Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Phalaris arundinacea L.
Preferred Common Name
- reed canary grass
Other Scientific Names
- Baldingera arundinacea (L.) Dumort.
- Phalaroides arundinacea (L.) Rauschert
- Typhoides arundinacea (L.) Moench
International Common Names
- English: gardener's garters; reed canarygrass; reedgrass; ribbon grass
- Spanish: alpiste arundinaceo; falaris de los banados; hierba cinta
- French: alpiste roseau; baldingere faux-roseau
- Portuguese: caniço-malhado
Local Common Names
- Germany: Rohrglanzgras
- Italy: fettuccia d'acqua; scagliola d'acqua
- Japan: kusayoshi
- Netherlands: rietgras
- South Africa: langbeenkanariegras; lekolojane; rietgras; rietkanarigras
- Sweden: roerflen
- TYPAR (Phalaris arundinacea)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page P. arundinacea typically invades seasonally wet or continually moist areas and spreads rapidly along ditch systems and land adjacent to watercourses (Marten and Heath, 1973). Large quantities of highly mobile seed are produced in the first year of life, and a soil seed bank and permanent rhizome bed quickly build up. For these reasons control is not easy once this species is established (Kilbride and Paveglio, 1999).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Phalaris
- Species: Phalaris arundinacea
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page The genus Phalaris comprises 15 species and is distributed worldwide with the greatest diversity of species in the Mediterranean area (Anderson, 1961). At least three species, including P. arundinacea, have become undesirable weeds. The scientific and common names of P. arundinacea refer to its reed-like appearance.
Many cultivated varieties have been registered for seed and forage yield in the USA (Rincker and Carlson, 1983; Kalton et al., 1989a, b), others have been developed for erosion control or for their ornamental value (such as the variety or form 'Picta' with variegated leaf blades).
DescriptionTop of page P. arundinacea is a stout, erect perennial reed growing 0.6-2 m high with far creeping rhizomes. Leaves flat, smooth, acuminate. Blade 10-35 cm long, 6-25 mm wide (approximately 20 times as long as wide), flat, linear. Ligule membranous, truncate, or occasionally acuate, 6-10 mm; sheaths smooth. Culm erect or geniculate, not branching. Panicle lobed lanceolate, 7-40 cm long, 1-4 cm wide, composed of branches up to 5 cm long, spreading only at flowering. Spikelets 3.5-7.5 mm long, subsessile. Glumes lanceolate, acuminate, keeled but not winged. Lemmas broadly lanceolate, acute; L1 and L2 1.2-2.3 mm long, short-hairy, sterile; L3 fertile, 2.9-4.5 mm long, 5-nerved, short-hairy. Caryopses light brown, 2-3 mm long.
It is a highly variable species, varying in height, size and shape of inflorescence, and coloration (Apfelbaum and Sams, 1987). The sturdy, often hollow stems can be up to 13 mm in diameter, with some reddish coloration near the top.
Plant TypeTop of page Grass / sedge
DistributionTop of page Although certainly native to Eurasia and probably native to North America (Merigliano and Lesica, 1998), this species currently appears to be undergoing a large expansion in range and density in these regions (Maurer and Zedler, 2002). It is also present as a weed in some temperate countries in the southern hemisphere (Holm et al., 1979; Wells et al., 1986) and also in the tropics (Häfliger and Scholz, 1980).
Häfliger and Scholz (1980) describe the distribution as: northern, south-eastern, south-central and western USA, Central America, southern, eastern and northern Africa, Iberian Peninsula, central, northern and south-eastern Europe, former USSR, Middle East, Indian sub-continent, south-east Asian sub-continent and Pacific Islands.
