We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Phragmites australis - (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 australis Common Reed,  American common reed, Hybrid common reed,  European common reed, Subtropical common re

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


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Phragmites australis 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.

Plant Habitats

 Pond; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Root  Seed  Shoots  Stem
Edible Uses: Condiment  Drink  Sweetener

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

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiasthmatic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antidote  Antiemetic  Antipyretic  Antitussive  Cholera  Depurative  
Diuretic  Febrifuge  Febrifuge  Lithontripic  Miscellany  Odontalgic  Refrigerant  
Sedative  Sialagogue  Skin  Stomachic  Styptic  Urinary

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

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Alcohol  Basketry  Biomass  Broom  Cork  Dye  Fencing  Fertilizer  Fibre  Fodder  Fuel  Furniture  Green manure  Insulation  Miscellany  Paper  Pencil  Soil stabilization  String  Teeth  Thatching  Weaving

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

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Minor Global Crop

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].

Carbon Farming

  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

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.

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

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.


Expert comment


(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.

Readers comment

Robyn   Thu Oct 12 2006

i think that you guys should add more about how common reed is used for biomass fuel that would be extrememly awesome. because when students have to write papers on that it is really hard to find good information!! THANKS!

tracey   Thu Apr 26 2007

i am a landscape architecture student and i found this page really helpfull i think that you should add some details about reed beds being used as a natural,environmentally friendly water filtration systems as the conservation and reuse of water on site is a biggy for the future. keep up the good work and thanks alot for your information.

Stephen Klaber   Fri May 11 2007

This is a plant for NOW. This plant, and its equally edible competitor Typha are plaguing the famine areas of Africa. There is enough of them there to feed everyone comfortably. I've been trying to arouse notice of Typha for a couple of years now. Thanks for clueing me in to phragmites. (Control of them is also part of malaria control - prime realty for mosquitoes).

rafter   Wed May 16 2007

On using our giant phragmites stand: It seems like a perfect mulch plant, and spring compost, but... there are numerous studies indicating the presence allelopathic effects from root exudates and foliage of phragmites - specifically against algae. I'm worried about inhibiting soil algae growth. Has anyone heard of folks using this plant for mulch and compost? Any help is very much appreciated!

tracey davies   Thu Apr 26 2007

i am a student and i found this page really helpfull i think that you should add some details about reed beds being used for water filtration systems as the conservation of water on a site is a biggy for the future. keep up the good work and thanks alot for your information.

Novem   Wed Oct 17 2007

I'd like to add that some strains of Phragmites australis are very aggressive invasive plants in the Northeastern United States that exclude many native species so it is important to keep this in mind. More information is available on the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England.

Invasive Plant Atlas of New England

Liz   Sat Jan 17 2009

I would like to know what species is better for thatching the native species of the Northeastern United states or the New England? I want to make sure and plant the appropriate species.

   Oct 19 2011 12:00AM

This plant is a bio-accumulator of uranium, thorium, and lead, and can be used in phytoremediation. This also means be careful what you are eating! Reference: Li Guang Yue, et al. 2011, in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Phragmites australis  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.