Phragmites australis seed head in winter
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Arundinoideae
Tribe: Molinieae
Subtribe: Moliniinae
Genus: Phragmites

Phragmites (/fræɡˈmtz/) is a genus of four species of large perennial reed grasses found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world.


The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, maintained by Kew Garden in London, accepts the following four species:[2][1]

Three Phragmites australis seedlings: A.) very young, B.) juvenile, C.) the oldest (3-4 months). Roman numerals denote different shoot generations. Sc=scutellum.
(From Om Skudbygning, Overvintring og Foryngelse by Eugen Warming, 1884)

Wildlife in reed beds

Phragmites stands can provide food and shelter resources for a number of birds, insects, and other animals. Habitat benefits are often optimal when stands are thinner, and management of stands may promote more suitable habitat benefits.[3] Some evidence suggests that a short term management rotation of 1–2 years could maximize bird and invertebrate numbers.[4]


Ecosystem Services

P. australis provides ecosystem services such as nutrient sequestration, soil stabilization, and waste treatment.[3] It has been suggested that due to its resilience to climate change impacts, P. australis may provide beneficial ecosystem services that need to be considered in coastal ecosystems, even where it is considered an invasive species.[5] Others have argued that the ecosystem services lost as a result of invasion outweigh the benefits gained and managers need to be responsive to invasion control.[6]


P. australis is cultivated as an ornamental plant in aquatic and marginal settings such as pond- and lakesides. Its aggressive colonisation means it must be sited with care.[7]

Phytoremediation water treatment

Main article: Constructed wetland

Phragmites australis is one of the main wetland plant species used for phytoremediation water treatment.

Waste water from lavatories and greywater from kitchens is routed to an underground septic tank-like compartment where the solid waste is allowed to settle out. The water then trickles through a constructed wetland or artificial reed bed, where bioremediation bacterial action on the surface of roots and leaf litter removes some of the nutrients in biotransformation. The water is then suitable for irrigation, groundwater recharge, or release to natural watercourses.


Main article: Thatching

Reed is used in many areas for thatching roofs. In the British Isles, common reed used for this purpose is known as Norfolk reed or water reed. However, "wheat reed" and "Devon reed", also used for thatching, are not in fact reed, but long-stemmed wheat straw.[citation needed]


The duduk or mey mouthpiece is a flattened piece of giant reed Arundo donax a relative of common reed, which itself is flattened to make the zurna reed

In Middle East countries Phragmites is used to create a small instrument similar to the clarinet called a sipsi, with either a single, as in the picture, or double pipes as in bagpipes.[8] The reed of the zurna is made from the common reed which is flattened after removing its brittle outer glaze and the loose inner membrane, and after softening it by wetting.[9] The result is a double reed with an elliptical opening that vibrates by closing and opening at a high speed. This is not to be confused with other double reeds like that of the oboe which uses two reeds made from the giant reed leaning against each other.


The leaves, roots, seeds and stems of phragmites are edible.[10] Young shoots can be cooked or eaten raw just like bamboo shoots. The young stems, "while still green and fleshy, can be dried and pounded into a fine powder, which when moistened is roasted [sic] like marshmallows." The seeds and rhizomes "can be ground into flour or made into gruel."[11] In Japan, young leaves are dried, ground, and then mixed with cereal flour to make dumplings. Grazing on phragmites by large-bodied domestic herbivores, such as cows, horses, sheep, and goats, can effectively control the plant and provide a reciprocal positive benefit for humans by generating meat, milk, leather, and wool etc.[12]

Other uses

Some other uses for Phragmites australis and other reeds in various cultures include baskets, mats, reed pen tips (qalam), and paper.[13] Beekeepers can utilize the reeds to make nesting.[14]

In the Philippines, Phragmites is known by the local name tambo. Reed stands flower in December, and the blooms are harvested and bundled into whisk brooms called "walis". Hence the common name of household brooms is walis tambo.[15]

Reeds have been used to make arrows[16] and weapons such as spears for hunting game.[17]