In North America, the species is common throughout most of Alaska (USA) and Canada as well as all but the south-east part of the USA (Hitchcock et al., 1969).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Afghanistan||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|China||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|Georgia (Republic of)||Present||Native||, 2003|
|India||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|-West Bengal||Present||Noltie, 2000|
|Indonesia||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|Japan||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|Korea, Republic of||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|Turkey||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|Ethiopia||Present||Introduced||Froman and Persson, 1974|
|Kenya||Present||Introduced||Froman and Persson, 1974|
|Lesotho||Present||Wells et al., 1986|
|Mauritius||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|South Africa||Present||Wells et al., 1986|
|Tanzania||Present||Introduced||Froman and Persson, 1974|
|Uganda||Present||Introduced||Froman and Persson, 1974|
|Canada||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|-British Columbia||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-New Brunswick||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Northwest Territories||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Nova Scotia||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Yukon Territory||Present||Native||, 2003|
|USA||Present||Native||Holm et al., 1979|
|-Alaska||Present||Native||, 2003; Hitchcock et al., 1969|
|-New Hampshire||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-New Jersey||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-New Mexico||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-New York||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-North Carolina||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-North Dakota||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Rhode Island||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-South Dakota||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-West Virginia||Present||Native||, 2003|
Central America and Caribbean
|Puerto Rico||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|Argentina||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|Colombia||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|Falkland Islands||Present||Ulibarri, 1981|
|Belgium||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|Croatia||Present||Hulina et al., 1990|
|Czechoslovakia (former)||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979; Prach, 1992|
|Finland||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|Germany||Present||Native||Hoflich et al., 1990; , 2003|
|Hungary||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|Italy||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979; Baldini, 1993|
|Norway||Present||Native||, 2003; Odland, 1997|
|Poland||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979; Szelag, 1997; Czyz et al., 1999; Grynia et al., 1999|
|Portugal||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979; Costa, 1981|
|Romania||Present||Native||, 2003; Hanganu et al., 1994|
|Russian Federation||Present||Native||, 2003; Chernyaeva, 1977; Zakharchenko and Masalkin, 1977|
|-Eastern Siberia||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Russia (Europe)||Present||Native||, 2003|
|-Western Siberia||Present||Native||, 2003|
|Sweden||Present||Native||, 2003; Holm et al., 1979|
|UK||Present||Native||, 2003; Daniels, 1978; Holm et al., 1979|
|Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)||Present||Native||, 2003|
|Australia||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
|New Zealand||Present||Holm et al., 1979|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page P. arundinacea is now a circumarboreal species (Larson, 1993). However, there is some debate as to whether it is native to North America (Harrison et al., 1996b). It is likely that populations of P. arundinacea in the USA consist of a mixture of agronomic cultivars (introduced from Europe) and native varieties (Merigliano and Lesica, 1998). Distinguishing native strains in the USA is therefore very difficult (White et al., 1993). Baldini (1993) has looked at ploidy levels for this purpose.
HabitatTop of page P. arundinacea is a wetland plant, typically occurring in soils that are saturated, or nearly so, for most of the growing season, but where standing water does not persist for extended periods (Stace, 1997). However, established stands can tolerate extended periods of inundation (Ivanov et al., 1981). Ideal conditions typically occur in roadside ditches, river dykes and levées, shallow marshes, and meadows (Weinmann et al., 1984). It is also found in waste places, perennial crops and aquatic biotopes (Häfliger and Scholz, 1980). It can be found in some upland sites, for example in Washington State, USA (Harrison et al., 1996b). It is intolerant of shade and is replaced by Salix species, Cornus stolonifera, Prunus virginiana, Carex and Juncus species in Washington State (Harrison et al., 1996b). P. arundinacea is used as an indicator species in Daniels' (1978) classification of British mires.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page P. arundinacea has negative impacts on wetland plant species and plant communities in the USA. Where the species invades short perennial grasses such as Agrostis alba or Festuca rubra (species typically planted along irrigation ditches), it inhibits their growth within 3-5 months, eventually eliminating them (Apfelbaum and Sams, 1987).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page Genetics
The chromosome number is 2n = 28 (Stace, 1997).
Sachs and Coulman (1983) and Ostrem (1988) found wide genetic variation in seed yield and other agronomic characters: broad-sense heritabilities were between 0.20 and 0.84. Alkaloid concentration also shows wide genetic variation, with heritabilities for total alkaloid concentration ranging from 0.19 to 0.70 for a range of populations (Ostrem, 1987). Hovin et al. (1978) reported genetic variation in the concentration of eight minerals in P. arundinacea.
