A team of U.S. researchers based in Detroit took a trip to Peche Island on the Windsor side of the Detroit River on Tuesday.

They were looking for invasive plants, especially one called phragmites.

Phragmites is a tall reed with a bushy top. According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, it has caused severe damage to wetlands and beaches in Ontario for several decades.

Jeffrey Ram, a professor at Wayne State who also works at the Belle Isle Aquarium, was one of those looking for the invasive plant.

He says there is reason to be concerned about the invasive species around the Great Lakes.

"It's removing a lot of diversity in the habitat. A diverse habitat would provide the home for many other creatures," Ram said. "In these monocultures there's less diversity of what can live there."

A monoculture is single species or crop growing in a given area.

In 2005, phragmites plants were identified as the nation’s “worst” invasive plant species by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. Despite this designation, the plant is still sold as an ornamental plant in some garden centres.

Phragmites competes with native plants and take over their habitat.

Phragmites height

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources says phragmites can grow to 5.2 metres in height. (Ontario MNR)

Once established, phragmites plants can grow several metres in height and produce up to 2,000 seeds every year. Cut roots can also be transplanted.

Ontario's MNR has reported finding phragmites thickets 5.2 metres - or 17 feet - in height. The reed is thick and dense and crowds out other native species.

Ram is trying to determine whether phragmites on Belle Isle originate on Peche Island, or if the source may be farther upstream.

Ram said there were plenty of phragmites plants on the island.

"When you go to the interior of the island, there's a lagoon ... 100 per cent of the shoreline is covered by phragmites in a very thick field. So I'm concerned this could be a continuing source if it's not controlled," he said. "Acres and acres of phragmites infest Belle Isle."

The invasive reed is difficult to control.

"It's a combination of mechanically treatment and chemical treatment and then constant surveillance," Ram said.