Invasiveness and control

Some Phragmites, when introduced by accident or intent, spread rapidly. In tropics and subtropics, Phragmites karka is an abundant invasive species.[18] In the United States, prior to 1910, only a few areas in the Northeast contained non-native haplotypes of Phragmites australis.[19] However, by 1960 non-native haplotypes were found in samples taken from coast to coast. Today, in some places like Michigan, Phragmites australis (haplotype M) has become the dominant haplotype.[20][21] The problem is invasive non-native Phragmites australis quickly spread through marshes and wetland areas. They replace native plants, deny fish and wildlife nutrients and space; block access to the water for swimming, fishing and other recreation endeavors; spoil shoreline views; and pose a fire hazard.[22] Phragmites also alters wetland biogeochemistry and affects both floral and faunal species assemblages,[23] including potentially reducing nitrogen and phosphorus availability for other plants.[24]

Phragmites can drive out competing vegetation in two main ways. Their sheer height and density can deprive other plants of sunlight and the chemicals they produce when decaying reduce the germination of competing seeds.[25] Among other effects, the monocultures that result from invasion decrease spatial and temporal habitat heterogeneity and increase avian homogeneity.[26]

A previously sandy beach in Hanko, Finland now overrun with Phragmites reeds.

Recognizing the non-native form of Phragmites early in its invasion increases the opportunity for successful eradication dramatically. Once it has become established, removal by hand is nearly impossible.[22] The seeds or rhizomes can quickly lead to a new dense stand. Chemical treatment is by far the most utilized method in North America [1].[citation needed] The two most common active ingredients in herbicides for Phragmites control are glyphosate and imazapyr.[27][28] It is important to select the proper herbicide for the location. Further, even the proper herbicide can lead to unintended consequences since a large amount of decaying dead plant material can depress oxygen levels in the water and kill all the fish in a pond or small lake. Some success has also been obtained using goats to graze on Phragmites,[29] controlled burns, and native wild rice crops.[30] Biological controls have been suggested to be the most likely control method to succeed and biocontrols have been approved for introduction in North America [31] Unfortunately, biocontrols may destroy the native subspecies population as well.[5] When cutting under water, cutting and then flooding, or burning and then flooding, it is important that the entire Phragmites stand is completely submerged so that the plants cannot obtain oxygen.[20]