Gifford et al. (2002) predicted genetic bottle-necking in populations of this species in the USA due to its recent, rapid range-expansion. However, no such phenomenon has been detected.
Physiology and Phenology
Germination at a temperature of 24-27°C is significantly stimulated by moist chilling in light, red light given during the first 3 days of imbibition, three 2-h periods at 12°C given during the second day of imbibition, ethylene, increased oxygen tension, and soaking in aerated water for 4 days. Dry storage at 20-30°C had no effect on the germinability of the seeds. No significant quantities of germination inhibitors have been found either in water or methanol extracts of seed dispersal units (Landgraff and Junttila, 1979). Berg (1982) reports that germination rates in some strains of this species are too low (due to dormancy) for them to have any agricultural use.
Flowering in P. arundinacea requires exposure to short day-length conditions for primary floral induction and long day-length conditions (13-15 h) for secondary induction (Heide, 1994). The species flowers in June and July in the Pacific Northwest, USA (Hitchcock et al., 1969; Weinmann et al., 1984).
Dead leaves persist throughout the winter resting period (in the UK; Clapham et al., 1987).
Hovin et al. (1980) report that the alkaloid concentration in most of the accessions studied was high enough to adversely affect the performance of ruminants.
Reproduction in this species is via seeds, rhizomes and tillers (Wells et al., 1986; Ito et al., 1990). It will also produce roots and shoots from the nodes of freshly cut, well jointed culms (Marten and Heath, 1973; Corley, 1989). Dethioux (1986) has demonstrated that stem cuttings of this species are a viable means of propagation. Gifford et al. (2002) have strong evidence that P. arundinacea reproduces primarily clonally in North America.
P. arundinacea generally favours moist to inundated soils and is even used as an indicator of soil moisture in some areas (Strien and Melman, 1987). It survives under complete anaerobiosis but does not show shoot extension (Barclay and Crawford, 1982) under this condition. It is highly resistant to flooding (up to 50 d inundation; Ivanov et al., 1981), and to regular flooding cycles (Rice et al., 1993).
Some strains are tolerant of high soil aluminium concentrations (Culvenor et al., 1986), but the species appears less tolerant of high salinity (Liu et al., 1992). It regenerates and re-colonizes riparian habitats quickly after severe disturbance (Ohtsuka and Nemoto, 1997); because of this, Morrison and Molofsky (1998) suggest that this species is most likely to become a pest in disturbed or low-density plant communities.
There is evidence to suggest that nutrient enrichment by nitrate-nitrogen from agricultural run-off improves habitat suitability for P. arundinacea and is contributing to increasing colonization and dominance of this species in wetlands in the USA (Green and Galatowitsch, 2002).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||0||0||mm; lower/upper limits|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page For further information on the natural enemies listed see the following: Sitodiplosis mosellana (Abbass, 1986; Sylven et al. 1997); Septoria bromi var. phalaricola (Zeiders, 1979); and Ustilago echinata (Guo, 1991).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Seeds are dispersed along ditches and waterways (Apfelbaum and Sams, 1987).
P. arundinacea has been widely introduced into the USA as stock fodder (Larson, 1993).
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||seeds|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||roots; seeds; stems|
|Roots||roots; seeds; stems|
|Seedlings/Micropropagated plants||whole plants|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||seeds; stems|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||seeds|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page Few data are available on the economic impact of infestations of this species. However, there is considerable evidence that at least some strains have a negative impact upon cattle and sheep when included in feed. P. arundinacea can contain a number of harmful alkaloids including tryptamine-carboline and gramine (Marten, 1973; Marten et al., 1976); selenium can also be present at 0.005 p.p.m. (Susaki et al., 1980).
When in flower, the species produces abundant pollen and chaff, which aggravate hay fever and allergies (Weinmann et al., 1984).
Environmental ImpactTop of page The species is considered a serious weed along irrigation banks and ditches (in Washington State, USA, for example) because infestation can cause siltation (Marten and Heath, 1973).
