Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.
Family: Poaceae
Common Reed,  more...
[Arundo altissima Benth.,  more]
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Tony Frates  

Culms 1-4 m tall, 0.5-1.5 cm thick, erect. Ligules about 1 mm; blades 15-40 cm long, 2-4 cm wide, long-acuminate, disarticulating from the sheath at maturity. Panicles 15-35 cm long, 8-20 cm wide, ovoid to lanceoloid, often purplish when young, straw-colored at maturity. Spikelets with 3-10 florets; rachilla hairs (4)6-10 mm. Lower glumes 3-7 mm; upper glumes (4)5-10 mm; lemmas 8-15 mm, glabrous, linear, margins somewhat inrolled, apices long-acuminate; paleas 3-4 mm, membranous; anthers 1.5-2 mm, purplish; styles persistent. Caryopses 2-3 mm, rarely maturing. 2n = 36, 42, 44, 46, 48, 49-54 (Connor et al. 1998), 72, 84, 96, 120.

Phragmites australis grows in wet or muddy ground along waterways, in saline or freshwater marshes, and in sloughs throughout North America. Its tall, leafy, often persistent culms and plumose panicles make it one of our easier species to recognize. In Florida, Neyraudia reynaudiana is sometimes mistaken for P. australis, but the former has glabrous internodes and pilose lemmas. There are three subspecies in North America north of Mexico, one of which is invasive. Phragmites australis is one of the most widely distributed flowering plants, growing in most temperate and tropical regions of the world, spreading quickly by rhizomes. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate. Its uses include thatching, lattices, arrow shafts, construction boards, mats, and erosion control, and it was used in the past to make cigarettes and superior pen quills.

Dr. David Bogler, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database
Perennials, Aquatic, leaves emergent, Terrestrial, not aquatic, Rhizomes present, Rhizome elongate, creeping, stems distant, Stems nodes swollen or brittle, Stems erect or ascending, Stems terete, round in cross section, or polygonal, Stems branching above base or distally at nodes, Stem internodes hollow, Stems with inflorescence 1-2 m tall, Stems with inflorescence 2-6 m tall, Stems, culms, or scapes exceeding basal leaves, Leaves mostly cauline, Leaves conspicuously 2-ranked, distichous, Leaves sheathing at base, Leaf sheath mostly open, or loose, Leaf sheath smooth, glabrous, Leaf sheath and blade differentiated, Leaf blades disarticulating from sheath, deciduous at ligule, Leaf blades linear, Leaf blades lanceolate, Leaf blades 1-2 cm wide, Leaf blades 2 or more cm wide, Leaf blades mostly flat, Leaf blades mostly glabrous, Ligule present, Ligule a fringed, ciliate, or lobed membrane, Inflorescence terminal, Inflorescence an open panicle, openly paniculate, branches spreading, Inflorescence solitary, with 1 spike, fascicle, glomerule, head, or cluster per stem or culm, Inflorescence branches more than 10 to numerous, Peduncle or rachis scabrous or pubescent, often with long hairs, Flowers bisexual, Spikelets pedicellate, Spikelets laterally compressed, Spikelet less than 3 mm wide, Spikelets with 2 florets, Spikelets with 3-7 florets, Spikelets with 8-40 florets, Spi kelets solitary at rachis nodes, Spikelets all alike and fertille, Spikelets bisexual, Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes, glumes persistent, Spikelets disarticulating beneath or between the florets, Spikelets conspicuously hairy , Rachilla or pedicel hairy, Glumes present, empty bracts, Glumes 2 clearly present, Glumes distinctly unequal, Glumes shorter than adjacent lemma, Glumes 3 nerved, Glumes 4-7 nerved, Lemma similar in texture to glumes, Lemma 3 nerved, Lemma glabrous, Lemma apex acute or acuminate, Lemma awnless, Lemma margins inrolled, tightly covering palea and caryopsis, Lemma straight, Palea present, well developed, Palea membranous, hyaline, Palea shorter than lemma, Stamens 3, Styles 2-fid, deeply 2-branched, Stigmas 2, Fruit - caryopsis.
Perennial rhizome-bearing herb 1 - 4.35 m tall Leaves: borne along the culm, with open sheaths and ligules that are about 1 mm long, membranous, and lined with hairs along the margin. The blades are 15 - 40 cm long, 2 - 4 cm wide, with a long pointed tip. Inflorescence: terminal, branched (panicle), usually purplish and changing to straw-colored when mature, 15 - 35 cm long, 8 - 20 cm wide, egg-shaped to lance-shaped, feather-like. Fruit: a 2 - 3 mm long caryopsis, usually never maturing. Plants usually reproduce asexually by rhizomes. Culm: erect, 1 - 4 m long, 0.5 - 1.5 cm across, with hollow internodes. Spikelets: slightly laterally compressed. Glumes: unequal, hairless, with the lower glume 3 - 7 mm long and the upper glume 4 - 10 mm long. Florets: three to ten per spikelet, with purplish anthers 1.5 - 2 mm long and persistent styles. The lowest one or two florets are male, the uppermost one or two are undeveloped, and the others are bisexual. Lemma: 8 - 15 mm long, linear with slightly inrolled margins and a long pointed tip, three-veined, hairess, unawned. Palea: 3 - 4 mm long, membranous.

