Identification of Nonnative Phragmites at Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area, Kentucky, Using Genetic Techniques


Emily K. Croteau

Additional Authors:

Emily K. Croteau Howard H. Whiteman


Dec 2013


invasive, nonnative

Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. (common reed), a perennial wetland grass, has been present in the United States along both Atlantic and Pacific coasts for hundreds of years (Orson 1999, Goman and Wells 2000). Phragmites was deemed rare in the 1800s (Saltonstall 2002) and according to Ward (2010), its distribution was discontinuous in portions of the Midwest, southern Canada, and California, and sporadic along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas throughout the 1800s. Also, during that time it was considered absent from Virginia to Georgia inclusive, and inland portions of Alabama and Mississippi (Ward 2010).

The abundance and distribution of Phragmites has dramatically increased over the last century (Ward 2010) with the most significant increases along the Atlantic coast (Saltonstall 2002). The rapid expansion was primarily due to the introduction of a European strain in the late 1700s or early 1800s via one or more coastal ports along the Atlantic Coast (Saltonstall 2002). It is highly competitive, aggress ive, and vi rtually indi s t inguishable morphologically from the native strains, resulting in ‘‘cryptic’’ invasions (Carlton 1996, Saltonstall 2002) going undetected for decades in various locations around the country. The European strain’s spread was likely facilitated by construction of railroads, major roadways (Saltonstall 2002), and changes to hydrologic regimes and/or nutrient availability (Saltonstall 2002, King et al. 2007). Currently, it dominates and effectively displaces native Phragmites in the Northeast (Ward 2010) and has expanded further westward into parts of the Midwest (Saltonstall 2003) and the Great Lakes region (Saltonstall 2002, T’ulbure et al. 2007, Howard et al. 2008, Jodoin et al. 2008, and Whyte et al. 2008).