- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - It’s winter, the not-growing season. But winter is a very good time to locate one of the state’s noxious weeds, including the very aggressive phragmites.

The stately phragmites stands 12 feet tall against the winter landscape, with its seedhead intact, “almost begging you to find it,” said Brent Meyer, Lancaster County’s Weed Control Authority superintendent.

Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1KssgpL ) reports that phragmites is one of the most aggressive of the state’s noxious weeds, spreading rapidly, particularly along wetland areas and streams, where the thick grass can quickly clog the stream and close off the water channels.

It is so aggressive that when it began choking the Platte River the Legislature set aside $2 million to help landowners. That 2007 legislation is one of the few times the state has targeted a specific noxious weed with special funding, Meyer said.

Two other noxious weeds - teasel and knotweed - are also easy to identify during the winter, according to Meyer. Dead teasel stems will stand for a couple of years and their unique seed head makes them easy to spot.

Knotweed stems also remain standing for a couple of years and turn a deep brownish purple, rather than the light brown color of most frozen plants, which also makes them stand out, Meyer said.

Phragmites, a tall grass, will overtake an area, creating a monoculture where it alone survives.

“Everything else goes away. That means the wildlife and insects that depend on other species also disappear, then the birds. Deer even avoid it because it is so thick they can’t go through it,” Meyer said.

George Bool has been working to remove phragmites on his land along Salt Creek for around 10 years.

“It’s kind of a sneaky thing,” said the now retired farmer. Along the road it’s pretty easy to see. But other places, you might not recognize it.

Last fall his grandson paid for helicopter spraying, organized by Meyer. Though helicopter spraying is good, no single treatment will eradicate phragmities, Meyer said.

“It will look great this year and pretty good next year and then in year three it starts to come back again,” he said.

With a root system extending up to 15 feet deep and the size of a garden hose, it is very difficult to eradicate, Meyer said.

Patches can be contained and managed and, if found early enough, can be eradicated. Older, established infestation will have to be managed for a long time, he said.

Meyer has been tracking phragmites in Lancaster County since 2007 when he recorded 71 infestations. In 2015, he recorded 535 infestations.

The heaviest concentration is around the Hallam area, but phragmites has spread across the county, including outside and inside Lincoln, where it is found in city parks, some neighborhoods, along Salt Creek and at the North 48th Street landfill.

“The city limits don’t stop weeds. I can tell you that,” Meyer said.

Without the current programs to control phragmites, last year’s flooding would likely have been worse, he added.

Meyer recommends people contact his office at 402-441-7817 or [email protected] if they think they have seen phragmites.

“We don’t want them to take out ornamental grass,” Meyer said. And he doesn’t want people bringing noxious weeds into their yard, thinking it is grass.

“Pretty soon the yard will be full of it.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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