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Phragmites australis (Common reed)
Brundage, Stephanie

Phragmites australis

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

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (I), PR (N), CAN (N)

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.


From the Image Gallery

8 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
Inflorescence: Panicle
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 13 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Purple
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: 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 Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Aquatic: yes
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.


Use Wildlife: Provides good cover for wetland wildlife species.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Yuma Skipper
(Ochlodes yuma)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Phragmites can be grown from seed although germination is low.
Seed Collection: Store dry.
Commercially Avail: yes

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


Record Modified: 2021-03-19
Research By: TWC Staff

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