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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.



Common reed grass (Phragmites australis) has been identified as widespread exotic invasive threatening prairies and wet areas throughout the state, says University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup. Common reed grass is labeled as an invasive species for the reason that it out-competes native species, decreases diversity important for wildlife and takes over disturbed sites.

Most of our community has seen it growing on the roadsides and in the ditches in large masses of auburn colored plumes during the latter part of summer. Its beauty disguises its' aggressive qualities.

This grass spreads by underground structures known as rhizomes and can spread up to 10 feet within one growing season. The grass reaches up to 15 feet blocking out all the sunlight from native plants. The lack of native species is detrimental in that exotic species are not capable of supporting wildlife.

An integrated approach is needed to control common reed grass in native habitats. University of Illinois suggests a combination of mowing, herbicides and prescribed burns. All of these methods should be done in the late summer to early fall after seed production so as little energy is left in the rhizomes. Most eradication programs start off with a non-selective chemical treatment followed by a mow or a burn. Multiple year plan of action must be considered to achieve control. Always take care when using pesticides not to get them on non-target plants or near water and always read the label before use.

Horticulture educator, Kelly Allsup suggests planting more productive natives like High bush blueberry (Vaccinium), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), Cherry (Prunus spp.) and Redosier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) because they provide valuable food and shelter for birds.

Photo provided by James Theuri.

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