You may not know how to pronounce it but you certainly have seen it here in the Pines. Phragmites, also known as common reed, is a large, coarse, perennial grass often found in wetlands. Phragmites is an invasive plant that reduces the diversity of native plants and wildlife species, which contributes to the degradation of our waterways. It grows in wet areas including fresh or brackish marshes, creeks, edges of ponds and lakes, ditches, and the dune systems of barrier coastal islands. Phragmites has a thick stalk that can reach 13 feet in height. It has a large plume-like flower that persists throughout the winter. Phragmites most often spreads by creeping rhizomes (roots). All stands have vertical and horizontal rhizomes, and young stands have long surface runners that help in rapid expansion of the colony. It is increasing in abundance and distribution throughout Maryland. Some shorelines, drainage ditches and ponds in Ocean Pines are inundated with phragmites.
The Ocean Pines Department of Public Works, in collaboration with the OP Environment and Natural Assets Advisory Committee, is undertaking a concerted effort to reduce the proliferation of phragmites in the Pines. Based upon experience obtained in Maryland and other states, the most practical method of controlling phragmites is treating the plants with herbicides approved for aquatic use. Multiple treatments are usually necessary to effectively control a heavy stand. These broad-spectrum herbicides pose no threat to mammals, birds or fish when used according to instructions and applied by a professionally certified technician. Our Public Works Department presently has two certified individuals.
Phragmites can be treated successfully when plants are actively growing and are at mid-to full-bloom (late July through October but before a killing frost). Public Works has begun this effort at the Yacht Club site and will proceed with other sites in future blooming seasons as resources permit. The Environment and Natural Assets Advisory Committee will continue to assist Public Works and to seek grants to purchase appropriate native plants to replace the phragmites and seek grants for native plants to replace the phragmites if needed.
The conservation of our natural resources concerns everyone. Many people rely on wetlands resources for their livelihood, recreation and the enjoyment of seeing and experiencing nature. Maryland has lost nearly 45 percent of its wetlands. We are hopeful that our efforts will arrest and perhaps reverse the aggressive invasion of phragmites in the Pines.