Phragmites

  • Common Reed

    (Phragmites australis australis)

    Invasive Common Reed or Phragmites is a type of grass native to Eurasia that has invaded all continents excluding Antarctica. It is fast-growing and large, reaching heights of up to 5 metres or 15 feet! It was first discovered on the east coast of North America, and has since spread inland and northward as far as Thunder Bay. The Eurasian subspecies is invasive, but there is a native subspecies in North America (Phragmites australis americanus) that is adapted to local ecosystems and is not a threat to native species.

    Range

    Invasive Phragmites is widespread across southern Ontario along roads and ditches, wetlands, beaches, marshes, and other low-lying, wet habitats. In northern Ontario, Phragmites stands are generally smaller and scattered, but are still a threat to native species and biodiversity.

    Phragmites_Photo_Credit_MattSmith_OFAH

    Phragmites Photo Credit Matt Smith OFAH

  • Identification

    • Grows up to 5 metres in height (the native form is less than 2 metres).
    • Often forms dense, extensive monoculture stands (the native form does not).
    • Stems are beige or tan in colour and are quite rough and dull to the touch (the native form has reddish-brown stems).
    • Stems are very rigid.
    • Leaves are dull blue-green in colour (the native form has yellow-green leaves).
    • Seedheads are large and dense (the native form is smaller and sparse).
    • Plants flower between August and September.

    Impacts

    • Doesn’t allow native plants to grow as the invasive forms dense monoculture stands.
    • Wildlife generally finds invasive Phragmites unfavourable both for food and habitat, including several Species at Risk.
    • Grows so quickly and uses so much water that is can actually lower the water level in some areas.
    • Dead stalks of invasive Phragmites present a fire hazard.

    How can you help?

    • Learning how to identify invasive Phragmites and how to avoid spreading it is an important first step in managing invasive Phragmites.
    • Don’t plant it! Invasive Phragmites is still available in many garden centres as an ornamental grass. Consider planting native species as an alternative.
    • If you travel through an invasive Phragmites stand, make sure you and your equipment are clear of any seeds or plant fragments before travelling to a new area.
    • Don’t compost invasive Phragmites as both the seeds and the rhizomes are able to survive and grow in compost.