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Phragmites - (Cav.)Trin. ex Steud.

Common Name Common Reed, American common reed, Hybrid common reed, European common reed, Subtropical common re
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 4-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Shallow water and wet soil, avoiding extremely poor soils and very acid habitats[17].
Range Cosmopolitan, in most regions of the world, including Britain, but absent from the Amazon Basin.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Water Plants Semi-shade Full sun
Phragmites Common Reed,  American common reed, Hybrid common reed,  European common reed, Subtropical common re

Phragmites Common Reed,  American common reed, Hybrid common reed,  European common reed, Subtropical common re


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Phragmites is a PERENNIAL growing to 3.6 m (11ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil and can grow in water. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


P. communis. P. vulgaris. Arundo phragmites.


Edible Uses

Root - raw or cooked like potatoes[2, 13, 74, 102, 106, 183]. It contains up to 5% sugar. The flavour and texture are best when the root is young and still growing[144]. It can be dried, ground coarsely and used as a porridge[12, 46, 62]. In Russia they are harvested and processed into starch[269]. Young shoots - raw or cooked[61, 62, 102, 179]. They are best if used before the leaves form, when they are really delicious[144]. They can be used like bamboo shoots[183]. The partly unfolded leaves can be used as a potherb and the Japanese dry young leaves, grind them into a powder and mix them with cereal flour when making dumplings[183]. The stems are reported to contain 4.8 g protein, 0.8 g fat, 90.0 g total carbohydrate, 41.2 g fiber, and 4.4 g ash[269]. Seed - raw or cooked[257]. It can be ground into a powder and used as a flour[57, 62, 102, 106]. The seed is rather small and difficult to remove from the husk but it is said to be very nutritious[183]. A sugar is extracted from the stalks or wounded stems[2, 5, 62, 95]. A sweet liquorice-like taste[95], it can be eaten raw or cooked[62]. The stems can be boiled in water and then the water boiled off in order to obtain the sugar[178]. A sugary gum that exudes from the stems can be rolled into balls and eaten as sweets[183]. A powder extracted from the dried stems can be moistened and roasted like marshmallow[62, 95, 102, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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The leaves are used in the treatment of bronchitis and cholera, the ash of the leaves is applied to foul sores[218]. A decoction of the flowers is used in the treatment of cholera and food poisoning[218]. The ashes are styptic[218]. The stem is antidote, antiemetic, antipyretic and refrigerant[218]. The root is antiasthmatic, antiemetic, antipyretic, antitussive, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge, lithontripic, sedative, sialogogue and stomachic[147, 176, 218, 238]. It is taken internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, fevers, vomiting, coughs with thick dark phlegm, lung abscesses, urinary tract infections and food poisoning (especially from sea foods)[238, 257]. Externally, it is mixed with gypsum and used to treat halitosis and toothache[238]. The root is harvested in the autumn and juiced or dried for use in decoctions[238].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

