Common Reed

Phragmites australis

Copyright, A. Murray, University of Florida

Common Reed is a large grass that grows up to 12 feet tall. It has a large stalk, called a culm, which can be an inch thick. The culm is hollow inside.

Leaves of Common Reed are long, sharp, and bluish-green blades. They grow about two feet long and two inches wide.

Common Reed flowers have several different parts. First, they have a panicle, which is a long stem. On each panicle, there are many spikelets. Each spikelet has up to seven small reddish flowers on it. The flowers are less than an inch long.

Later, the flowers die and small gray fruits with many seeds take their place.

Common Reeds grow in marshes, or along the edges of ponds, lakes, and streams. They can grow in shallow water, or in dry places.

This grass often forms thick stands. A stand is an area where one species of plant takes over so there is hardly any room for other plants.

Some other plants that often grow with Common Reeds include Common Cattail, bulrushes, Arrowhead, sedges, thistles, and docks. Some trees that grow in the same areas as Common Reeds are oaks, hickories, maples, American Elm, American Beech, and willows.

Common Reeds can be very competitive. They will often crowd out other plants, such as cattails. They grow quickly by spreading underground stems, called rhizomes.

Copyright, A. Murray, University of Florida

Birds eat the seeds of Common Reeds, and Muskrats eat the rhizomes. However, this plant is more important to wildlife as protection and cover.

Because it is so tall, Common Reed can hide big animals, such as White-tailed Deer, as well as many small animals, such as frogs and insects.


Can you see the Common Snapping Turtle in the reeds above? To the right is a picture of a Mallard nest among some reeds.

Many water birds, including Mallards, Canada Geese, and herons nest in reeds. Most birds nest at the edges of stands, where the reeds are not so thick.

This plant is a perennial, so even thought stems, leaves, and flowers die in the winter, rhizomes grow new ones in the Spring.

Relationships in Nature:

Animals Using as Food Source

Animals Using as Shelter

Associations With Other Plants




Common Cattail

White-footed Mouse C


Canada Goose

Marsh Bulrush

Wild Rice EC

Wood Duck

Largemouth Bass

Arrow Arum

Common Cattail EC

Canada Goose


Common Duckweed

Tussock Sedge EC

Differential Grasshopper


Tussock Sedge

Marsh Bulrush EC

Meadow Vole

Bull Thistle

Long-leaf Pondweed EC

Green Darner

Black Willow

Lizard's Tail EC

Red-winged Blackbird

Silver Maple

Pickerelweed EC

Black Rat Snake

American Beech

American Toad

American Elm

Eastern Painted Turtle

White Oak

Southern Leopard Frog

Black Oak

White-tailed Deer

Mockernut Hickory


Yellow Pond Lily

Golden Shiner


Large Diving Beetle

Green Algae

Eastern Dobsonfly

Lizard's Tail

American Dog Tick

Long-leaf Pondweed



Northern Caddis Fly

Swamp Rose Mallow

Relationship to Humans:

Common Reeds are a difficult plant for people to figure out. We get concerned, because they crowd out other plants in marshes, and when they get too thick, many water birds have trouble finding nest sites. But when the reeds are in smaller stands, or mixed with other plants, they provide great cover for wildlife.

People use reeds to stop erosion (soil washing away) on the edges of streams and ponds. Their roots help hold the soil in place. We also use reeds to make paper, baskets, and brooms. Sometimes they are ground up to use as filler for upholstery.


Phragmites australis


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