An Ontario conservation group has launched a new program to combat an invasive grass species that's overtaking wetland areas in the province.

Ducks Unlimited is an organization working on a project to get rid of invasive phragmites at Rondeau Provincial Park, where they've been using the "Phrag 'N Slayer" to fight the species. 

It's a kind of buggy that allows workers to get up above the tall plants and spray them with a herbicide.

Erling Armson is the head of land securement, invasive and northern programs for Ducks Unlimited. He said the plants look like very tall grass that you typically see in wetland areas. 

"It's incredibly invasive and out-competes our regular vegetation. It can grow 20 feet or more in height and it can spread at least 10 or 15 feet per year," said Armson, adding that the plant can also release toxins that can prevent native plants from growing around it. 

Hear more from Erling Armson on Windsor Morning:

Windsor Morning
Phragmities Fight
00:00 08:16

"It creates biological deserts where there isn't habitat left for other species and fish," he said.

Although some types of phragmites are native to Ontario, the invasive species that is causing a problem is the European phragmite, which is difficult to get rid of, said Armson.

"You can mechanically cut it underwater which kills the roots, but there's no registered herbicide for use to combat the phragmites where there is any standing water — where it normally grows," said Armson. 

Slayer slashes plants

The Phrag N' Slayer has been successful in removing the plants, but it's challenging to operate. 


Although there are types of phragmites that are native to Ontario, the invasive species that is causing a problem is the European phragmite. (Courtesy Michigan Tech Research Institute)

One person stands on the roof of the machine while a driver operates it. But the driver can't really see where the machine is going and the buggy has to be high in the air to reach the top of the plants. 

More than 1,500 hectares have been safely treated this way so far, said Armson.