Native and exotic haplotypes occur in North America. The exotic (introduced) Phragmites has spread across the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. The native haplotype does not occur in North Carolina, only the exotic haplotype. Once established the exotic haplotype forms dense monotypic colonies that exclude native species. The typical pattern following its introduction is a gradual degradation of the value of the invaded habitat for wildlife. This plant is dispersed by both seeds and rhizome fragments.
Phragmites can grow as tall as 15’. Its bluish-green leaves (6" - 24” long and 0.5" – 2” wide) are hairless and taper to a point; they are arranged alternately along the stem. The stems are cane-like. Phragmites is a perennial grass; new growth arises from the rhizomes each spring. The stems and leaves are green in the growing season and become tan in the winter. The stems produce a plume of gray to purple inflorescence (5" – 16”) from mid-Summer through Fall.
Well-established populations of Phragmites occur in North Carolina but are isolated to the Coastal Plain. Several of the populations that are on public lands are under management by Government Agencies, including National Wildlife Refuges and State Parks. For example, a Phragmites removal project is currently in progress at Carolina Beach State Park. By 2018 that project had successfully removed many of the Phragmites colonies found within Carolina Beach State Park through clearing, burning and herbicide applications. One last colony (~10 acres in size) remains and that area was treated with herbicide in 2018 by an aerial application. Other populations are under management at the following State Parks: Goose Creek S.P., Ft. Fisher S.P., Jockeys Ridge S.P. and Pettigrew S.P.
Fact Sheet: Common Reed
Identification, History, and Management: Paul E. Hosier - The Ecology of an Unwelcome Exotic, Phragmites australis
Photo credits (from left to right): Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org; Richard Old, XID Services, Inc., Bugwood.org
Photo credits: Rob Emens, Aquatic Weed Control Program, NC Division of Water Resources.