Greenwood: Roadside pest could meet its match: goats

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Have you ever noticed those tall and graceful grasses that tower over cattails in ditches along many Michigan roadways?

They must die.

Those are phragmites, an invasive species that chokes out native vegetation, stealing nutrients from other plants, choking wetlands and interfering with proper road drainage.

According to, they can grow to 19 feet, have deep roots and spread rapidly, thriving in most watery environments.

The plants are widespread, growing in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. In Europe they were used to make thatched roofs for homes.

In Egypt they were dried and used as fishing poles or for cattle pens. In Australia, Aboriginal cultures used the reeds as spear-like weapons for hunting.

But in Michigan they’re a pain in the estuary.

Steps are being taken to wipe out the plants, including a plan by the Road Commission for Oakland County to provide $75,000 to numerous communities, school districts and environmental groups to tackle the issue.

(The state of Michigan has also started a grant program that provides money to fight the phragmites.)

One of the main methods of controlling the weed in Europe is to destroy it in controlled burns. (Why do I have visions of California-type wildfires?)

But in Michigan, the main weapon against the reeds is herbicide that needs two applications before the plants are killed and then mowed.

Here’s an idea: Why not use goats?

They love to nosh on woody and leafy plants, are cost effective and eco friendly. They are quick, agile, gentle and gregarious, plus they can easily reach places that are impossible for machines.

And, according to the Chinese Zodiac, 2015 is the Year of the Goat!

(313) 222-2023

I-75: In Springfield Township SB will have only one lane open from Saginaw to Holly roads from 11 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Monday for repairs.

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