also know as the common reed, is a tall, perennial wetland grass that
is common throughout the United States.
Fossil records indicate that native strains of Phragmites have been present
in North America for thousands of years. Recent research indicates that
strains recently introduced from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia are
Phragmites thrives in a wide variety of wetland habitats including brackish and freshwater marshes, riverbanks, and lakeshores. The species often
colonizes disturbed or polluted soils found along roadsides, ditches,
and dredged areas.
common reed can grow up to 5 m (16 ft) tall with flat, smooth leaf blades
that alternate along the top half of the stem. The leaves can grow to
two-feet long and over one-inch wide. At the top of the plant grows a
feathery plume, which flowers from July to October.
Phragmites often spreads to new locations by effective dispersal of abundant
seeds. Once a plant is established in a new location, Phragmites generally
expands the colony by sending out shoots from which new plants grow. These
complex root systems create dense, thick mats.
Large Phragmites stands create a monoculture by choking out native plants. This impact can lower marsh plant and animal
diversity. Other impacts include:
root mats that trap sediments, changing the water’s movement through
the ecosystem often creating drier conditions;
growth of the common reed reduces habitat for native species such as
wading birds and waterfowl.
New stands of Phragmites almost always occur when new wetlands are created
or the soil is disturbed. Minimizing land disturbances and water pollution
helps deter this invasive species. Land management practices that guard
against erosion, sedimentation, fluctuating water levels, and nutrient
loading in wetlands are the best long-term solution. Integrated pest management
that includes a combination of chemical sprays or wipe-on herbicides,
mowing, burning, and flooding, tend to give the best control.
To read more, view the Pennsylvania Sea Grant Phragmites fact sheet.
MORE INFORMATION ON PHRAGMITES