GROTON -- Department of Public Works director Tom Delaney met with the Conservation Commission to discuss phragmites, an invasive plant species that threatens to swallow every shallow wetland and swamp in town if nothing is done to stop it.
"You're not going to have beautiful vistas anymore," warned Delaney. "All you're going to see is a wall (of reeds). And there's not a thing you can do about (phragmites) except kill it."
Delaney suggested a chemical combatant or burning to wipe out the plant, which was likely introduced to the area by birds dropping seeds.
Phragmites are native to Europe and when full grown, look like common reeds but with extending strands known as reed beds that can stretch out as much as a quarter of a mile or more and from which more stalks can spring.
Where conditions are suitable, the strands can spread 16 feet or more every year, putting down roots at regular intervals. It can grow in damp ground, in standing water up to 3 feet or so or even as a floating mat. The erect stems grow from 6-19 feet in height, with the tallest plants growing in areas with hot summers and fertile growing conditions.
"And it kills everything in its path," warned Delaney, saying that where phragmites grow, wildlife disappears.
Phragmites are most abundant along the Atlantic coast and in freshwater and brackish tidal wetlands of the northeastern United States and as far south as North Carolina, with populations expanding into the Midwest.
According to Delaney, the phragmite problem in Groton is already beyond control with large colonies present in nearly every pool of standing water.
The DPW director approached the Conservation Commission on the issue to discover whether commissioners had given the issue any serious thought.
"Because it's not going to go away," Delaney said, adding that he would "like to get the ball rolling" with the ConsCom on addressing the issue.
Agreeing that the problem needed to be addressed, commissioners intend to discuss the matter at a future meeting.