TOWNSEND -- It took years for the perfect day to arrive in order to wipe out an invasion at the Dead Swamp.

A few years ago, a small stand of an invasive weed, phragmites, was found in the 29-acre swamp located between Route 13 and Fessendon Hill Road.

Jennifer Pettit, a member of the Townsend Conservation Commission sighted the graceful reeds swaying out in the center of the wetland, said Emily Norton, president of the Friends of Willard Brook.

The two environmentalists stopped at an overlook while planning a new trail around the swamp when Pettit identified the plants invading the wetlands.

It was a small enough patch that there was time to wipe it out before it would eventually take over the entire Dead Swamp, Norton said.

They contacted the landowners, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Phragmites, once it is established, can spread quickly, said Tom Flannery, Aquatic Engineer from the Office of Water Resources at DCR.

It will wipe out the native plant growth like sedges and this negatively affects the surrounding insect and animal habitat. In effect, the Dead Swamp would actually die if something was not done soon.

When caught in time, with the right treatment, the invasive can be eradicated.

The process leading to the rather simple eradication, done by two men with individual sprayers, took time.

The project went out to bid.

The FOWB qualified for a matching grant from DCR to fund the initial cost of $2,900.


The local group will pay one-third of the cost. "We had it in our treasury," Norton said.

"We tried to get everything all set" to spray the weeds in 2011, Norton said.

The town had to approve permits for the project and the contractor, Lycotte Environmental, needed to take another look at the area.

"By the time we did all the permitting and Lycotte went out there, the phragmites was dry and brown and it was too late," she said.

The weed is sprayed at the end of its growing season, Flannery said. The plant is weak and susceptible to the poison.

If the plants have killed been by frost for the season as they were last year before they could be sprayed, the herbicide will not work. At just the right time, a very low dose of chemical can be used that does not affect the surrounding native plants, he said.

A few days of dry weather on both sides of the spraying date is needed for the best results, Norton said.

Sept. 25 was perfect. The weather was dry, the plants had used up all their energy in the summer growing season and the permitting was complete.

A duo from Lycotte wearing backpack sprayers and holding five gallon containers of herbicide in each hand set out across the swamp to spray the quarter acre of phragmites stands.

"They'll be up to their thighs before they" arrive at the patch, said Steve Asen, the water resource planner at DCR.

His prediction was right. Moments later, one of the contractors was working to get free of the water mud.

Between 90 percent and 95 percent of the plants will be destroyed by the spray the two men applied, Flannery said.

Follow-up visits in future years will take care of the few that remain.

The swamp is a bit off the established trail, but Norton will lead a Halloween hike to the wetlands on Oct. 28, just before Halloween.

"At all seasons it's beautiful," she said.

For information on this hike and other FOWB activities see their website at