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Phragmites australis Schilfrohr.jpg
Phragmites australis seed head in winter
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Arundinoideae
Tribe: Molinieae
Subtribe: Moliniinae
Genus: Phragmites

Phragmites is a genus of four species of large perennial reed grasses found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world.


The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, maintained by Kew Garden in London, accepts the following four species:[2][1]

Three Phragmites australis seedlings: A.) very young, B.) juvenile, C.) the oldest (3-4 months). Roman numerals denote different shoot generations. Sc=scutellum.
(From Om Skudbygning, Overvintring og Foryngelse by Eugen Warming, 1884)

The cosmopolitan common reed has the generally accepted botanical name Phragmites australis. (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. About 130 other synonyms have been proposed,[1][3] and some have been widely used.[citation needed] Examples include Phragmites communis Trin., Arundo phragmites L., and Phragmites vulgaris (Lam.) Crép. (illegitimate name).[1]

Wildlife in reed beds[edit]

Common reed is very important (together with other reed-like plants) for wildlife and conservation, particularly in Europe and Asia, where several species of birds are strongly tied to large Phragmites stands. The habitats for reeds in these regions is wetlands and meadows. These include:

In Australia, reedbeds provide cover for grassbirds (Megalurus spp.), reed warblers (Acrocephalus spp.), crakes (Porzana spp.) and bitterns (Ixobrychus spp.) and the Australian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus).[citation needed]



P. australis is cultivated as an ornamental plant in aquatic and marginal settings such as pond- and lakesides. Its aggressive colonisation means it must be sited with care.[4]

Phytoremediation water treatment[edit]

Phragmites australis is one of the main wetland plant species used for phytoremediation water treatment.

Waste water from lavatories and greywater from kitchens is routed to an underground septic tank-like compartment where the solid waste is allowed to settle out. The water then trickles through a constructed wetland or artificial reed bed, where bioremediation bacterial action on the surface of roots and leaf litter removes some of the nutrients in biotransformation. The water is then suitable for irrigation, groundwater recharge, or release to natural watercourses.


Reed is used in many areas for thatching roofs. In the British Isles, common reed used for this purpose is known as Norfolk reed or water reed. However, "wheat reed" and "Devon reed", also used for thatching, are not in fact reed, but long-stemmed wheat straw.[citation needed]


The duduk or mey mouthpiece is a flattened piece of giant reed Arundo donax a relative of common reed, which itself is flattened to make the zurna reed

In Middle East countries Phragmites is used to create a small instrument similar to the clarinet called a sipsi, with either a single, as in the picture, or double pipes as in bagpipes.[5] The reed of the zurna is made from the common reed which is flattened after removing its brittle outer glaze and the loose inner membrane, and after softening it by wetting.[6] The result is a double reed with an elliptical opening that vibrates by closing and opening at a high speed. This is not to be confused with other double reeds like that of the oboe which uses two reeds made from the giant reed leaning against each other.


Parts of Phragmites are said to be edible. The young stems, "while still green and fleshy, can be dried and pounded into a fine powder, which when moistened is roasted [sic] like marshmallows." The seeds and rhizomes "can be ground into flour or made into gruel."[7]

Herbal medicine[edit]

The rhizomes of reeds, written as 蘆根 or 葦莖 in Chinese, were used in traditional Chinese medicine for illness related to the airways, such as cough with high fever, sticky and white phlegm, etc.[citation needed]

A concoction of reed roots was believed to bring the fever away via increased urination and also help to restore body fluid.[citation needed]

Other uses[edit]

Some other uses for Phragmites australis and other reeds in various cultures include baskets, mats, reed pen tips (qalam), and in Romania it was used to produce paper and other cellulose based products.[citation needed] The reeds can be used to make nesting tubes for solitary bees.[citation needed]

In the Philippines, Phragmites is known by the local name tambo. Reed stands flower in December, and the blooms are harvested and bundled into brooms called "walis". Hence the common name of household brooms is walis tambo.[citation needed]

Reeds have been used to make arrows[8] and weapons such as spears for hunting game.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Plant List: Phragmites". Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  2. ^ "Search: Phragmites". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  3. ^ "Common Reed - Phragmites australis - Synonyms - Encyclopedia of Life". Encyclopedia of Life.
  4. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Phragmites australis". Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  5. ^ hitite musician (second millennia B.C.) playing double sips i
  6. ^ "Norwegian food, recipes from Norway, Norwegian news and link directory". Archived from the original on 2005-09-12.
  7. ^ Peterson, Lee, "A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America", page 228, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York City, accessed the sixth of September, 2010.ISBN 0-395-20445-3
  8. ^ William C. Sturtevant (1978) Handbook of North American Indians: Great Basin, p. 269, Government Printing Office. ISBN 0160045819, 9780160045813.
  9. ^ Unaipon, D. (2001) Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, p. 138, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne. ISBN 0-522-85246-7.
  10. ^ "Phragmites in Great Salt Lake". Phragmites in Great Salt Lake.