Common reed, the non-native variety, is ubiquitous throughout wetland habitats in North America. Once established it forms dense monotypic mats which preclude establishment and growth of native species. These mats of common reed not only decrease biodiversity but also decrease wetlands’ capacity to function effectively. It is dispersed by both seeds and rhizome fragments. The native variety looks very similar but it will not form the dense mats that the exotic does.
Common reed can grow as tall as 15’. Its leaves (6 - 24” long and 0.5 – 2” wide) are hairless and taper to a point; they are arranged alternately along the stem. Common reed stems are cane-like and green in the growing season and tan in the winter. It produces a plume of grayish purple inflorescence (5 – 16”) from mid-summer through fall.
Fact Sheet: Common Reed
Identification, History, and Management: Paul E. Hosier - The Ecology of an Unwelcome Exotic, Phragmites australis
Photo credits (from left to right): Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org; Richard Old, XID Services, Inc., Bugwood.org