Phalaris arundinacea

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Phalaris arundinacea
Phalaris arundinacea 1.jpg

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Phalaris
Species: P. arundinacea
Binomial name
Phalaris arundinacea
A variegated form of Phalaris arundinacea in the garden of Islington College, Nepal

Phalaris arundinacea, sometimes known as reed canary grass, is a tall, perennial bunchgrass that commonly forms extensive single-species stands along the margins of lakes and streams and in wet open areas, with a wide distribution in Europe, Asia, northern Africa and North America.[1] Other common names for the plant include gardener's-garters in English, alpiste roseau in French, rohrglanzgras in German, kusa-yoshi in Japanese, caniço-malhado in Portuguese, and hierba cinta and pasto cinto in Spanish.[2]


The stems can reach 2 meters in height.[3] The leaf blades are usually green, but may be variegated. The panicles are up to 30 centimeters long.[3] The spikelets are light green, often streaked with darker green or purple.[4] This is a perennial grass which spreads underground by its thick rhizomes.[3]


A number of cultivars of P. arundinacea have been selected for use as ornamental plants, including variegated (striped) cultivars – sometimes called ribbon grass – such as 'Castor' and 'Feesey'. The latter has a pink tinge to the leaves.[5] When grown, although drought-tolerant, it likes abundant water and can even be grown as an aquatic plant.[5]

From Plants for a Future ( Edible Uses Edible Parts: Leaves; Root; Seed; Stem. Edible Uses: Sweetener.

Root - raw or cooked like potatoes[2, 13, 74, 102, 106, 183]. It contains up to 5% sugar. The flavour and texture are best when the root is young and still growing[144]. It can be dried, ground coarsely and used as a porridge[12, 46, 62]. In Russia they are harvested and processed into starch[269]. Young shoots - raw or cooked[61, 62, 102, 179]. They are best if used before the leaves form, when they are really delicious[144]. They can be used like bamboo shoots[183]. The partly unfolded leaves can be used as a potherb and the Japanese dry young leaves, grind them into a powder and mix them with cereal flour when making dumplings[183]. The stems are reported to contain 4.8 g protein, 0.8 g fat, 90.0 g total carbohydrate, 41.2 g fiber, and 4.4 g ash[269]. Seed - raw or cooked[257]. It can be ground into a powder and used as a flour[57, 62, 102, 106]. The seed is rather small and difficult to remove from the husk but it is said to be very nutritious[183]. A sugar is extracted from the stalks or wounded stems[2, 5, 62, 95]. A sweet liquorice-like taste[95], it can be eaten raw or cooked[62]. The stems can be boiled in water and then the water boiled off in order to obtain the sugar[178]. A sugary gum that exudes from the stems can be rolled into balls and eaten as sweets[183]. A powder extracted from the dried stems can be moistened and roasted like marshmallow[62, 95, 102, 183].

Reed canarygrass grows well on poor soils and contaminated industrial sites, and researchers at Teesside University's Contaminated Land & Water Centre have suggested it as the ideal candidate for phytoremediation in improving soil quality and biodiversity at brownfield sites.[citation needed]

The grass can also easily be turned into bricks or pellets for burning in biomass power stations.[6] Furthermore, it provides fibers which find use in pulp and papermaking processes.[7]

P. arundinacea is also planted as a hay crop or for forage.

This species of Phalaris may also be used as a source for the psychedelic drugs DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and 5-OH-DMT (bufotenin), as well as Hordenine and 5-MeO-NMT;[8] however, N,N-DMT is considered most desirable. Although the concentrations of these compounds is lower than in other potential sources, such as Psychotria viridis and Mimosa tenuiflora, large enough quantities of the grass can be refined to make an ad hoc ayahuasca brew.


In many places, P. arundinacea is an invasive species in wetlands, particularly in disturbed areas. It has been reported as an invasive weed in floodplains, riverside meadows, and other wetland habitat types around the world. When P. arundinacea invades a wetland, it inhibits native vegetation and reduces biological diversity.[9] It alters the entire ecosystem.[10] The grass propagates by seed and rhizome, and once established, is difficult to eradicate.[11]

Chemical properties[edit]

Some species contain gramine.

Leaves of P. arundinacea contain DMT, 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin.[12] Levels of beta-carbolines[13] and hordenine[14] have also been reported.


  1. ^ "Phalaris arundinacea". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2017-12-15. 
  2. ^ Phalaris arundinacea. USDA NRCS Plant Guide.
  3. ^ a b c Waggy, Melissa, A. 2010. Phalaris arundinacea. In: Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
  4. ^ Phalaris arundinacea. Flora of China.
  5. ^ a b Phalaris arundinacea var. picta 'Feesey'.
  6. ^ Bond, Sam (2010-02-23). "Candidate crops for contaminated land biofuels crop considered". Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  7. ^ Andersson, B. and E. Lindvall. Use of biomass from reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) as raw material for production of paper pulp and fuel.
  8. ^ Wilkinson, S. (1958). "428. 5-Methoxy-N-methyltryptamine: a new indole alkaloid from Phalaris arundinacea L". Journal of the Chemical Society (Resumed): 2079. doi:10.1039/jr9580002079. 
  9. ^ Kim, K. D., et al. (2006). Controlling Phalaris arundinacea (reed canarygrass) with live willow stakes: A density-dependent response. Ecological Engineering 26 219-27.
  10. ^ Lavergne, S. and J. Molofsky. (2004). Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) as a biological model in the study of plant invasions. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 23(5) 415-29.
  11. ^ Ecology of freshwater and estuarine wetlands By Darold P. Batzer, Rebecca R. Sharitz
  12. ^ Tryptamine Carriers FAQ
  13. ^ G. C. Marten, R. M. Jordan and A. W. Hovin; 1976; Biological Significance of Reed Canarygrass Alkaloids and Associated Palatability Variation to Grazing Sheep and Cattle; Agronomy Journal Vol. 68 No. 6, p. 909-914; doi:10.2134/agronj1976.00021962006800060017x
  14. ^ J Edwin Saxton (1974). The Alkaloids: A Review of Chemical Literature: volume 4 (Specialist Periodical Reports). The Chemical Society. p. 130. ISBN 978-0-85186-287-3. 

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