Personal Perspectives

Make Me Care About: Phragmites

A landscape photo of a shoreline with tall grass-like plants lining the water's edge.


This Chesapeake Bay shoreline may look picturesque, but the plant that dominates it is an invasive strain of Phragmites australis. The plant has invaded wetlands along the East Coast. 


(Melissa McCormick)

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). 

March 2011