Common Reed (Phragmites)

Dense common reed stand


A perennial grass native to Europe and Asia, common reed (Phragmites australis) can grow as tall as 14 feet by late summer, and its brownish canes persist through the winter. There is also a native subspecies, but it’s rare and does not form dense stands.

The Problem

It invades wetlands, often forming thick stands that displace other plant species.

The Solution

Mowing or hand cutting may be effective at reducing its spread, but likely won’t eradicate it. Glyphosate-based systemic herbicides work well when applied in late summer or early fall after flowering, and are effective as a foliar spray for large, dense stands. In areas where desirable plants intermix with common reed, apply herbicide directly to freshly cut stems. This species is almost always found in wetlands, so control efforts are usually subject to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act; before taking action, check with the local conservation commission, and only apply herbicides registered for use in wetlands. Always read and follow the directions on the label when using herbicides. 

Salt Marsh Science Project

Since 1996, students in grades 5-12 on the North Shore have been working with Mass Audubon scientists to learn about salt marshes and common reed. The success of the project depends on student help. The more information we collect, the more we learn about this critically important habitat! Learn more & find out how to participate >