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Reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea)

Reed canarygrass Synonyms: Phalaris arundinacea L. var. picta, Phalaroides arundinacea, Phalaroides arundinacea (L.) Raeusch. var. picta

Common Names: Canary grass, ribbongrass

Description: Reed canarygrass is a cool-season grass; the invasive character of some Phalaris populations may be the result of agronomic breeding for vigorous growth and drought tolerance.

Habit: Cool-season, colonial, perennial grass ranging from 0.7-2.4 m (2.5-8 ft) tall; forms dense monotypic stands; root system is a thick, fibrous mat of rhizomes.

Leaves: Flat, rough leaf blades, 1.9-2.6 cm (0.75-1 in) wide and up to 45 cm (1.5 ft) long, prominent transparent ligule.

Stems: Upright; bluish-green in color.

Flowers: Found in crowded, branched clusters at the end of each stem; young clusters dense and spike-like, expanding at maturity.

Fruit and seeds: Small, shiny brown seeds; dispersed by water, humans, animals and machinery.

Habitat: Native to North America and Europe; most Midwestern colonies thought to be escapes of cultivated and European forms; widely planted for erosion control, now found in wetlands, ditches, stream and pond banks, and wet meadows.

Reproduction: Primarily through dense, mat-forming, spreading rhizomes; also by seed.

Similar species: Native blue joint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) occurs in similar sites but is draping rather than upright.

Monitoring and rapid response: Monitor moist, fertile sites and wetlands; most visible in spring when inflorescences expand to facilitate pollination. Herbicide application in late summer or fall provides the most effective control, particularly for large populations; reseeding with desired plant species beneficial; burning, mowing, discing and plowing must be ongoing as root fragments resprout, one-time efforts may increase population; Monitoring and follow-up required for 5-10 years until seed bank is exhausted. This species is extremely difficult to eradicate, research control options thoroughly. Permits are usually required for herbicide use in water bodies and wetlands. For information see MDEQs Aquatic Nuisance Control website at:,9429,7-135-3313_3681_3710---,00.html

Credits: The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) has partnered with MISIN to provide the information in this fact sheet. Species images and/or information were used with permission from "A Field Identification Guide to Invasive Plants in Michigan's Natural Communities" and "A Field Guide to Invasive Plants of Aquatic and Wetland Habitats for Michigan.

Common Name:

Reed canarygrass

Scientific Name:

Phalaris arundinacea







USDA Symbol: