Phragmites

Phragmites ring the water of the Chesapeake, the water of much of the world, I now see, as I read about it. If you’re from around here, you know about them, but if you’re in the midwest, say, you might be interested to learn. Pronounced (frag-MIGHT-eez), it is a common perennial reed, spread through rhizomes along sandy and muddy shores and marshes. Somewhat handsome; big problem. Here are some that fill Mayberry’s marsh, by the Scott’s home:

The main problem is that they are so invasive that they clog out every other little thing, like native plants that provide food and habitat for migrating birds and local fauna. When we moved onto the Estate, the owners were in the process of a serious phragmites eradication plan in conjunction with the State of MD and US Fish and Wildlife. That meant that each fall, US Fish and Wildlife personnel would come out and spray glyphosate (RoundUp) pumped from a large truck, through long hoses like firehoses. The first time I watched this, it was like – whoa! I watched a young woman blow RoundUp out of a thick hose which was hard to control – whhhooooosh – sweeping from one side to another, spraying some 20 yards into the thicket of phragmites right there by the water. The wind blew it back onto her as we all stood and watched her, her partner yakking it up with us by the sideline. And I thought, “dang!” One more treatment the next year, and now – two years later, much of that thicket of Phrag is gone, allowing the native grasses to take over once again. I expect that the property owners are planting natives and maintaining the area with the new best practices management – they always have been careful, excellent stewards of the land.

When you buy a piece of waterfront property on the Eastern Shore, you get a book called the “Green Book for the Bay”, written by Adkins Arboretum – another fantastic place nearby. It’s good – an illustrated guidebook showing what you, as landholders can, should and must do in the “Critical Area – 1000 ft. landward from the mean high water line of the Bay, tidal tributaries and tidal wetlands. And of course, it’s tricky, because everyone wants a view. Around here it’s ALWAYS all about the view, and you have lots of waterfront properties ringed by perfect green lawns (heavily enhanced with chemicals) that go straight down to a bulkhead, ringed with stone rip-rap to the water. And of course, over time, this style of erosion management has gone by the wayside, replaced with the notion of buffer establishment and living shorelines – a “softer” version of shoreline protection using native shrubs, grasses and trees. The new way – “living shorelines” – incorporates habitat elements such as native grasses and oyster reefs, which support the natural ecological functions of marshes and protect the shoreline against erosion naturally. Which is a big deal – this shows what happens very quickly to a piece of shoreline without some knd of protection from waves and pounding surf:

I could go on and on here, but won’t. I will say that there’s a local non-profit called Environmental Concern, which does a great job of helping landholders to plan and execute living shorelines, and there is quite a bit of help out there. Even the Master Gardeners, God love ’em, have a “Baywise” program – they’ll come out and evaluate your landscape, and give help and recommendations.

One of these days, we’ll go visit Environmental Concern, see their native plant greenhouses and talk with their staff about this whole topic, and of course – report back here. We’ll also get some photos of living shoreline model examples – there are a lot of them around here, notably at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, and just about any other waterfront environmental center.  Lotsa effort to protect this Bay, to help people make solid choices about their little stretch of this magnificent land and waterscape, this important estuary, this magical and wonderful Chesapeake Bay.

~ by kbosin on November 21, 2010.

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