Phragmites control continues

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published July 19, 2017

File photo

OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Efforts to rid township rights of way of phragmites continue. 

Phragmites, tall perennial grasses, choke out native plants, obscure scenic views, become a fire hazard and are difficult to eliminate.

“It just makes sense to stay on top of it,” Oakland Township Natural Areas Stewardship Manager Ben VanderWeide said. Last year, township officials spent approximately $10,000 on the effort.

“This year, it would be $6,000,” he said. “If we continue, the number would go down each year.”

With nearly 80 percent of the phragmites plant beneath the soil, the tall plumed grasses spread rapidly by below-ground stems. By controlling phragmites, township officials aim to restore native wetland plant communities and protect wildlife habitats.

Butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife have coexisted with native plants for thousands of years and rely on them for food and shelter, said township officials. Native wetland plants also slow down stormwater, removing pollution, and slowly release the clean water to streams, including the Paint Creek, Stony Creek and the Clinton River.

According to the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network, invasive phragmites can clog wetlands. The plant’s numerous stems and rhizomes catch sediments, eventually filling in small waterways, preventing waterfowl from using invaded areas as a home or a stopping point.

Phragmites make it difficult to access wetlands and impede views from waterside properties, and their dead stems and leaves are extremely flammable, contributing to intense fires on the East Coast and in southern Michigan, according to network officials.

By a unanimous vote June 11, the Oakland Township Board of Trustees approved a $6,000 contract of budgeted funds with PLM Lake and Land Management. The firm will treat phragmites in early fall, when the plants begin to store energy in their roots for the winter. A systemic herbicide is used, which moves through the root system and ensures a thorough kill and long-lasting results, said PLM officials.

Oakland Township Trustee Frank Ferriolo said the township should reach out to residents about eliminating phragmites on private property.

“The real question is an education question,” he said. “This preventative maintenance is something we will have to live with.”

VanderWeide said he sends postcards to residents with phragmites within 100 feet of township right of way patches under treatment.

“Each year we have about 15 or 20 groups; some entire subdivisions near Silverbell and Adams get treatment done,” he said. “Anyone interested is welcome to shoot me an email or call me at (248) 651-7810.”

People can reach VanderWeide by email at bvanderweide@oaklandtownship.org.