Common Reed

Common Reed, courtesy of Dr. Lynn Clark and Anna Gardner

Photo courtesy of Dr. Lynn Clark and Anna Gardner,
Iowa State University,


Common Name(s):

Common Reed

Scientific Name(s):

Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.

Scientific Name Synonyms:

None known




Life Span: Perennial
Origin: Native
Season: Warm


Growth Characteristics: Common reed is a rhizomatous and stoloniferous grass, with thick (¼-?”), erect stems and growing 3-13’ tall.

Seedhead: A panicle 6-14” long by 3-8” wide that is egg-shaped to lance-shaped, purplish when young, and straw-colored when mature. Spikelets have 3-10 florets. Lower glumes are up to ¼ inch long and upper glumes are up to 3/8 inch long. Lemmas reach 5/8 inches long, are smooth and linear with inrolled margins.


Leaves:Leaf blades are flat, up to 20 inches long and 2 inches wide, very rough on the margins, and long-tapered at the tip. Leaf blades break off readily at the base when mature. Ligules are membranous with tiny hairs. 

Ecological Adaptations:

Common reed grows along waterways, in saline or freshwater marshes, and in sloughs at elevations from 3,000-6,400’.   


Soils:It occurs on coarse-fine textured soils that are frequently inundated or saturated.

Associated Species: Associated species include common cattail, hardstem bulrush, inland saltgrass, and other wetland plants.

Uses and Management:

Common reed is a circumboreal plant that spreads quickly. Plants with stolons almost 60’ long have been documented in Southeastern Utah. It is difficult to control once established. It quickly moves into low water areas in periods of drought and is considered a problem plant along lake shore beaches. It aggressively spreads in wetlands closing off open water and crowding out lower-statured vegetation to the detriment of nesting habitat for some waterfowl and shorebirds. It has been used for thatching, lattices, arrow shafts, construction boards, mats, and erosion control.