Similar species: No information at this time.

Flowering: early September to early October

Habitat and ecology: This species forms dense colonies and is locally abundant in marshes, shallow lake borders, and where dredgings from river and lakes were placed.

Occurence in the Chicago region: native

Notes: Both native and non-native strains of this species exist in the United States. See link below for further information.

Etymology: Phragmites comes from the Greek word phragma, meaning fence, referring to its habit. Australis means southern.

Author: The Morton Arboretum

Stout, 2-4 m, extensively colonial; ligule 1 mm; lvs flat, long-acuminate, usually 2-3 cm wide; infl subtended by a tuft of silky hairs, tawny, 2-4 dm, usually declined; spikelets 3-7-fld, narrowly linear before anthesis; first glume narrowly elliptic, rather blunt, the second linear, nearly twice as long; lemmas very narrow, 8-12 mm, the upper usually the shorter; hairs of the rachilla white, as long as the lemmas, exposed after anthesis as the lemmas diverge; 2n=36, 48, 54, 72, 84, ca 96. Swamps and wet shores, tolerant of salt, seldom producing seed; nearly cosmop, and throughout most of our range. (P. communis)

Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.

©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
FNA 2007, Gould 1980, Cronquist et al. 1977
Common Name: common reed Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Stout erect perennial from stout rhizomes with stems 1-4 m tall, 0.5-1.5 cm thick. Vegetative: Blades 15-40 cm long, 2-4 cm wide, glabrous, flat, disarticulating from sheath at maturity, ligules about 1 mm long, a ciliate membrane. Inflorescence: Contracted panicles 15-35 cm long, 8-20 cm wide, ovoid to lanceoloid, often purplish when young, straw colored at maturity with spikelets 8-15 mm, bearing 3-10 florets; rachilla with long, silky hairs, hairs 7-9 mm long, glumes lanceolate, glabrous, lower glumes 3-7 mm, upper 5-10 mm, palea much shorter than lemma, lemmas 8-15 mm, glabrous, linear, margins somewhat inrolled, apices long-acuminate. Ecology: Found in wet or muddy ground along streams, in marshes, and at the edges of lakes and ponds below 6,000 ft (1829 m); flowers July-September. Notes: Very widely distributed species, often very difficult to eradicate once established because of the roots. Very similar to Arundo but pay attention to the rachilla which has long hairs. Ethnobotany: Crushed plant given for diarrhea and other stomach troubles, taken as an emetic, used as a splint for broken limbs, sap taken to loosen phlegm and soothe lung pain, used for boils and carbuncles, seeds were eaten, the sweet sap was dried and used like sugar or candy, used in basketmaking and other weaving, as a building material, used as pipes, frames for cooking, arrows, toys, and instruments. Etymology: Phragmites is from Greek phragma, for a fence, screen, or hedge, while australis means southern. Synonyms: Phragmites australis var. berlandieri, P. communis, P. communis subsp. berlandieri Editor: SBuckley, 2010
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Max Licher  
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Tony Frates  
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Paul Rothrock  
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Tony Frates  
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Paul Rothrock  
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Liz Makings  
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Liz Makings  
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Sue Carnahan  
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Liz Makings  
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Max Licher  
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Sue Carnahan  
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Sue Carnahan  
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Tony Frates  
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Morton Arboretum  
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Tony Frates  
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Morton Arboretum  
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Paul Rothrock  
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Max Licher  
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Mary Barkworth  
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Tony Frates  
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Tony Frates  
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Tony Frates  
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Tony Frates  
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Julie Luetzelschwab  
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