Phragmites (pronounced frag-mite-ees) or "common reed" is a serious concern in many Utah wetlands. Extensive dense stands of these tall reeds crowd out more desirable plants.
Distribution in Utah: Common to wetland areas and canals throughout Utah. Phragmites are native to North America and found in every U.S. state. The rapid increase of phragmites in North America is due to colonization by a more aggressive European variant of the plant.
Identification: Phragmites is a tall perennial grass or reed that grows to heights of about 15 feet. Long pointed leaves grow from thick vertical stalks. The flower heads are large, feathery and gray to tan in color.
Problem: Phragmites are usually found in tall dense thickets that displace native wetlands vegetation, alter hydrology by trapping sediments and inhibiting water movement, and block sunlight from reaching the water. These dense thickets also displace native wildlife.
Means of spreading: Once established, phragmites spread rapidly by means of horizontal 'runner' stems. Phragmites can spread up to 15 or 20 feet per year from new growth associated with these underground "rhizomes."
Management and containment: The Division of Wildlife Resources has an aggressive management plan to control phragmites along the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake that involves spraying with herbicides and subsequent burning.