Beating Back Phragmites

Our 2 years of hacking, mowing and spraying Phragmites in the mud are paying off! There's only about 37% regrowth of Phragmites reeds at our wetland restoration site north of NY Avenue Bridge in Colmar Manor, MD. This fringe wetland is located on the west bank of the River between the confluence with Dueling Creek and the NY Ave. Bridge, the MD/DC border. This site used to be part of a wetland revegetation effort that was left unattended (not by AWS, though!), the result, a 30,745 sq. ft. dense population of Phragmites (Phragmites australis). For the newbies, Phragmites is a fast-growing grass native to the Old World that aggressively outcompetes the local native wetland plants, forming monocultures that encroach upon both natural and restored wetlands and reduces the species diversity in the wetland ecosystem.


The yellow area shows the 30,745 sq. ft. population of Phragmites we have been removing for the last 2 years right by the MD/DC border.

Our removal operations have been succesful but that doesn't mean the battle is over yet. That remnant area of 37% dense regrowth plus the sparse growth areas means that the population is still there and if left unckecked our removal effort will be in vain. This success was only possible with the help of our interns and volunteers who have spent hours hacking, mowing, picking up trash, and planting native wetland plants to restore this fringe wetland on the MD side of the tidal Anacostia River.


This picture gives a good idea of the magnitude of the invasive plant removal work at this site. The reeds of Phragmites where thick, dense and very tall. Volunteers from Eaton Aerospace Group worked hard on this hot summer day last year to remove Phragmites.


After a period of about a decade or so, this population of Phragmites got itself well settled at the site increasing the depth of the sediment (the wetland mud) and intercepting an incredible amount of trash and debris.


Just in the last year our volunteers have collected an amazing 3.3 tons of trash, including 250 lbs of car tires!

Most importantly, we have been replacing the Phragmites population with natives plants such as wild rice, cattails, pickerelweed, nuphar, and arrow arum and will continue doing so throughout the month of July.


This is how the site looked like before...


...and this is how it looks now!


Installing goose fences is critical to prevent the Resident Canada Geese from entering and grazing on our native plants.


We are very excited to be revegetating this site with plants produced at our own nursery! The Anacostia Native Plant Nursery is housed in the Bladensburg Wetlands adjacent to Bladensburg Waterfront Park. In this photo our Stewardship Intern Kelci Schexnayder shows off her muddy hands after planting several clumps of healthy wild rice grown at our nursery.

What's next? At least a good 5 years of follow up Phragmites removal and revegetation with native plants (and trash cleanups!) will ensure we create better habitat for fish and wildlife, we get a healthy and enhanced wetland that provides valuable ecosystem services and that the river looks better for all the thousands of anglers, vistors and paddlers that experience the tidal Anacostia River every year.

Want to help? Sure, just keep checking our calendar of events on our website and sign up for our volunteer events. We have some wetland plantings coming up.

Special thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for their ongoing support of this project!
 

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