Invasive Phragmites on the island 2014

The St. James and Peaine Townships Terrestrial Invasive Species (TIS) Program is part of a community effort to curb and/or eradicate invasive species spread in the Beaver Island Archipelago while promoting the knowledge, awareness and protection of threatened & endangered species. This program is intended to lay the groundwork for more extensive invasive species efforts with the assistance of the TIS Administrator, the TIS Advisory Council, along with the community and all groups currently working throughout the islands. Together we can accomplish our goals of keeping our islands environmentally healthy, full of native biodiversity and purely beautiful! 

Terrestrial Invasive Species Advisory Council

TIS Administrator:

Shelby Harris
(231) 330-0422
Office Location: St. James Twp Government Center
Office Hours: By Appointment


St. James Township Supervisor:

Kathleen (Kitty) McNamara
(231) 448-2014


Peaine Township Supervisor:

Doug Tilly
(231) 448-2389


St. James Township Community Representatives:

Cynthia Pryor
(906) 360-2414

Peaine Township Community Representatives:

Krys Lyle
(231) 649-1625

Pam Grassmick
(231) 448-2314

Island Species Specialists:  

Beth & Edwin Leuck
(231) 448-2196 

What is an Invasive Species?
Typically an invasive species is not native to the area, can rapidly reproduce and out compete native species, does not offer sufficient sustenance for the ecosystem and reduces the biodiversity and overall integrity of the invaded area.
Invasive species are most often brought by people- whether knowingly or unknowingly via planting invasives in your yard, seeds/spores on your shoes/vehicles, dogs/pets, fishing/camping gear, firewood, and others. 
Learning how to identify invasive species, their negative impacts and how to control them can benefit the island in our outdoor activities, real estate values, the island's economy and our environment. Invasive plants are spreading on almost all private and public lands throughout our islands and we need the community's help to combat these unwelcome species.

● Invasive plants can decrease your ability to enjoy hunting, fishing, boating, mushrooming, gathering, bird watching, and other recreational hobbies

● Invasive plants, if left unchecked, will limit many uses of our islands now and for future generations

● Invasive plants can harm the natural heritage of our wetlands, fields, forests, shorelines, lakes & rivers

● The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to control these invasive plants

You can be a part of the solution by learning about Beaver Island’s invasive plants and taking action to prevent their spread!

Terrestrial Invasive Plant Species Identification
Help learn to identify the invasive species around the Beaver Island Archipelago
Any questions or concerns about species found throughout the islands please contact the TIS Administrator




Phragmites (Common Reed)
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Found along Lake Michigan shorelines, inland lake shorelines, as well as marshy and wetland areas.

Islands here have a native and an invasive species that can be difficult to tell apart.

If not controlled the invasive species will out-compete native plant species, including the native phragmites, and over-take large areas of shoreline with stalks greater than 20’ tall of extremely dense stands.

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When scouting for these invasive species in the summer, remember to look for growing tall, green and dense “grass” stands that are shading out other species along shorelines or wet areas.

When mature, these phragmites will have large, brownish “feather-duster” seed heads at the top of their stems. Different from cattail seed heads which are "puffier" than phragmites.

When scouting during the colder seasons, invasive phragmites will be tannish with NO reddish colors around their nodes/bases or leaves.

If you can get a closer look, pull on the stalk’s leaves; invasive phragmites will hold onto their leaves throughout the year and are hard to pull off, as well as again having NO reddish color where the leaves connect to the stem.


Here are some quick physical comparisons of the native and invasive phragmites but please report stands if unsure or in need of assistance identifying a species:

Invasive Species

Native Species

·       Slightly ribbed & rigid stems

·       Silky, white/tan hairs found at stem node/base

·       Tan and green stem node/base

·       Dark, green-bluish leaves 

·       Leaves stay on stem year-round and are 
           hard to remove

·       Typically, taller in height and denser in
           stands compared to native species

·       Typically, larger “feather duster” heads than
           native species

·       Monotypic stands/no other species around

·       Shiny, smooth stems

·       Reddish-purple color exposed along
            stems and leaves

·       Reddish-purple color at stem node/base
            and no silky hairs

·       Lighter green/yellowish leaves

·       Leaves fall off in the winter

·       Typically, smaller & less dense seed

·       Coexists with other plants

phrag stem color difference     phrag stem difference      sead head phrag difference

dougtilleyphagmites2013 - Copy (2)high-island phrag head high-island- Christine - CopyIMG-6883IMG-6887

Phragmites is chemically controlled by MDARD certified herbicide contractors in late summer/early fall. 

For more information visit:
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative

Narrow-leaf Cattail 

cattailnarrowvertThe Narrow-leaf Cattail is very similar to the native Common (Broadleaf) Cattail and will grow along side it in the wetlands where they can be found- even hybridizing. Helped described by its name, the Narrow-leaf Cattail will have leaves about 1/2" smaller in width than the native cattails' leaves. This characteristic can be hard to use in distinguishing one from another however. 

It is easiest to distinguish the invasive Narrow-leaf from the native cattail once the plants are mature in the late summer (August-September). Both have the known brown, "cattail" at the top of their stalks but the Common Cattail will have its one, solid flowering stalk while the Narrow-leaf will have ~1" gap in between its male and female "cattail".

typang_inflo04gf400 - CopyThe Narrow-leaf Cattail is more often found in populated and high trafficked wetland areas like boat launches, docks and popular beach outlets. This invasive will spread faster during low water levels and can also survive in deeper waters compared to the native Common Cattail.

Removal of this invasive species depends on a site-by-site basis but physical removal (if all rhizomes removed), cutting during drawdowns and when flowering, along with stem cutting followed by submergence have all shown progress in the control and management of the plant. Certain herbicides are also found to be effective.

(Left: Narrow-leaf Cattail, Right: Common Broadleaf Cattail) 

For More Information Visit:

Midwest Invasive Plant's Network

Garlic Mustard (Poor Man’s Mustard, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Garlic Root)


Garlic Mustard is a biennial, herbaceous plant most commonly found in mature upland woods, alongside roads and trails, and the edges of fields and yards. This invasive plant is shade tolerant and can grow from 1-3ft in height when mature.

If not by its tall, single stalk found commonly growing with other Garlic Mustard in clustered groups, this plant can be most noticeable when flowering in early May. At the very top of the plant, you will find clusters of 4 small, white petals. Leaves are somewhat heart-shaped, with toothed edges and an alternating leaf along the stalk. When crushed, the leaves will smell like garlic.

Like most invasives, Garlic Mustard will out-compete native plant species if not managed. These plants will emerge and flower earlier than native plants, and are allelopathic- will release chemicals through their roots to alter the soil and kill neighboring plant species they’re competing with.

The best way to get rid of garlic mustard is manually pulling them out and disposing of them:


  • Try to pull up the plants before they seed (before June)
  • Pull plants after it rains- easier to pull whole plant & root from soil
  • Pull/shimmy plants up and at an angle- taproots grow at an “L” shape and will break off if pulled straight up
  • After you have pulled the plants, bag them up and throw them out with your garbage

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For More Information Visit:

USDA National Invasive Species Info Center

MSU Gardening in Michigan 

Bush Honeysuckle

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Growing up to a height of 6ft with its attractive flowers, red berries and full leaves, Bush Honeysuckle is a flowering shrub loved by many and planted in yards across the U.S.. However, along with native honeysuckles there are 2 invasive bush honeysuckle species found on the island; Morrow and Tartarian. It can be difficult to tell these species apart from the native species but there are a few easy distinguishing features.


Cutting a small stem or branch of a honeysuckle will show that invasive honeysuckles are hollow on the inside while native honeysuckles are solid. The flower colors are an easy visible differences as well- invasive honeysuckles have pinkish/white flowers starting in early June through July, while native honeysuckles will have yellow flowers.

Honeysuckle_DanielleTassie-7honeysuckle compareWhen not planted ornamentally, Bush Honeysuckles prefer full sun and can be found along forest edges, sides of pastures & old fields, road & trail sides as well as in upland woods if provided enough sun.

If not managed these shrubs will form dense stands removing the biodiversity from an area while not providing much nutrition or benefit to the native wildlife.

Smaller shrubs and saplings can be removed by hand while larger Bush Honeysuckles can be removed by a puller, or cut and roots removed. If roots are not removed the plant will continue to sprout. For larger honeysuckles herbicide is recommended for more effective results.

It is important to try not to disturb the soil too much where Bush Honeysuckle is removed as this is prime area for other invasive species to invade and grow or even more honeysuckle. Seeds are dispersed by wildlife and complete eradication of an area can take several years.

                                                                                           For More Information Visit:


Autumn Olive (Japanese Silverberry)
images - Copy
A flowering shrub found along fields, woodland edges and road or trail sides, and even growing on bare mineral substrates (sides of gravel roads for instance). This invasive can grow up to 20ft and is drought tolerant, relying on native wildlife to spread its seeds.Autumnolivefruit_503920_7 - Copy Can distinguish this invasive by its “silvery” color on the underside of its leaves along with its fragrant, pale yellow and bell-shaped flowers during June-July. The stems are speckled and sometimes thorny. Autumn Olive will also have abundant red/pinkish fruits during August-October.autumn-olive-4
To remove smaller Autumn Olive hand pulling is effective when done over a period of time (several years depending on population size and consistency) or using a puller on larger ones to remove whole plant along with the roots. If too large to pull, cutting and removal of the roots is required to have full effect or the invasive will grow back two-fold. Herbicides used after cutting (cut-stump treatment) can help in effectively eradicating this invasive shrub.

