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Phalaris arundinacea (Reed canary grass)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Phalaris arundinacea

Phalaris arundinacea L.

Reed Canary Grass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Phalaris arundinacea var. picta, Phalaroides arundinacea, Phalaroides arundinacea var. picta

USDA Symbol: phar3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (I), CAN (N), SPM (I)

Grows in large patches, the flowering stalks jutting in a uniform layer over the leaves, which also grow to a uniform height. The flower stalks do not persist long after flowering.

This grass is much planted for hay but is also naturally established. Like many marsh plants, Reed Canary Grass spreads by rhizomes and soon forms large patches. The inflorescences can be mistaken for those of Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata), but they are more fragile and smooth-textured, and the growth habit is different: Orchard Grass grows in distinct clumps on drier soil. A cultivated variety of Reed Canary Grass, Phalaris arundinacea 'Picta' with white stripes on the leaves, is known as Ribbon Grass and is often planted in gardens.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 7 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AK , AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SD , TN , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: Maine to Virginia, west to Washington and California.
Native Habitat: Low, wet places, riverbanks, marshes.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium


Warning: Some Phacelia species produce a skin irritation in sensitive people, similar to that of poison oak or poison ivy.
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor)

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Least Skipper
(Ancyloxypha numitor)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.


Bibref 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

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Phalaris arundinacea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Phalaris arundinacea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Phalaris arundinacea


Record Modified: 2016-02-01
Research By: TWC Staff

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