Tom's Blog

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dealing with reed canary grass in upland sites

Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) is rightly detested in the wetland areas where it most commonly thrives. However, it is not restricted to wetlands, but also lives in upland sites, such as savannas and woodlands. In these latter sites, it is generally found in smaller patches, although even here it can be troublesome.

Craig Annen of Integrated Restorations has been taking care of our reed canary grass on both wetland and upland sites for about six years by spraying patches with sethoxydim in early June. At that time, you need a sharp eye to spot reed canary in the upland sites, because it is not flowering yet, and there are other grasses that look similar. Craig's eye is sharp, but he can't find all patches.

By the end of June, reed canary grass is flowering abundantly, and is a lot easier to spot in the upland sites. But by this time, it is really too late to spray it effectively with sethoxydim, as there are lots of "good" grasses present. We usually deal with these upland patches ourselves, using a technique that is widely used across southern Wisconsin.

The procedure is to gather together as many stems as you can, tie them together with string, tape, or a grass sheath, cut off the tops just above the tie, and spray concentrated glyphosate (50% dilution of full strenth herbicide) down the stems. The herbicide is transported to the roots where it carries out its action. Within a week or so, the clone dies and turns brown.

Yesterday, Kathie and I spent almost two hours dealing with a really large patch of reed canary grass that had invaded our white oak savanna. I had spotted some suspicious seed heads of this patch from a distance and confirmed that they were reed canary grass using the binoculars I always carry in the Kawasaki Mule. The patch was too big for one person to handle easily, so we worked on it together. Kathie gathered the stems together in large patches, we worked together to tie them, I cut the stems with a sharp clippers, and then we sprayed the herbicide down the stems. The photo belows shows what such a patch should look like in a week or so.
The area we worked on was much too large to gather into a single bunch. We ended up with about a dozen bunches. The photo below shows a few of them. (We used red flagging tape to tie the bunches together.)

Reed canary spreads primarily by rhizomes, but it also gets from one site to another by seeds, so we carried off all of the seed heads that we had cut, just in case there were any viable seeds.

By being pro-active and getting all clones at an early stage, we will hopefully keep reed canary from taking over our upland sites.


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