Shoreline Plants  

Species: Phalaris arundinacea L., reed canarygrass
Family: Poaceae

Reed canarygrass is an invasive, tall, coarse looking, perennial grass that commonly forms extensive single-species stands along the margins of lakes and streams and in wet open areas. The stems can reach 2 m in height. Leaf blades are blue-green when fresh and straw-colored when dry. The flowers are borne on the stem high above the leaves and are pinkish at full bloom.

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Leaf: Flat, blue-green leaves are rough to the touch, to 30 cm long, and relatively wide (to 17 mm).

Stem: The hollow round stem is covered with a waxy coating and is up to 1 cm in diameter.

Flower: Each flower group (spikelet) has 3 flowers. These spikelets are located in dense clusters that are 2-40 cm long and to 11 cm wide. Blooms June through August.

Fruit: Dry and one-seeded, with a conspicuously glossy tan surface; 1.5-2 mm long and less than 1 mm wide.

Root: Long and fibrous. Emerging from the nodes of long, stout, scaly, pinkish rhizomes.

Propagation: Seeds, rhizomes.

Importance of plant: Invasive in wetlands, where it outcompetes native species. Dense stands cause flooding in streams and ditches. Eaten by only a few wildlife species, it grows too densely to be used as cover for waterfowl. Grown as cattle forage, particularly in eastern Washington. A major pollen contributor during the allergy season.

Distribution: Native to Eurasia. Introduced to North America in all but the extreme southeastern United States and Mexico.

Habitat: Wet meadows, marshes, pastures, lakes margins, and ditches. Tolerates short term flooding.

May be confused with: Other shoreline grasses, such as common reed (Phragmites australis) which is usually larger (to 3 m tall) and has a more open flower cluster; reed mannagrass (Glyceria grandis) which has less dense and more open diffuse flower clusters; tall fescue (FestucaNon-Native Icon arundinacea) which has narrower leaves (4 to 10 mm wide) and a non-rhizomatous habit; and orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) which has flower clusters attached to only one side of the flowering stems, is not rhizomatous ,and usually grows on dryer sites.

Phalaris arundinacea, lots of photographs at this site:

Line Drawings: None available 

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