Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.
Common Reed, Phragmites
Poaceae (Grass Family)
Synonym(s): Phragmites australis var. berlandieri, Phragmites communis, Phragmites communis ssp. berlandieri, Phragmites communis var. berlandieri, Phragmites phragmites
USDA Symbol: PHAU7
Common reed or pragmites is a tall, robust, perennial grass commonly growing up to 13 ft. in height. Stiff, wide leaves and a big, plumy inflorescence characterize this colony-forming plant which spreads by stout rhizomes. The inflorescence is purple in flower, gray in fruit.
This tall and striking plant rarely produces seed but spreads vigorously by underground stems (rhizomes), often running over the surface of the ground for 17-34' (5.1-10.2 m). It can form dense stands that exclude all other wetland species. It is the dominant vegetation of the still extant Hackensack Meadows of New Jersey where it filters pollutants from the greater New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. While this role may appear beneficial, it has no doubt out competed the native vegetation that would ordinarily serve this purpose. In New England, tidal gates across estuaries have restricted tidal flow and created heavily brackish conditions on tidal marshes, with the result that Common Reed has replaced extensive areas of tidal marsh grasses. It was formerly known as P. communis.
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Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 13 feet tall.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Purple
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug
DistributionUSA: AL , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , NT , ON , PE , QC , SK , YT
Native Distribution: E. Que. to B.C., s. to VA, KY, LA & AZ; also scattered localities in the Southeast
Native Habitat: Fresh to alkaline marshes; pond margins; ditches
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Wet soil to standing water; adapts to less moisture.
Conditions Comments: This is a common and sometimes unpopular grass because it can be very invasive in wet, disturbed areas. It is resistant to all kinds of disturbance itself, often coming back more vigorously if cut or burned. It is less invasive and grows to a reduced height in average garden moisture.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Provides good cover for wetland wildlife species.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
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PropagationDescription: Phragmites can be grown from seed although germination is low.
Seed Collection: Store dry.
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
BibliographyBibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Phragmites australis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Phragmites australis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Phragmites australis
MetadataRecord Modified: 2021-03-19
Research By: TWC Staff