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Common Reed

Photo by Paul Rischmiller

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Common Name: Common Reed or Phragmites
Scientific Name: Phragmites australis var. australis
Origin: Europe


Common reed, or phragmites, is a tall, herbaceous perennial ranging in height from 3-15 ft. Leaves and stems are stiff and sharp. Large, feathery plumes of flowers change from purple-brown in July, to tan-grey later in the season.


Phragmites thrives in wetlands, as well as in disturbed and degraded soils. They often establish along roadsides, ditches or dredged areas. They can tolerate salt water and a pH range of 3.7-9. Both native and nonnative strains of phragmites occur, although the native variety is quite uncommon in western New York.


Plants can spread through rhizomes, stolons and seed. Infestations can overtake hundreds of acres, displace critical wetland species and alter site hydrology.


Long-term management is necessary to control this persistent plant. Cutting and treating stems, as well as foliar spraying with systemic herbicides, are generally the most effective methods. Treatments are typically applied in late summer and fall. Stands may be mowed prior to treatment, which cuts down on the amount of herbicide used and reduces the potential for drift. Mechanical removal of this species can be problematic, as it may increase the likelihood of spread and it is difficult to remove the entire root structure necessary for effective control.

Regional Distribution


WNY PRISM Priority

Tier 4 – Local Control

Invasive Species Priorities – Tier Chart


Common reed was introduced to North America through ship ballast water and through the Nursery and Landscape industry, often planted for erosion control.  It is spread through transportation and mowing.


Common reed is a prohibited species in New York State – for more information on Prohibited and Regulated Species, visit



Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative (GLPC) –