The Puller-bear can be used to help pull these shrubs and their roots fully out of the ground. One is available to sign out at the Beaver Island Transfer Station.
For More Information Visit:

Michigan Invasive Species Webpage 

European Swamp Thistle (Marsh Thistle)
Europ. Swamp thislteThe European Swamp Thistle or Marsh Thistle is found throughout the BI Archipelago aggressively spreading south with help from habitat disturbances like logging and development and threatening native thistle species. This herbaceous biennial prefers moist soils such as White Cedar Swamps, fens (frequently flooded areas like ditches and marshes or) or acceptable forest openings. With its single, thick & spiny stem growing up to 5ft tall, this invasive thistle can be easily noticed from the road or trail side. 
swamp thistle stem - Copy
european swamp thistle head - Copy (2)

The Marsh Thistle can look similar to the native thistles but can be differentiated easily by its threatening spines found along its stem as well as its leaves and flower heads. The native Swamp Thistle will be smaller, have no spines along its stems and possesses a single pinkish/purple flower head at the end of its branches rather than tightly grouped clusters. 

The native and federally endangered Pitcher's Thistle looks somewhat similar to the Marsh Thistle possessing less threatening looking spines-but only near the base of its flower heads, of which bloom into a single cream/pinkish color flower with non-spiny, gray/greenish foliage. The Pitcher's Thistle also prefers dry, sandy habitats near dunes and lakeshores. 

Native Swamp Thistle
native swamp thistle headswamp-thistle_0815_164129 (1) - Copy

Pitcher's Thistle
pitchers thistle plant
pitchers thistle

To eradicate European Swamp Thistle, consistent hand pulling and cutting/mowing when the plant is not seeding towards the late summer has shown to be effective.

For More Information Visit:

MISIN Webpage 

US Forest Service 

Spotted Knapweed
spotted_knapweed_flowering1spotted_knapweed_rosettes_gravel2Spotted Knapweed is a difficult invasive species to combat as its a short-lived biennial with deep taproots that can regrow even when the above-ground plant is removed, can have its seeds stay in soils for up to 5 years and chemically attacks neighboring plants to create barren monocultures. 

Found in dry, open areas (fields, dunes, roadsides, yards) this invasive can also be confused easily with native species like Wormwood and Pitcher's Thistle having irregularly lobed, gray-green foliage in its first year of a rosette form and its mature form growing 2-4ft tall and being very "thistle-like" with long branched stems and pinkish/purple flowers at the ends.

5-knapweed bractsSpotted Knapweed can be distinguished from other plant species by looking for its "spotted flowered heads": stiff, dark "bracts" in the shape of upside down "V" throughout the flower head.

In order to remove Spotted Knapweed constant mowing and hand pulling- removing as much of the tap root as possible, is required. LONG SLEEVES & GLOVES should be worn when hand pulling Spotted Knapweed as it can cause serious skin irritation. 

For More Information Visit:



Previous Surveys of the Islands


2017, Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI)
Natural Community Surveys of Beaver Island Archipelago: Natural Communities of BI Archipelago 2017

2017, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Wildlife Division
Management Plan for State-owned Lands on Northern Lake Michigan Islands: 2017 Island Management Plan

2017, CAKE-CISMA (Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska, Emmett – Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area)
Invasive Plant Species Survey Field Maps, Beaver Island:

2016, Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNIF)
Natural Community Surveys of Beaver Island: Beaver Island Natural Communities Survey

2011-2016, Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI)
Natural Community, Rare Species and Invasive Plant Surveys of Garden and High Island: MNFI Final Report.pdf

2013-2014, The Nature Conservancy Beaver Island Invasive Species Initiative: BI Invasive Species Initiative

2012, MNFI and Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (LTBB)
High Island Rare Species and Invasive Plant Survey: MNFI High Island Report.pdf

2006, CMU Biological Station Study
Beaver Island Recreation Resource Project; Ecological Evaluation of Publicly Accessible Wetlands of Interest on BI, Michigan: BIPOA Wetland Study

2003, CMU Biological Station Study
Beaver Island Recreation Resource Project; Ecological Evaluation of State-Owned Shoreline Tracts on BI, Michigan: BIPOA Shoreline Study,pdf

1993, Michigan Natural Features Inventory Biodiversity of Michigan’s Great Lakes Islands: MNFI Report 1993


Quick Links

State of the Great Lakes Report 2020
Resilient Beaver Island Master Plan 2017
Peaine Township Codified Zoning Ordinance 2017
St. James Township Zoning Ordinance 2004


We would like to thank all of our collaborators, community workers and volunteers who have helped and worked so hard in the immense and on-going challenge of keeping our islands healthy, explored and protected. This job would not be possible without you and our continued devotion to the native biodiversity our islands have to offer.


Beaver Island Association
MNFI (Michigan Natural Features Inventory)
MDNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
NLMIC (Northern Lake Michigan Islands Collaborative)
Little Traverse Conservancy
LTBB of Odawa Indians (Little Traverse Bay Band)
GTB of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (Grand Traverse Band)
CAKE-CISMA (Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska, Emmett - Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas)
EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes & Energy, (formally DEQ))
MISIN (Midwest Invasive Species Information Network)
CMU (Central Michigan University)
MSU (Michigan State University)
The Nature Conservancy
GLIA (Great Lakes Island Alliance)
NFWF (National Fish & Wildlife Foundation)
NRESC (Natural Resources & Eco-tourism Steering Committee)
Charlevoix Conservation District
Great Lakes Commission
St. James Township
Peaine Township
Beaver Island Community

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