Skip to main content

Make Me Care About: Phragmites


Dennis Whigham, a senior botanist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, makes his quick pitch for why you should care about the wetland plant Phragmites australis. A European strain of phragmites has established itself in wetlands along the East Coast of the United States. Whigham describes some of the impacts this invasive species can have on local ecosystems. 

This week at the Smithsonian Ocean Portal we embark on an experiment we're calling "Make Me Care." The concept is simple: we ask a renowned expert to tell us why we should care about his or her marine subject matter. We're giving them only about a minute on video to accomplish the task, so it's a difficult - and not very fair - challenge. 

Dennis Whigham is a senior botanist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in Edgewater, Md. He's graciously agreed to be the first expert to participate. 

Whigham is a specialist in many subject areas, including mangroves, orchids, tidal freshwater wetlands, and Phragmites australis, a plant that has successfully invaded wetland ecosystems around the world. 

We caught up with him on March 30 while he was talking with visitors in the National Museum of Natural History's Sant Ocean Hall. 

So Dr. Dennis Whigham, (please) make us care about: Phragmites (pronounced frag-MITE-ees). 

Categories: Scientists