Phragmites australis

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Legend for Species Pages

Common Reed

Phragmites australis (P. communis)
  • ANPC Rank –
  • Moss, Flora of Alberta – Circumpolar
  • Global Invasive Species Database – Yes[1]
  • NatureServe Rank – Not yet assessed
  • Haber, Upland – No
  • Haber, Wetland – No
  • CWF, Status & Invasive Range – Moderate, NS, Great Lakes basin
  • Alberta Revegetation Guidelines – No
  • The Nature Conservancy – Yes, w/ ESA
  • CBCN – Low
  • AB Weed – No


Exotic in some parts of NA, but probably native in AB. CBCN includes it as invasive in AB. Archanara geminipuncta, a noctuid stem borer, has been suggested as a potential biocontrol agent [2].

An invasive strain, which hails from Eurasia, overtakes the native strain, which has lived in North America for the past 10,000 years, through a combination of microbial and enzymatic activity in the soil.

The invasive strain produces more gallotannin, a benign precursor of gallic acid, than does the native strain. When gallotannin is attacked by tannase, produced through enzymatic activity by native plants and rhizospheric microbes, toxic gallic acid is produced and released in the root zone.

Microbes present on the root surface of the plants cleave the polymer (gallotannin) to release the monomer (gallic acid), using the tannins as a carbon source.

The microbial population is the same in the native versus the invasive strain. But, the invasive plants secrete more gallotannins into the soil than do native plants, putting the native plant at a disadvantage in turf battles between the two.

Reference: Bains, Kumar, et al, Native plant and microbial contributions to a negative plant-plant interaction, Plant Physiology Preview. September 23, 2009. DOI:10.1104/pp.109.146407

[3] Link to USDA Plants Profile for Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. common reed

Link to US National Park Service fact sheet: [4]

[5] Link to Wikipedia article

Briutton and Brown (1913)