Phragmites Flattening Project at Iona Island at Bear Mountain State Park

By Marnie Miller-Keas

Phragmites Flattening Project at Iona Island at Bear Mountain State Park

Last fall 10 acres of Phragmites australis, an invasive plant also known as common reed, was sprayed with herbicide in attempts to reclaim Iona Marsh with cattail and other native plants. Extensive bird surveys have been done over the past years and as Phragmites has increased in dominance, bird species richness has decreased. Species like the green heron and least bittern were not uncommon sites at Iona, but it is suspected that the dense stands of invading Phragmites have influenced their departure.

The 10 acres that were sprayed last year are dead and need to be flattened in order to survey for any new growth. Any new Phragmites stalks will be individually sprayed with herbicide again this coming fall, and hopefully most of the new growth will be cattail. To flatten these giant stalks we used man (and woman) power; a group of 15 volunteers were able to smash down roughly 2 acres a couple weeks ago. Two main methods used were 4ft. boards with rope for handles (crop circle method) and two huge cable spools pushed by 3-4 people. The spools were very effective but require a lot of strength. By the end of the day at our last flattening event everyone had their own method of flattening: throwing things at it, laying down into it… however labor intensive, it was fun.