Common Reed
Phragmites australisPoaceae
Whole Plant
Whole PlantFlowerFlowerHabitat
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Phragmites communis, P. phragmites

The Plant:

  • A tall perennial wetland grass, reaching heights of 6-20 feet. Typically found growing in colonies.

The Leaves:

  • alternate
  • entire
  • smooth
  • gray-green
  • glabrous
  • acuminate
  • 10-20 inches long
  • .75-1 inches wide
  • white hair present at base of leaf sheath
  • leaves arise from swollen stem nodes

The Stem:

  • smooth
  • glabrous
  • hollow between nodes

The Flowers:

  • Typical grass-like flowers, 0.75 to 15 inches long, starting green or reddish and maturing light brown to purple. Feathery plumes grow on top of long stems, with silky white hairs on the flowers. Three to seven flowers per spikelet. Produces brown seed and blooms from July to September.

The Fruits:

  • brown
  • lightweight
  • 0.3 inches long

The Habitat:

  • beaches, dunes, coastal grasslands
  • lake, pond, salt marsh, wet meadows
  • Tolerant of brackish waters
  • roadsides
  • prefers fresh water
  • tolerates acid or alkaline wetlands


  • reproduces mainly vegetatively, from long rhizomes
  • seeds are wind-dispersed

Key ID Features:

  • alternate
  • glabrous leaves
  • white hairs at base of leaf
  • swollen nodes
  • silky white hairs
  • above ground runners

Similar Species:

  • There are native populations of Phragmites australis in the U.S. that are described as Phragmites australis ssp. americanus. The native and invasive are extremely difficult to distinguish.


  • Stems and plumes turn gray and fluffy and persist through winter. This wetland grass thrives in sunny freshwater habitats, it can survive in salt water though growth is restricted. Has visible above ground runners
  • is tallest grass in this region. Dispersed through seeds, rhizomes, or stolons. Stems that are knocked over can also root. Tan stalks and feathery plumes persist throughout winter. Phragmites is native to America though a non-native strain is present.

Growth Form: Grass

Origin: Europe, United States

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Invasive

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: importation ban, propagation ban

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston