European Common Reed
European Common Reed
Priority: - Prevent
Tags: Aquatic | EDRR
Identification and Reproduction
- European common reed (Phragmites australis spp. australis) is an aggressive perennial grass that is closely related to the native subspecies, Phragmites australis spp. americanus.
- Stems can reach up to 5 m tall, hollow and are often tan or beige in colour. Stem texture is rough and dull.
- Leaves are flat, pointed, dark green and when pulled back from stem will reveal a ligule that is half membrane and half hairs.
- Infloresence appears as a large feathery panicle. It ranges from 15 to 35 cm long and will mature from a purple colour to a straw-colour. Blooms occur from July through October.
- It can produce clones from stolons and rhizomes.
- Much of the biomass of the plant is found underground.
- Also reproduces by seed but have a low viability.
- Each seed head is capable of containing 2,000 seeds.
Habitat & Ecology
- This reed was cultivated as an ornamental plant for aquatic and marginal sites.
- It prefers sites with stagnant water but its extensive root mass allows it to withstand dry areas as well.
- Stands are very dense and can reach up to 200 stems per square metre.
- Can thrive in both saline and freshwater wetlands, this includes marshes, sloughs, ponds and ditches.
- It is sensitive to low oxygen levels which can limit viability of seeds and rhizome fragments.
- Currently found in several places in BC: Vernon, Osoyoos, Richmond, Burnaby, Galiano Island and Metchosin.
- Its vigorous growth can create sightline issues and other road safety hazards.
- It can also limit recreational activities such as fishing, swimming and boating.
- Has the potential to invade agricultural land, reducing crop potential.
- This plant is very aggressive and grows rapidly. It outcompetes native vegetation for water and nutrients.
- Its roots also release toxins that suppress and limit the growth of surrounding plants.
- Decreases plant biodiversity.
- Alters the environment, displacing food sources and essential wildlife habitat.
- Causes lower water levels.
- Presence of dead stalks will also increase fire hazards.
Prevention is a high priority for this plant.
- Learn to identify European common reed. Report suspected sightings and avoid moving through the site as this could lead to accidentally spreading the plant.
- Do not buy, plant, sell or trade this plant.
- Clean equipment, clothes and vehicles when leaving infested site to prevent transfer of seeds or plant fragments.
- Because of its extensive root system a combination of control methods may be required for successful management.
- Please report European common reed if you think you have seen it.
Download Ontario's Best Management Practices for Invasive Phragmites here.
For more help identifying European common reed check out E-flora BC's datasheet on common reed.
Header photo (Botaurus stellaris).