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
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
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
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
DistributionTop of page
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.Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Ethiopia||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Froman and Persson (1974)|
|Kenya||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Froman and Persson (1974)|
|Tanzania||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Froman and Persson (1974)|
|Uganda||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Froman and Persson (1974)|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present||Native|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Native|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Native|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
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
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
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)||weeds/seeds|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||weeds/roots; weeds/seeds; weeds/stems|
|Roots||weeds/roots; weeds/seeds; weeds/stems|
|Seedlings/Micropropagated plants||weeds/whole plants|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||weeds/seeds; weeds/stems|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||weeds/seeds|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
When in flower, the species produces abundant pollen and chaff, which aggravate hay fever and allergies (Weinmann et al., 1984).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
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
- 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
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
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.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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