Photo Courtesy of Dr. Roger Banner, USU Extension
Phalaris arundinacea L.
Scientific Name Synonyms:
Phalaroides arundinacea (L.) Raeusch.
Life Span: Perennial
Reed canarygrass is a circumboreal, rhizomatous grass. It is robust, with erect culms 2-8’ tall. Reproduction is by seed and rhizomes. It starts growth in spring and begins flowering in June.
Seedhead: Seedheads are narrow, somewhat lobed panicles, 2 ¾ -12” long with branches strictly erect or spreading widely at flowering. Spikelets are pale green or tinged with pinkish purple but are ultimately straw colored at maturity.
Leaves:Leaf blades are flat, ½-1” wide and up to 12 inches long, rough to smooth except near the long-tapered tip. Ligules are present and up to 3/8” long. The leaf sheaths are without auricles.
Reed canarygrass is found at elevations from 4,200-9,000’ in fine to medium textured, wet, moderately saline soils along waterways and in wet meadows in most counties throughout Utah. Elsewhere in the U.S., it grows where annual precipitation ranges from35-65” per year but in generally arid to semiarid Utah, it is essentially restricted to disturbed riparian areas and wetlands. It may grow in dense stands, has high tolerance of fire and is highly tolerant of anaerobic soil conditions allowing it to withstand flooding and sediment deposition.
Soils: Moist to wet soils.
Associated Species: Associated species in Utah include Nebraska sedge, redtop, hardstem bulrush, common reed, tall wheatgrass, foxtail barley, inland saltgrass, cattail and alkali cordgrass among others.
Uses and Management:
Reed canarygrass is useful for erosion control along rivers and streams. Waterfowl, upland game birds, riparian mammals, and fish all use reed canarygrass for cover and food.
Reed canarygrass foliage is coarse but it provides good forage prior to maturity. Grazing should begin when the grass is 12 inches tall, and when soils are dry to minimize trampling. Intense stocking rates with a short rotation period are recommended. Reed canarygrass should not be grazed to less than 5 to 8 inches in height.
Reed Canarygrass is considered invasive by some sources and an undesirable plant in some states. It can be controlled to a limited extent by burning every 2 to 3 years during the dry season. Prescribed fires are recommended in April and May to prevent shrub invasion of sedge and reed canarygrass meadows. Marshes where reed canarygrass is present, can be burned in winter when the ice is 9 to 12 inches thick, to reduce plant density and improve wildlife feeding areas. Reed canarygrass is classified as a Class C noxious weed in the State of Washington.