Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Common Reed - Phragmites australis   (Cavanilles) Trinius ex Steudel
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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Author(Cavanilles) Trinius ex Steudel
DistributionOuter Banks/barrier islands and outer Coastal Plain; scattered records inland. First collected in NC in 1948 in Currituck County.

Nearly cosmopolitan; in N.A. throughout most of the U.S. and Canada. However, just which records are native (P. americanus) or alien has not been determined.
AbundanceCommon to locally abundant, and spreading inland; rare well inland. Populations often are large and locally may occupy an acre or more. This aggressive alien can easily displace native species and create a biological "desert". It is very difficult to eradicate, and burning does not seem to impact it.
HabitatBrackish to fresh-tidal marshes, intertidal zones of rivers, interdune swales and flats, damp roadsides; inland along damp roadsides, stream banks, river shores, ditches.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting August-October.
IdentificationCommon Reed is one of our most robust grasses, regularly attaining 6-10 feet. It grows from thick horizontal rhizomes and often forms large patches or colonies. Leaves are long, wide, and numerous; the color is generally blue-green or dark green, as opposed to a more yellow green to bright chartreuse green color in the native P. americanus. The inflorescence is broadly elliptical in outline, up to 15 inches long, reddish tinged, and many of the branches are often swept to one side. The stems and their inflorescences remain well into and through the following winter. See the P. americanus account for other distinguishing characters. Note that inexperienced biologists have confused the genus with the native Sporobolus cynosuroides, which also is a very tall species growing in similar tidal fresh to slightly brackish marshes but has a very thin inflorescence as opposed to a dense "foxtail".
Taxonomic CommentsSee the Phragmites americanus account for more information. Often named as P. communis.

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankSE
Global RankG5
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