Phragmites australis 1 Phragmites australis 2

Pictured above: Phragmites australis

This is a small genus of only two or three species. All are tall robust perennials, often forming thickets. Stems are hollow, leaf blades are very broad, and the inflorescences are plumose.

There is 1 species in MN; it is native.

Common species:
Phragmites australis (frag my' tees aus trah' lis)

  • Synonyms: P. communis
  • Common names: bog reed grass, common reed, pampas grass, phragmites; Ojibway: aaboojigan
  • Origin and habitat: Native; swamps, lakeshores, and wet roadside ditches and meadows, spreading under urbanized disturbance
  • Identifying characters: Our tallest grass, growing up to 4 m, this species is also strongly rhizomatous with sharp-pointed rhizomes. The lowermost leaf sheaths are often purplish and ligules consist of a slightly thickened minute base with an upper fringe of hairs. Spikelets are 3-7-flowered with unawned lemmas that have a tuft of long hairs at the base.
  • Comments: Common reed has value as a natural water filtration plant and provides various species of wildlife with food and cover. This species is found in temperate regions worldwide and can form extensive monocultures, especially in old-age wetlands. The New England Wild Flower Society lists it as one of their noxious invasive species. It can readily overpower wet sites, such as in Hackensach Meadows, NJ, where it occupies 7000 continuous acres (Clark, F.H. et al., 1998, "Rogues Gallery: New England's Notable Invasive", Conservation Notes of the New England Wild Flower Society 2: 24). The species is native, having been found in Connecticut soil records dating 3000 years old but it is thought that a European strain may have been introduced as well. The eminent ecologist, Don Lawrence (of the Univ. of Minnesota), thought this to be the same reed that was found in ancient Egypt and Sumaria, perhaps the same as is represented in hieroglyphics (Lawrence, D.B., 1972, "The Arboretum's Reed Marsh in Historical Perspective-- A Plea for the Conservation of a Natural Resource", Univ. Minn. Agric. Exp. Sta., Misc. Rep. 111: 24-27). In some countries reed is used as a source of cellulose in paper manufacturing and the Ojibway used the tough stalks to weave frames for drying berries, fish, and other items.


Phragmites map

Additional species in Minnesota:

Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.