Also known as common reed, this perennial grass has a native species in Nebraska, as well as a non-native species which was introduced from Europe. Phragmites grows along banks of ponds, lakes, streams, marshes, roadsides, ditches and in wet fields. In the past several years, many of these species have hybridized, and have spread rapidly crowding out native plants, altering wildlife habitat, and altering water flow in streams and on river systems in Nebraska.
Phragmites is 3-20 feet tall, and reproduces rapidly by stolons, and also by seeds. A single plant produces thousands of seeds, but seed viability is low. At the immature stage, phragmites is readily eaten by cattle. Flowers form bushy panicles in late July and August. As seeds mature, the panicles begin to look fluffy. Below ground, phragmites forms a dense network of roots and rhizomes which can to down several feet in depth. The plant spreads horizontally by sending out rhizome runners which grow rapidly, sending up new plants every few inches.
The EC-130 Guide for Weed Management in Nebraska recommends several products for herbicide control of phragmites. Aquatic products should be used if the phragmites is in or along water, and as always read and follow the product label, as the label is the law. On some of the islands in the Platte River that were densely covered with phragmites, deep disking was used to shred the phragmites, followed by spraying the new growth. Fire combined with herbicide treatment may also be effective. There is no biological control approved for phragmites at this time.