Reed Canary Grass

Phalaris arundinacea L. var. arundinacea

Synonyms - Baldingera arundinacea, Phalaroides arundinacea, Typhoides arundinacea

Family: - Poaceae


Other Names


A perennial, spreading, rhizomatous, semi aquatic perennial grass with 1 to 2 m tall, hairless stems and flat, hairless leaves that are 5-25 mm wide. The seed head is pale green, branched and somewhat loose.




First Leaves:


Emerging leaf rolled in the bud.

Blade - 100-350 mm long by 6-25 mm wide, flat, fairly stiff and often with a blue green appearance. Hairless but rough in the upper part.

Ornamental varieties have variegated light green or white striped leaves.

Ligule - 2-16 mm long, membranous. Tip flat topped or pointed and often somewhat jagged.

Auricles - None

Sheath - Rounded on the back. Hairless


Somewhat erect, often bent at the nodes, 500-2000 mm tall. May root at the lower nodes. Hairless

Flower head:

Pale green, cylindrical to lance shaped, branched, erect to somewhat drooping, spike like panicle, 50-400 mm long by 10-40 mm wide. Dense to loose and often interrupted in the lower portion. Composed of upright branches to 50 mm long that spread only at flowering. Main axis and branches hairless.


Spikelets - densely crowded, green purple or white, oblong, flattened, 1 flowered, 3.5-7.5 mm long on a very short stalk. Breaks above the glumes.

Florets -

Glumes - 2, persistent, narrowly egg shaped, firm, rough, 3 ribbed, keeled, tapering to a long point, almost the same length as each other and about as long as the spikelet, 3 nerved, not winged.

Palea - 4-5 mm long, 2 ribbed, hairy on the keel only.

Lemma - First and second are awl shaped, 1-2.5 mm long shortly hairy and sterile. Third is fertile, 2.5-4.5 mm long, 5 nerved, firm, keeled, shortly hairy.

Stamens -

Anthers -


Feel oily.


Fibrous and short, scaly, creeping, underground rhizomes. Deep rooting.

Key Characters:

Spike like panicle.

Spikelets all alike, not in groups, falling separately, shortly pedicellate, with 3 florets.

Terminal floret bisexual, lower 2 florets empty.

Perennial with a rhizome

Glumes of equal size, as long or longer than florets, tapering to a long acute point, Keel not or obscurely winged towards apex, serrulate.

Empty lemmas reduced to scales.

Adapted from Terry Macfarlane, Flora of the Perth Region


Life cycle:




By seed and rhizome growth.

Flowering times:

December to April in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:



Hybridised with Phalaris aquaticum to form commercial pasture species.

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed and rhizome growth.

Origin and History:

Africa, temperate Asia, America, Europe.







Prefers wet areas.

Plant Associations:



Fodder but not very palatable. Wet area pasture.


Weed of irrigation channels, streams, wet lands, disturbed areas, rotation crops and perennial crops.

Forms large dense clumps that exclude other species.

Environmental weed of the USA.


Not recorded as toxic.





Management and Control:

Introduce more palatable perennial grasses. Drain wet areas. Mow areas that become rank. Spray heavily infested areas with glyphosate and re plant more desirable species.


Eradication strategies:

Burning followed by spraying or wick application of glyphosate to new growth is the most effective control. Replanting native sedges and shrubs helps reduce the risk of reinvasion in bushland areas.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Blue Canary grass (Phalaris coerulescens)

Canary grass (Phalaris canariensis) has wings on the husks or glumes

Lesser Canary grass (Phalaris minor)

Paradoxa grass (Phalaris paradoxa) the seed head barely sticks out of the upper leaf and spikelets fall in groups.

Phalaris (Phalaris aquatica) has 2, winged husks attached to the base of the seed.

Reed Canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea)

Phalaris angusta

Phalaris arundinacea var. picta is and ornamental variety.

Plants of similar appearance:



Bodkin, F. (1986). Encyclopaedia Botanica. (Angus and Robertson, Australia).

Ciba Geigy (1981) Grass Weeds 2. CIBA GEIGY Ltd, Basle, Switzerland. P112. Diagrams.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P64.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO handbook of Australian Weeds. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #769.3

Marchant et al (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P979.

Paterson, J.G. (1977). Grasses in South Western Australia. (Western Australian Department of Agriculture Bulletin 4007). P76. Diagram.

Randall, J.M. and Marinelli, J. (1996) Invasive Plants. (Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Inc. Brooklyn). P90. Photo.


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