Slashing Phragmites (Phragmites australis) prior to planting does not promote native vegetation establishment.
Phragmites or Common Reed (Phragmites australis) is a tall rhizomatous cosmopolitan grass. While native to Australia, it can be invasive in wetlands, forming dense monocultures and reducing their ecological integrity. We assessed the potential for the cutting of Phragmites reeds prior to planting to promote the establishment of indigenous shrubs that might ultimately outcompete Phragmites. We established ten 5 m × 5 m quadrats in an area dominated by Phragmites, brush-cut the reeds to ground level in five of them and left five uncut as controls. Within each quadrat, we planted 20 plants (~40 cm tall) of each of five indigenous shrub species, unguarded (4 plants/m2). We surveyed the plants one month after planting and annually for the following four years for survival, height and browsing damage. Browsing damage to plants was common (>50%) and unaffected by cutting. After four years, overall plant survival rates were ~25% and mean plant heights for the five shrub species ranged between 120 and 174 cm. Cutting of Phragmites had no positive effect on plant survival or height. In fact, two Melaleuca species grew taller in the uncut quadrats. Cutting of Phragmites reed beds prior to planting is unlikely to promote the establishment of woody plantings. However, planting within established Phragmites with or without prior brush-cutting is worthy of further trialling as a potential tool for reinstating native diversity at Phragmites-dominated sites.