Southern Beaver dam on Gully Rd. Rosa multiflora at left, Phragmites australis at right
Southern Beaver dam on Gully Rd. Rosa multiflora at left, Phragmites australis at right, May 3, 2012.

The common reed (Phragmites australis) has become a serious environmental threat through much of North America and is quickly becoming widespread in wetland and not-so wet areas of the conservation area. It is present in the Bill Pavlus fishing pond on  Old Seneca Turnpike and several parts of the beaver pond and adjacent wetlands on Gully Road. It can also be found on the transfer station property. It is basically a large perennial  grass that forms dense sands that crowd out most native plants. Aside from the ecological harm that this presents to natural areas, this also causes problems keeping the artificial fishing pond clear for recreation, as it is much harder to pull out than the native plants that it displaces.

A large majority of the stand in the fishing pond was excavated and removed in May 2015 by the Skaneateles Highway Department, and was purportedly buried in the “hardfill” area at the transfer station. The remaining plants, which were too deep and far from the shore for the excavator to reach, were pulled out by volunteers in early July of that year. These were carefully laid on top of a nearby brush pile to hopefully dry out and decompose before making ground contact.  Because of the deep water, there was little hope that the rhizomes had all been removed from the bottom.  This area needs to be closely monitored, and re-occurrences dealt with as soon as possible.

On Nov. 3, 2015, SCA committee members met with George Spak, a licensed pesticide applicator, at the conservation area.  In addition to our numerous other invasive plants, we discussed the Phragmites problem and investigated the some of the infestations around the lower Gully Road beaver pond.  George agreed to provide an estimate for treating plants with herbicide once he got a rough measurement of the area of the infestation. We provided him with a rough measurement of 50,000 square feet.

Native Phragmites

It should be noted that there are native North American lineages of Phragmites australis, but it is very unlikely that any of the populations at the conservation area are native.  In fact, in New York State, the only vouchered population  of the northern native lineage (P. australis subsp. americanus)   is in and around Montezuma Swamp, where it grows along with the exceedingly more prevalent Eurasian subspecies. Interestingly, even though the native and introduced subspecies often grow in close proximity to each other, and appear to be very similar to each other, it was just in the year 2014 that the discovery of  a naturally occurring hybrid between the two was formally published.  That discovery was made at Montezuma Swamp, and as of the publication date it was the only place that natural hybridization between the two subspecies had been documented.


SCA Phragmites slide show

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