Phragmites is an opportunistic plant, often taking advantage of the unoccupied niche left vacant through the removal of historic forested wetlands. Although it is hard to remove via mechanical methods (which often requires permitting under federal, state, and local law) the good news is that phragmites is shade intolerant. Native trees planted amongst the phragmites can eventually shade out and outcompete the phragmites. Black willow (Salix nigra) is an excellent candidate to do just that. This species grows quickly and happily in freshwater influenced habitats preferred by phragmites.

Pictured here is a black willow planted directly into the stand of phrag as a 2-gal plant in 2021 (about 4-5 ft tall). A little over one-year later, it is breaking through the top of the phrag stand, ready to outcompete the phrag by starving it of sun.

We expect this habitat to be transformed in the coming years—once the phrag is knocked out, native volunteers will likely fill out the understory as they are supposed to.