The grass chokes out native plants.

The grass chokes out native plants.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Invasive plants attack home values

Spring information summit planned for March 23

By: Linda Shepard | C&G Newspapers | Published March 6, 2019

 Phragmites grow near the intersection of Tienken and Squirrel roads last September.

Phragmites grow near the intersection of Tienken and Squirrel roads last September.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Phragmites block sight views and are a fire hazard. Road Commission for Oakland County officials are continuing a plan to eradicate the invasive species.

Phragmites block sight views and are a fire hazard. Road Commission for Oakland County officials are continuing a plan to eradicate the invasive species.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Invasive phragmites, water hyacinth, European frogbit and red swamp crayfish — along with the fungus oak wilt and more — can damage landscapes and lower home values. 

“Invasive species affect homeowners by reducing property values and damaging infrastructure,” said Oakland County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area Coordinator Erica Clites. “They also hurt natural areas by crowding out native species.” 

An upcoming family-friendly Spring Invasive Species Summit will offer Oakland and Macomb County landowners practical information about invasive plants. 

“It is a new event,” Clites said. “The purpose is to work across boundaries with municipalities, the state and property owners, giving them the information about the species they are dealing with and how to treat them. We want to give municipal governments and landowners the tools they need to fight back.”

Non-native phragmites and oak wilt, an invasive fungus, are widespread in southeast Michigan, she said. Phragmites, a tall perennial grass, will choke out native plants, obscure scenic views and become a fire hazard, and it is difficult to eliminate. 

“Oak wilt can kill red oak trees within a matter of weeks,” Clites added. 

Last year, the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds in western Michigan conducted a study on how phragmites removal impacted home values. 

“Judging by the sale of houses, they determined that for every 3 feet that you take phragmites away from a house, you increase the property values by $3.90,” said Ben VanderWeide, Oakland Township’s natural areas stewardship manager. “If you talk about a couple of thousand feet for each house — basically treatment across a very large area — it will pay for itself in increased revenue from taxable value for homes. I think this is a great investment of money.” 

Early detection is key, Clites said. Every year, new invasive species are identified in the area. 

“European frogbit was found last year, and red swamp crayfish was found in 2017 in Oakland County,” she said. “The invasives that are found early on are the ones that we have the best chance of getting rid of.”  

“Oakland County has a history of moving quickly to control new invaders, such as our success removing water hyacinth within two days after detection in 2016,” Emily DuThinh, Oakland County CISMA chair, said in a statement.

By learning to identify newer invaders and how to report them, residents can help prevent their spread, Clites said. Simple actions like cleaning boots, boats, pets and other equipment after outdoor activities is also important. 

The upcoming Spring Invasive Species Summit will feature guest speakers, hands-on workshops, vendor tables and activities for kids. Workshops will include plant identification and information about how to report invasives. Additional activities include a children’s game and a native plant gardening workshop.

Vendor tables will offer information about invasive species treatment. Experts will be on hand to give presentations and answer questions. Philip Kurzeja, of American Arbor, will advise when to prune oak trees to prevent the spread of oak wilt, and Janice Gilbert, of the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre, will share techniques for managing phragmites.

The free Spring Invasive Species Summit will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. March 23 in the Waterford Oaks Activity Center, located at 2800 Watkins Lake Road in Waterford. All are welcome to attend. 

For a full schedule of activities, visit www.sixriversrlc.org/oakland-county-cisma