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Why controlling and removing phragmites in Macomb County matters

-Posted on August 1, 2019

If you’re familiar with phragmites, you’ve likely seen them all over Macomb County. Drainage ditches, retention ponds, shorelines, along the side of the road – they’re everywhere! But if you aren’t sure exactly what a phragmites is, here’s some shots of the invasive reed species.




On first glance, you might think: “Oh, what a pretty reed. That would surely provide some privacy on my property.” But phragmites are a problem. One that needs to be addressed. Why you ask? According to government sources:

“Phragmites can rapidly form dense stands of stems which crowd out or shade native vegetation in inland and estuary wetland areas. Phragmites turns rich habitats into monocultures devoid of the diversity needed to support a thriving ecosystem. Non-native Phragmites can alter habitats by changing marsh hydrology; decreasing salinity in brackish wetlands; changing local topography; increasing fire potential; and outcompeting plants, both above and belowground. These habitat changes threaten the wildlife that depend on those wetland areas for survival.”

But removal of the plant, which can grow to 20 feet in height, is not that easy. You cannot simply chop it down or pull it from the ground because phragmites have a dense root network. In fact, their roots can go down up to two meters in depth, while spreading horizontally 10 or more feet. Simply put, this plant is a pest that requires serious attention.

Which leads us to the work of the Six Rivers Land Conservancy, an organization that was just awarded a United States Forestry Service grant to assist in phragmites control and removal. The grant, which totals $37,865, will support the conservancy and its work with the Lake St. Clair (LSC) Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), the Macomb County Public Works Office and Oakland University. Together, the group aims to reduce the impact of the invasive reed in the region.  

“I’m excited to implement a project that will help better guide future phragmites control efforts in water courses,” said McKenzi Bergmoser, the LSC CISMA coordinator. “There are multiple treatment options for controlling invasive phragmites and it is important we explore each methods’ effectiveness and efficiency.”

The federal grant, which was awarded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cooperative Weed Management Area, has allowed the Six Rivers Land Conservancy and the CISMA to coordinate a 2019-2021 project that will explore various control methods in three Macomb County townships. In Harrison Township, the Murdock Ballard Relief Drain will have phragmites treated and monitored.  Portions of the Disco Drain near 25 Mile in Shelby Township and a detention pond close to the Clinton Township Fire Station will also be included in phragmites management.

All told, this will certainly be a process – one that takes time. But residents of Macomb County can rest easy knowing that the grant team has already begun work on control and removal of the reed – as seen here:





Stay tuned to the MMYH blog for future updates on phragmites progress here in Macomb County. In the meantime, to learn more about the Six Rivers Land Conservancy, visit And to find out about the Lake St. Clair CISMA, check them out on facebook here

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist with Macomb County Planning and Economic Development