Fall 2016: Phragmites. A Success Story. 
This season we have been doing a really thorough job of eradicating our phragmites. If you haven’t heard of it, click on that name and research it to learn all about why we don’t want it and why it is important to get rid of it quickly. Basically it’s non-native, over 10 feet tall, spreads by rhizomes, and gets super dense.
As of Sept 6, 2016 I am pleased to announce that we have very few untreated phrag patches on TLC sites. Phragmites is hard to control since the timing needs to be right– after it is full grown and flowering. This is common with a lot of plants, but full grown phrag can be very tall– sometimes 25 feet. It’s not easy. This happens in August or September when heat and humidity is high. Never fear! Your team of ecologists at TLC care enough that we will control the colonies. 
So, without further ado, I present to you a photographic essay with comments on phragmites treatments from TLC for 2016, featuring a small amount of our sites as examples. I’ll first focus on Yonder and Westwood, one of our most difficult sites, and then will give an update on Windy Knoll as an example of a smaller job.  
Yonder Prairie is a 70-acre oak savanna, wet prairie, and wetland complex just west of Woodstock. Westwood Park is just south of it, and adds another 64 acres of the same habitat. This area has been designated an “Illinois Nature Preserve”- the highest level of protection in the state and reserved only for places that are so high quality that they best represent what Illinois natural areas looked like before invasive species problems and other environmental degradation.

This is a really great site but it’s not without problems. Phragmites has been spreading rampantly across the site over the last decade. The large acreage and mucky drainage ditches on almost all sides make it really hard to access. How did we do it? Read on to find out.

Location of known phragmites patches at Yonder Prairie and Westwood as of fall 2016, located in pink. The project area is outlined in blue.

In 2016, for the first time ever, we plan on hitting every colony present here!

  We began this project by treating the small areas at Yonder a few years ago and now have started to move on to the larger patches at Westwood. In Fall of 2015 we decided to tackle the largest phrag patch at Westwood, which was huge and is a constant source of phrag seed for Yonder. It was so large, that we didn’t finish until this fall (2016). Sometimes phragmites colonies are so thick and so hard to access with our equipment that an ATV is really the only feasible option for us. 

This is the view through ATV windshield. Try driving through that!


Even using an ATV doesn't make things easy. That’s why Restoration Technician David built a roof for the ATV. It’s a great way to navigate.

“There’s more phrag over there David!”

So what are the results from all of our work?

Here’s a great picture showing the area TLC treated in fall of 2015 on the right, and the area we didn’t treat on the left.

Notice that there is a solid stand of phrag on the left but just a few resilient stalks on the right. This is why repeat treatments are very important! If left unchecked this would turn back into a phrag patch in a few years. 

That’s the patch that was shown being driven through on the previous page. It’s dead now. 

This photo paints a good picture of how thick it was last year, and how successful the treatment was. All the tan stalks are the dead phrag from last year. The green things are the ground layer of nice native plants, with reed canary grass mixed in.

Here are more photos showing the treated area. These areas burned in spring of 2016 so you can see more of the ground layer, which is comprised of sedges, swamp milkweed, native water carrots, monkey flower, etc. A lot of the plant growth is bulbous water hemlock! It’s very high quality (a C of 8 in Swink and Wilhelm's book), and wasn’t recorded before in this parcel. That’s pretty cool. Boy, it sure would be nice to keep the reed canary grass out. If anyone wants to fund that project for us, that would be awesome! 



Now onto Windy Knoll Conservation Area!

Windy Knoll is a great example of a small job. I explained where and what Windy Knoll is in the last article on reed canary grass. This will be the fourth year of phragmites management on this site. Even though controlling phragmites can be daunting at first, it gets a lot easier over time. 

This was a picture taken back in 2013. It’s pretty poor quality, but there are a lot of tussock sedges in the foreground and the background is thick with phragmites. This picture was after one year of management so that’s not even the worst of what it was!

This photo was taken in summer 2016. Instead of a background of phrag you can only see a few stems highlighted by the black arrows, which were treated shortly after this photo was taken. The plants present now are mostly sedges, joe pye weed, etc. TLC strives to eradicate the invasive species while keeping harm to natives at a minimum, while still achieving control in a timely and efficient manner. This is a lot of work so we don’t always get to every site every year, but now this colony takes almost no time at all to monitor and manage annually. 

And here is one more shot of the project area. Before we started you couldn’t see through the patch of phragmites. Now TLC has the phrag down to a level where the invasives are not negatively impacting the native species. This is a great step but every year we monitor for small phragmites, and ensure it cannot get established again. We look forward to more progress in the future and will keep you posted!


The Land Conservancy of McHenry County | mgrycan@conservemc.org |
815-337-9502 | www.ConserveMC.org