Cawaja property owners and the Association have been dealing with invasive Phragmites (Phragmites australis ssp. australis) on the beach for over 15 years.

We owe a large thank you to Adam Parsons who has spent countless hours battling the Phragmites on his own time and at his own expense. The CPOA has also hired a contractor to carry out two complete cuttings/mowing of the invasive reeds at the north end of the beach in previous years. Our progress in containing these plants has been successful but it is a constant work in progress. We also have a community dig on the second Saturday in June.  In 2018, Tiny Township started helping with our annual volunteer dig in August. It has taken years of hard work to reduce this invasive plant to this remaining stand at the north end of the beach. At one point 20% of Cawaja was covered with this invasive plant. If left alone it would have covered the entire coastal frontage of Cawaja.

We still need your help! Please see below for how to properly remove and dispose of Phragmites and join us for our annual digs in June and August this year.

Photo: Severn Sound Environmental Association (SSEA)

Life Cycle of Invasive Phragmites

In general, growth of invasive Phragmites follows these timelines, however exact timing will be site-dependent:

  • Dormant: November–March
  • Germination: April–May
  • Primary vegetative growth: May (our first cutting)
  • Flowering: August–September
  • Translocation of nutrients: September–October (second cutting)


Mowing of an invasive Phragmites stand using tools or by hand-cutting stems and seed heads will not affect the root system. If used as a standalone control method, cutting may stimulate growth and increase the density of a stand. Consider soil moisture and other conditions that allow the soil to support heavy mowing equipment, as these can impede the ease and efficacy of mowing and may be unsafe. Mowing should be conducted in late July/early August, when most of the carbohydrate reserves are in the upper portion of the plant (i.e. before seed production or flowering). Mowing is relatively low-cost and can be easily performed with minimal training. This course of action stops the phragmites from seeding in late August which significantly reduces the spread of the plant. All clothing, boots, and equipment should be cleaned on-site to avoid the transportation and dispersal of invasive Phragmites.


Care is needed when transporting and disposing of trimmings from mowing or cutting of invasive Phragmites stands because stands can establish from the dispersal of seeds or fragments from the stolon and rhizome. Invasive Phragmites clippings should not be composted; cut plants should be bagged in thick plastic bags and allowed to dry out or decay in the sun to kill all viable seeds and rhizomes. Dried and dead Phragmites plants can be burned, when permitted by the Township, or the bags must be disposed of at an appropriate municipal staging or disposal location. Contact local municipalities prior to disposal. All clothing, boots, and equipment should be cleaned/brushed of plant material on-site to avoid the transportation and dispersal of invasive species.

Preventing the introduction of invasive species is critical

● Clean, drain, and dry your boat before entering a new waterbody, particularly if it was recently in another waterbody. Invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussel larvae and adults (Dreissena polymorpha and Dreissena bugensis, respectively) can easily enter the lake attached to unwashed boats. Within Georgian Bay, zebra and quagga mussels threaten the native mussel population, affect nutrient cycling, and pose a safety hazard for swimmers.

● Plant native species in your gardens, as many non-native landscaping plants have the potential to escape and become invasive. Non-native species such as Norway maple (Acer platanoides), periwinkle (Vinca minor), goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus), and European common reed (Phragmites australis) can be visually appealing but should be avoided due to their tendency to outcompete native species. Luckily, there are many native alternatives that can be cultivated instead and pose no harm to the environment. Native plants are also the preferred food source for native insects, birds, and other wildlife.

● Do not transport firewood; instead buy firewood near where you will burn it. Transporting wood can result in the spread of invasive forest insects, such as the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), that could affect the health of the surrounding forests. Within the next ten years we will regrettably witness the death of most of the ash trees in Ontario due to the introduction of the ash borer insect.

The Severn Sound Environmental Association (SSEA) has an Invasive Species Program. This program works to coordinate invasive species mapping, monitoring, control, and education programs in the Severn Sound watershed, which includes producing an Invasive Species Strategy for the area. SSEA supports and works with a variety of partners, including the FLCA & FOCA, to prevent and manage invasive species.

If invasive species are found, the sightings can be reported to SSEA’s Invasive Species Program Coordinator by emailing or calling 705-534-7283 ext. 211. Provide the species name, location, and photos (if possible) to SSEA and they will help to confirm the identification and file a report. More information about invasive species and how to help prevent their spread can be found on the SSEA website: SSEA website (Invasive Species).

See the FOCA web site at to download the Shoreline Owners Guide to Invasive Species.

Additional Resources:

Ontario Invasive Plant Council Best Management Practices for Phragmites:

SSEA Phragmites video:

Clean Drain Dry Protocol:

Grow Me Instead Guide:

SSEA website:

EDDMapS invasive species reporting:

Written by Tara, Invasive Species Program Coordinator, SSEA.  Verified by Adam Parsons, past Board member and our local Phragmites expert.