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Exotic Reed Wreaks Havoc

Reeds in Wetlands Area

The common reed looks harmless as it waves in the wind of America's wetlands. But, this exotic plant is one of nature's most effective invasive species, and it's killing the competition.

The grass gets a leg up on other aquatic plants by secreting a toxic acid from its roots. That acid eats away the roots of other plants until they topple over.

Researcher Harsh Bais at University of Delaware says that because of its chemical warfare capabilities the common reed is a "natural killer" that it is overrunning marsh ecosystems around the world. He calls the situation a "horticultural disaster."

The reed replaces native plants that provide necessary habitat for wildlife. And it can even change the hydrology of an area, drying up pools and creeks and replacing them with nothing but thickets of reeds.

But there is hope for wetlands. The more we learn about this invasive grass, the easier we can fight it. Researchers are trying to pin down how the reed infiltrates ecosystems in the first place, and find native plants that can resist its toxins. Their findings will help conservationists slow the march of this aggressive weed.

Script by Adam Hinterthuer