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European Common Reed

European Common Reed

European Common Reed

(Phragmites australis)

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).