The common reed can provide a large quantity of biomass and this is used in a wide variety of ways as listed below. Annual yields of 40 - 63 tonnes per hectare have been reported[269]. The plant is also converted into alcohol (for use as a fuel), is burnt as a fuel and is made into fertilizer[238]. The plant is rich in pentosans and may be used for the production of furfural - the nodes and sheaths yield 6.6% whilst the underground parts over 13% of furfural[269]. The pentosan content increases throughout the growing period and is maximum in the mature reed[269]. The reed can be used also for the preparation of absolute alcohol, feed yeast and lactic acid[269]. The stems are useful in the production of homogeneous boards[269]. They can also be processed into a fine fibrous material suitable as a filler in upholstery[269]. The stems have many uses. They are used for thatching roofs[1, 46, 74, 106]. It can last for 100 years[169]. The stems and leaves are also used for building dwellings, lattices, fences, arrows by Indians, and for weaving mats, carrying nets, basket making, insulation, fuel, as a cork substitute etc[13, 74, 99, 102, 115, 257, 269]. The stem contains over 50 percent cellulose and is useful in the manufacture of pulps for rayon and paper[269]. The fibre from the leaves and stems is used for making paper[189]. The fibre is 0.8 - 3.0 mm long and 5.0 - 30.5µm in diameter. The stems and leaves are harvested in the summer, cut into usable pieces and soaked for 24 hours in clear water. They are then cooked for 2 hours with lye and beaten in a blender. The fibre makes a khaki paper[189]. A fibre obtained from the plant is used for making string[95, 106]. The flowering stalks yield a fibre suitable for rope making[269]. The leaves are used in basket making and for weaving mats etc[169, 238]. A light green dye is obtained from the flowers[6, 115]. Freshly cut shoots are a good green manure[74] (Does this man as a soil mulch?[K]). The inflorescences are used as brooms[74]. The plant can be used as a cork substitute[74]. No further details. The plant is mixed with mud to make a plaster for walls[145]. Pens for writing on parchment were cut and fashioned from the thin stems of this reed[269], whilst the stems were also used as a linear measuring device[269]. The plant has a very vigorous and running rootstock, it is useful for binding the soil along the sides of streams etc[115]. It is planted for flood control since it stablizes the banks and gradually builds up soil depth, thus raising the level of the bank.

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A very easily grown plant that thrives in deep moisture retentive soils such as marshes and swamps, whilst it also grows well along the sides of streams, lakes and ponds, in shallow water, ditches and wet wastelands[162, 200, 269]. Plants are tolerant of moderately saline water[169, 269]. The plant is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of 31 to 241cm, an annual temperature in the range of 6.6 to 26.6°C and a pH of 4.8 to 8.2[269]. Plants are hardy to about -20°c[200]. This species is very fast growing with a very vigorous and invasive running rootstock that can be 10 metres or more long, it can form very large stands in wetlands[200, 238, 260]. Difficult to eradicate once established, it is unsuitable for planting into small spaces[200, 238, 269]. The flowering heads are often used in dried flower arrangements[238]. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value[238].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - surface sow in spring in a light position. Keep the soil moist by emmersing the pot in 3cm of water. Germination usually takes place quite quickly. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Very simple, any part of the root that has a growth bud will grow into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Common Reed, Bennels, Cane, Dambu, Dila, Nanfang luwei, Reed grass, Roog, Traska, Tropical reed, Wild broomcorn, #a, #aa.b, bous, bulrush, canico, caniço, carricillo, carrizo común, common reed, ditch reed, eenbungu, fluitjiesgras, fluitjiesriet, galdae, ghab, giant reed, giant reedgrass, gondse, igagamlambo, ingcongolo, ingqulwane, ishani, isiqandolo, ka.mbu, leklata, lu gen, lu jing, lu wei, lugen, luthanga, lúgen, massahunga, massangesse, matete, mbu, molimahali, olumbungu, oruu, phragmite commun, phragmites, phragmitis rhizoma, qasba, qassab, reed, reed grass, reed rhizome, rhizoma phragmitis, ried, riet, roseau cane, roseau commun, ruu, schilf, schilfrohr, tete, tra’a, umcoboka, umhlanga, uqobose, vaderlandsgras, vlakkiesgras, yellow cane, ||'ang|'o, ||'eng|'o.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Balkans, Bosnia, Britain, Burma, Canada, Central America*, China, East Africa, Estonia, Europe, Guiana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Lesser Antilles*, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North America, Pacific, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Romania, Russia, SE Asia, Senegal, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America*, Suriname, Swaziland, Tasmania*, USA, Venezuela, West Africa, West Indies*, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Least Concern

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Phragmites australisCommon Reed, American common reed, Hybrid common reed, European common reed, Subtropical common rePerennial3.6 4-10 FLMHSNMWeWa524

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(Cav.)Trin. ex Steud.

Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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