Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Common Reed: Phragmites australis

Weed Description: An aquatic perennial grass from rhizomes that can form dense colonies along marshes, swamps, streams, and rivers.

Leaves:  May reach as much as 1 1/2 feet in length, usually about 1/2 inches wide.  Leaf blades are without hairs (glabrous) but leaf margins may have short stiff hairs and are rough to the touch.   Auricles are absent.  The ligule is a fringe of hairs.  Long (1/4 inch), white hairs also occur at the junction between the leaf blade and the sheath.

Stems:  Leaf sheaths may reach as much as 10 feet in height and are terminated by a large tan to brown panicle seedhead.

Roots:  Rhizomes and a fibrous root system.

Flowers:  Seedheads are tan to brown panicles that may reach 1 foot in length.  Panicles take on a grayish or silvery cast after maturity due to the long white hairs on each spikelet.

Identifying Characteristics:  The aquatic growth habit, rhizomes, and leaves with long white hairs at the leaf-sheath junction are all characteristics that help in the identification of common reed.  Giant reed (Arundo donax) grows in similar environments, but has a larger, lighter-colored seedhead.