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page According to Maurer and Zedler (2002), P. arundinacea is aggressively invading wetlands across North America. The species grows so vigorously that it is able to inhibit and eliminate competing species (Apfelbaum and Sams, 1987). In some locations (such as river islands in western Wisconsin, USA) this species has become the dominant plant in only 15 years (Barnes, 1999). It can replace native vegetation with monospecific stands (Lindig Cisneros and Zedler, 2002).
In one study, only herbs and smaller grasses growing less than 1 m above the maximum water level were outcompeted by P. arundinacea. The species growing above this level remained unaffected (Barnes, 1999). Wetzel and Valk (1998) have shown that P. arundinacea can outcompete and overshadow other typical riparian plant species such as Carex stricta and Typha latifolia. Unlike many other invasive species in North America, P. arundinacea does reduce native plant biodiversity in undisturbed as well as disturbed wetland habitats (Harrison et al., 1996a; Lesica, 1997). Areas that have existed as monocultures of this species for extended periods may have seedbanks that are devoid of native plant species (Apfelbaum and Sams, 1987).
Dense stands of P. arundinacea have lower wildlife value than native vegetation: few species can feed on this plant, and the stems grow too densely to provide suitable cover for mammals and waterfowl (Maia, 1994).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page Some strains of P. arundinacea (i.e., those low in toxic compounds) are used as fodder crops. This species has been an important component of lowland fodder in a number of countries for some time, particularly in Europe, the USA and Russia. It has been the subject of much agricultural research (for example, see Alway, 1931; Hitchcock, 1950; Hitchcock et al., 1969; Tasi and Barcsak, 2001; Struzhkina, 2002).
Trials by Vassileva and Jingov (1988) showed this species to offer effective soil conservation properties on strongly eroded soils.
P. arundinacea has also been the subject of much research into biomass/energy crops (for example, Bullard et al., 2001; Gylling, 2001) and, as such, this crop is considered to have a relatively low environmental impact in northern Europe (Pedersen, 1997).
It is also grown in Europe for its short fibres which are suitable for high-quality paper production (Pedersen, 1997).
It also has ornamental value as a landscaping plant and for dried flowers (Corley, 1989; Urbanski, 1997). The variegated form 'Picta' is popular.
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page P. arundinacea is distinguished from most other Phalaris species by being a rhizomatous perennial with glumes un-winged.
Prevention and ControlTop of page Cultural Control
Burning has been effective in areas with an existing component of native plants, either above ground or in the soil seed bank. To be effective, burns should be conducted in the late spring, early to mid-summer, or early to late autumn. Early spring burning stimulates the production of shoots (Apfelbaum, 1993).
Heavy equipment alone seems unsuccessful in the removal of this species. Rapid re-growth occurs from rhizomes and seeds that remain in the soil. Clipping back plants at ground level and covering them with opaque black plastic sheets can reduce but not eliminate populations (Apfelbaum and Sams, 1987). However, this method is not always successful because seasonal inundation may displace covering materials (Gillespie and Murn, 1992).
Mowing may be a valuable control method since it removes seed heads before maturity and exposes the ground to light, which promotes the growth of native species. In Wisconsin, USA, twice-yearly mowing in early to mid-June and early October led to increased numbers of native species relative to P. arundinacea-infested plots that were not mown (Gillespie and Murn, 1992).
Glyphosate, amitrole, dalapon and paraquat have all shown some success. Maximum control depends on the timing of application (Apfelbaum and Sams, 1987). These herbicides provide control for 2 years at the most. After this period, treated areas are recolonized from adjacent stands or from seedbank recruitment (White et al., 1993). In Washington State, USA, glyphosate treatment, followed 2 or 3 weeks later by burning, has also been effective. Because this species is often present in or near watercourses, careful consideration should be given to the environmental and legal consequences of the use of herbicides.
Kilbride and Paveglio (1999) recommend cutting (discing) followed by herbicide treatment in the following growing season. Without herbicide use, the species quickly re-grows from rhizomes. They recommend that the cutting/herbicide regime continues until the site water level can be altered sufficiently to reduce P. arundinacea growth. The use of fire helps to ensure mortality by killing re-sprouts and germinants which appear after herbicide use (Apfelbaum, 1993).
ReferencesTop of page
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