See also


  1. ^ a b "Phragmites Adans". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 18 April 2023.
  2. ^ "Search: Phragmites". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b Kiviat, E. (2013). "Ecosystem services of Phragmites in North America with emphasis on habitat functions". AoB Plants. 5: plt008. doi:10.1093/aobpla/plt008. PMC 4104640.
  4. ^ Valkama, Elena; Lyytinen, Sami; Koricheva, Julia (2008-02-01). "The impact of reed management on wildlife: A meta-analytical review of European studies". Biological Conservation. 141 (2): 364–374. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.11.006. ISSN 0006-3207.
  5. ^ a b Cronin, James T.; Kiviat, Erik; Meyerson, Laura A.; Bhattarai, Ganesh P.; Allen, Warwick J. (2016-09-01). "Biological control of invasive Phragmites australis will be detrimental to native P. australis". Biological Invasions. 18 (9): 2749–2752. doi:10.1007/s10530-016-1138-x. ISSN 1573-1464. S2CID 254278334.
  6. ^ Martin, Laura J.; Blossey, Bernd (2009). "A Framework for Ecosystem Services Valuation". Conservation Biology. 23 (2): 494–496. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01192.x. ISSN 0888-8892. JSTOR 29738751. PMID 19323685. S2CID 33144863.
  7. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Phragmites australis". Archived from the original on April 23, 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  8. ^ "hitite musician (second millennia B.C.) playing double sipsi". Archived from the original on 2016-09-13. Retrieved 2016-01-17.
  9. ^ "Norwegian food, recipes from Norway, Norwegian news and link directory". Archived from the original on 2005-09-12.
  10. ^ "Tambo / Phragmites vulgaris / COMMON REED, Lu gen: Philippine Medicinal Herbs / Philippine Alternative Medicine". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  11. ^ Peterson, Lee, "A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America", page 228, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York City, accessed the sixth of September, 2010.ISBN 0-395-20445-3
  12. ^ Silliman, Brian R.; Mozdzer, Thomas; Angelini, Christine; Brundage, Jennifer E.; Esselink, Peter; Bakker, Jan P.; Gedan, Keryn B.; van de Koppel, Johan; Baldwin, Andrew H. (2014-09-23). "Livestock as a potential biological control agent for an invasive wetland plant". PeerJ. 2: e567. doi:10.7717/peerj.567. ISSN 2167-8359. PMC 4178463. PMID 25276502.
  13. ^ "Phragmites Australis - Plants can be made into Paper". May Babcock, RI Artist. 27 June 2013. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  14. ^ "Top Nesting Materials for Solitary Bees". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  15. ^ Tagalog Lang (11 October 2020). "Tambo". Tagalog Language.
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  17. ^ Unaipon, D. (2001) Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, p. 138, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne. ISBN 0-522-85246-7.
  18. ^ Nayak, Soumya Shree; Pradhan, Seema; Sahoo, Dinabandhu; Parida, Ajay (2020-03-23). "De novo transcriptome assembly and analysis of Phragmites karka, an invasive halophyte, to study the mechanism of salinity stress tolerance". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 5192. Bibcode:2020NatSR..10.5192N. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-61857-8. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 7089983. PMID 32251358.
  19. ^ Saltonstall, Kristin (2002-02-19). "Cryptic invasion by a non-native genotype of the common reed, Phragmites australis, into North America". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 99 (4): 2445–2449. Bibcode:2002PNAS...99.2445S. doi:10.1073/pnas.032477999. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 122384. PMID 11854535.
  20. ^ a b "Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative. Linking people, information & action". Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  21. ^ Gross, Bob. "Groups battle invasive species at St. Johns Marsh". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  22. ^ a b "Invasive Phragmites australis: What is it and why is it a problem?". MSU Extension. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  23. ^ Krzton-Presson, Amy; Davis, Brett; Raper, Kirk; Hitz, Katlyn; Mecklin, Christopher; Whiteman, Howard (2018). "Effects of Phragmites Management on the Ecology of a Wetland". Northeastern Naturalist. 25 (3): 418–436. doi:10.1656/045.025.0308. S2CID 92089579.
  24. ^ Meyerson, Laura A.; Vogt, Kristiina A.; Chambers, Randolph M. (2000), Weinstein, Michael P.; Kreeger, Daniel A. (eds.), "Linking the Success of Phragmites to the Alteration of Ecosystem Nutrient Cycles", Concepts and Controversies in Tidal Marsh Ecology, Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 827–844, doi:10.1007/0-306-47534-0_36, ISBN 978-0-306-47534-4
  25. ^ Uddin, Md N.; Robinson, Randall W.; Caridi, Domenic (2014-01-02). "Phytotoxicity induced by Phragmites australis: an assessment of phenotypic and physiological parameters involved in germination process and growth of receptor plant". Journal of Plant Interactions. 9 (1): 338–353. doi:10.1080/17429145.2013.835879. ISSN 1742-9145.
  26. ^ Robichaud, C.D.; Rooney, R.C. (2022). "Invasive grass causes biotic homogenization in wetland birds in a Lake Erie coastal marsh". Hydrobiologia. 849 (14): 3197–3212. doi:10.1007/s10750-022-04925-6. S2CID 235747992.
  27. ^ Hazelton, Eric L. G.; Mozdzer, Thomas J.; Burdick, David M.; Kettenring, Karin M.; Whigham, Dennis F. (2014). "Phragmites australis management in the United States: 40 years of methods and outcomes". AoB Plants. 6. doi:10.1093/aobpla/plu001. PMC 4038441. PMID 24790122.
  28. ^ "Phragmites Control: Easily Kill Phragmites in your Pond or Lake". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  29. ^ Network, Crystal Gammon for Yale Environment 360, part of The Guardian Environment (2014-10-22). "Are goats the answer to the reed choking US east coast marshes?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2021-05-28.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ "Welcome Surprise: Wild Rice Seems to Deter Phragmites on Harsens Island". WGRT. 2020-10-05. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  31. ^ Blossey, B.; Endriss, S.B.; Casagrande, R.; et al. (2020). "When misconceptions impede best practices: evidence supports biological control of invasive Phragmites". Biological Invasions. 22 (3): 873–883. doi:10.1007/s10530-019-02166-8. S2CID 208650152.
  32. ^ "Phragmites in Great Salt Lake". Phragmites in Great Salt Lake.