, there is a native subspecies of Phragmites that is not destructive. Information on the distinction of the 2 species, along with suggestions on eradication can be found on the Ministry of Natural Resource’s website:

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/SORR/2ColumnSubPage/STDPROD_086823.html 

This issue of The Mighty Phrag is one that will affect us all.  It is a community issue that will require a community to help battle the spread.  Because if you spend time and money cleaning up your property, but your neighbour doesn’t know about the problem and just ignores it, the plant will make its way back to your property.  Stay tuned for more information and eblasts on how to eradicate Phragmites on the HHA web site this spring:

For now what can we do:

  1. Map the stands by using the PhragSpotter app  - available on StopTheInvasion Website
  2. Read and learn as much as you can about Phrag – knowledge is power
  3. Be cautious in your attempts to remove Phrag without consulting an expert……there will be a workshop this spring hosted by the GBA
  4. Be aware of what it looks like, educate yourself and your neighbours!!!!!!

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