Phragmites australis (Cav.) Steud.
Common Name: REED


Scientific Name: Phragmites australis subsp. americanus
Common Name: REED
Coefficient of Conservatism: 5
Coefficient of Wetness: -3
Wetness Index: FACW
Physiognomy: Nt P-Grass

Common Name: REED
Coefficient of Conservatism: *
Coefficient of Wetness: -3
Wetness Index: FACW
Physiognomy: Ad P-Grass

Phragmites australis Native subspecies with red culms S. Taylor Native subspecies with red culms

Marshes, wet shores, ditches and swales, tamarack swamps, fens; often in water (occasionally as deep as 1.8 m). The native subspecies is an uncommon component of natural marshes, fens, and lakeshores. The Eurasian subspecies is now an agressive invader of roadsides, ditches, and native wetlands and lake shores; dense stands of the non-native plant are a conspicuous feature along highways especially in southeastern Michigan, persisting as straw-colored stems with puffy plumes of inflorescences even into winter.

A cosmopolitan species, found around the world, and represented in Michigan by two subspecies. The native subsp. americanus Saltonst., P. M. Peterson & Soreng has shiny, reddish to purplish lower stem internodes (usually exposed because the sheaths are readily deciduous), and the membranous part of the ligule (excluding the apical fringe) ca. 0.4–1 mm long. The introduced subsp. australis has duller yellow or yellowish-brown lower stem internodes, the sheaths mostly persistent after the culm senesces, and the membranous part of the ligule 0.1–0.4 mm long. Though showing some overlap, glume length also differs with the lower glume of the alien subspecies mostly 2.6–4.2 (–4.8) mm long while the native has lower glumes usually 4–7 mm long.

The native subspecies occurs throughout Michigan, while the introduced subspecies, first collected in Michigan in 1979, is concentrated in developed areas of southern Michigan, becoming less common northward and apparently still uncommon in the Upper Peninsula. McNabb & Batterson (1991) noted the spread of this entity, before it was known that there were two subspecies in Michigan, and suggested that it started to occur along roadsides about 1975. Though still much undercollected, as of 2015, the alien subspecies was documented by herbarium specimens from Delta, Iron, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, Mason, Mecosta, Ontonagon, Tuscola, Washtenaw, and Wayne Cos. 

The two subspecies differ in growth form; the native subsp. americanus often has rather scattered stems in a colony, whereas the introduced subsp. australis generally forms very dense stands, choking out most other species. The introduced subspecies is aggressively invasive and frequent now in ditches, urban wetlands, and other disturbed, often saline, habitats, though it is also a major problem on Great Lakes shoreline wetlands. The native subspecies occurs in natural communities; fens, sedge meadows, lake and river shores, etc. Catling, Mitrow, & Black (2007) provide very helpful commentary on this species in eastern Ontario, including more detailed discussion of characters. The two are amply distinct in Michigan, and it is tempting to recognize the native plant as Phragmites americanus (Saltonst., P. M. Peterson & Soreng) A. Haines, but apparently the morphological gap is bridged by other entities to our south. A worldwide review of the genus seems vital.

Vegetative reproduction can be very rapid in both subspecies, with aggressive rhizomes, and also long stolons, the latter noted as long as 13 m, as observed by L. H. Harvey on the flats at Cecil Bay, Emmet Co. Both entities can have red color on the stolons.


Alcona County
Alger County
Allegan County
Alpena County
Arenac County
Barry County
Bay County
Benzie County
Berrien County
Cass County
Charlevoix County
    Only on Beaver Island
Cheboygan County
Chippewa County
    Including Drummond Island
Delta County
Emmet County
Genesee County
Hillsdale County
Huron County
Ingham County
Iron County
Jackson County
Kalamazoo County
Kent County
Keweenaw County
    Including Isle Royale
Lake County
Lapeer County
Leelanau County
    Including Manitou Islands
Lenawee County
Livingston County
Luce County
Mackinac County
    Including Bois Blanc, Mackinac, Round Islands
Macomb County
Marquette County
Mason County
Mecosta County
Monroe County
Montmorency County
Muskegon County
Newaygo County
Oakland County
Ontonagon County
Roscommon County
Saginaw County
St. Clair County
St. Joseph County
Tuscola County
Van Buren County
Washtenaw County
Wayne County


MICHIGAN FLORA ONLINE. A. A. Reznicek, E. G. Voss, & B. S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. December 2, 2022.