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Georgian Bay Forever 2019 Highlights

Published on 12/14/2019

Georgian Bay Forever 2019 Highlights 

Georgian Bay Forever has been working with Honey Harbour Cottage Association, Georgian Bay Township and local homeowners for the past seven years to help manage and control invasive Phragmites australis invading the shorelines of Honey Harbour. And we have seen huge success! In 2019:

  • 205 sites mapped

  • 36 in the monitoring stage

  • 44% of Honey Harbour stands managed in 2019 

  • 180 community members talked to throughout Honey Harbour

  • 14 volunteers throughout the summer (19 adult, 5 kids/ students)

  • Over 220 volunteers hours 

  • 4 events attended: GBF’s AUV Event, Honey Harbour Canada Day, Honey Harbour AGM, Art on the Rocks

  • 3 community cuts hosted (Wild Goose, Quarry Island, and South Bay)

  • 9769kg of biomass removed! 

  • 100km+ of shoreline mapped 

  • 75% of sites are low density and 5m2 in size 

  • 3 local students hired 

  • Working with Georgian Bay Islands National Park on the “Impede the Reed’ program 

Moving forward to 2020, we are seeing 75% of the stands in Honey Harbour small in size and density. We are hoping the community and nearby homeowners to do the cutting on your own. GBF will target larger sites, but majority of sites are at a small enough stage that is controllable and manageable by the local cottage owner. 

What is Phragmites aka Phrag?

Phragmites, or Common Reed, is an alien invasive aquatic plant that has the potential to degrade wetlands and shorelines. The removal of invasive Phragmites plants is important because of the threat it poses to the biodiversity of the Georgian Bay area. Introduced to North America more than 100 years ago, Phragmites has spread widely and is becoming rooted across Canada, including around Georgian Bay. Canada has labeled Phragmites one of Canada’s worst invasive plant species because it can take over wetland habitats, crowd out native plants, and reduce habitat for a wide variety of animals, including species at risk. In North America there are no pests or pathogens to keep Phragmites populations in check. There is a closely related, native subspecies of Phragmites that is not invasive and is a modest component of many healthy wetlands. 

  • Very successful invasive grass/plant (reed from Europe) that spreads easily and out competes native plants

  • Although typically thought of as marshy, this plant thrives in many conditions (even harsh) and has no natural controls

  • Nutrient bully, disperses chemical from roots that harm other plants

  • Frequently grows densely and develops into LARGE Mono-Dominant stands where it is an impossible habitat for the survival of many native species – virtual ‘Dead Zones’.

  • Can grow 10cm a day! 

  • Can grow in excess of 15 ft. high blocking views, access ways to waterfronts, and creating municipal visual hazards

  • Seeds and stolons are easily distributed by wind (10 km radius), flowing water, and through human interaction usually from moving heavy equipment.

  • Spread is rapid and facilitated by road construction where you often see stands of Phragmites in culverts and ditches

How can it be identified?

Invasive Phragmites: 

  • Dense stands or monoculture (up to 200 stems per square metre) 

  • Height to 5m (16 ft.) 

  • Flowers Late August – September 

  • Seed heads dense, full and prolific 

  • Leaves wide, dark blue-green at about 45 degree angle to stem 

  • Stems rough, dull, rigid and tan colour at base 

Native (non-invasive) Phragmites

  • Sparse stands with other species 

  • Height to 2m (6 ft.) 

  • Flowers July – August 

  • Seed heads smaller, less dense 

  • Leaves narrow, light yellow-green at about 30 degree angle to stem 

  • Stems smooth, shiny, flexible and red/chestnut at base 

What can I do about it?

Georgian Bay Forever has been working in Honey Harbour for 7 years, we have studied and learnt a lot over this time and we are excited to share our knowledge with the community. The best way to control phragmites with immediate results is to cut underneath the waterline and properly dispose of the biomass. For more details, go to

The best time to cut is in July and August, when the plant is matured but before the seed head appears.  Tools that we recommend cutting with include a sickle, Stihl brushcutters, machete, gardening tools, or a raspberry cane cutter. GBF uses all of these depending on the size of stand and if it is mixed with native vegetation for selective cutting methods. 

1. Make sure you have appropriate permission to do the cut on the site. Take a before photo

2. Begin at the edge of the stand and work your way in. Remember that you are 'selectively' cutting. To the best of your ability, leave native plants where they are. 

3. Seed heads - You want to take the stalk and see if it has a seed head. If it does – begin by carefully removing the seed head. They can hold up to 2000 seeds. Put them in a yard bag right away for burning if permitted or consider a black plastic garbage bag. Put the black plastic garbage bag in the sun until the seeds are so soupy and degraded from the heat, that they can thrown out in regular waste.

4. If there is no seed head, reach down under the water and cut the stalk just above the sediment or ground. You’ll be leaving a nasty sharp stub underwater – and that’s okay –that’s why you have proper underwater shoes. Note: The effectiveness of the cut is much improved, by cutting as close as you can to the underwater sediment level and not just at the water level. 

5. Let the cutting begin! Remember to designate some of your crew to collect the Phrag from the water and transport it to your storage area.

6. Properly dispose of the stalks

7. Clean your equipment and brush your clothing/and or change before you leave the site to reduce the spread of invasive species.

8. Take an after photo and email Brooke at so we know what has been controlled! 

Be sure to check the Honey Harbour Association calendar of events to join Phrag-busting efforts in your area! 

Interested in having the GBF phragbusting team help with removal? E-mail to get involved, plan a cut, gather more information, or report a sighting.

Additional Resources: