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Phragmites australis: Genetic analysis reveals the promiscuous nature of the invasive reed

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Phragmites australis growing in a subestuary of Chesapeake Bay.

The non-native strain of Phragmites australis dominates many Chesapeake Bay wetlands. Photo Melissa McCormick.

Phragmites australis took its sweet time taking over East Coast wetlands. A non-native strain of the reed arrived in the U.S. around 1800, likely stowed away in the ballast material of European ships. For nearly two centuries the plant grew in relatively small pockets along the coast. Today it’s a poster child for invasive species. In some states along the Atlantic, it covers as much as a third of the tidal wetland acreage. Among other impacts, it challenges native plants for turf. The European strain has even out-competed North America’s native P. australis.
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