Phragmites
Overview
 
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 grass
Poaceae
The Poaceae is a large and nearly ubiquitous family of flowering plants. Members of this family are commonly called grasses, although the term "grass" is also applied to plants that are not in the Poaceae lineage, including the rushes and sedges...

 found in wetland
Wetland
A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

s throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species. In particular the South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

n Khagra Reed – Phragmites karka – is often treated as a distinct species.
The generally accepted botanical name
Botanical name
A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and, if it concerns a plant cultigen, the additional cultivar and/or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants...

 of Common reed is Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin.
Carl Bernhard von Trinius
Carl Bernhard von Trinius was a German-born botanist.Trinius was a specialist in grasses and described many species in his career including Agrostis pallens, Cenchrus agrimonioides and Festuca subulata....

 ex Steud..
Encyclopedia
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 grass
Poaceae
The Poaceae is a large and nearly ubiquitous family of flowering plants. Members of this family are commonly called grasses, although the term "grass" is also applied to plants that are not in the Poaceae lineage, including the rushes and sedges...

 found in wetland
Wetland
A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

s throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species. In particular the South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

n Khagra Reed – Phragmites karka – is often treated as a distinct species.

Taxonomy

The generally accepted botanical name
Botanical name
A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and, if it concerns a plant cultigen, the additional cultivar and/or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants...

 of Common reed is Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin.
Carl Bernhard von Trinius
Carl Bernhard von Trinius was a German-born botanist.Trinius was a specialist in grasses and described many species in his career including Agrostis pallens, Cenchrus agrimonioides and Festuca subulata....

 ex Steud.. However, it is still often known as Phragmites communis Trin.; other synonyms include Arundo phragmites L.
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 (the basionym
Basionym
Basionym is a term used in botany, regulated by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature...

), Phragmites altissimus, P. berlandieri, P. dioicus, P. maximus, P. vulgaris.

Subspecies

Recent studies have characterised morphological
Morphology (biology)
In biology, morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features....

 distinctions between the introduced and native stands of Phragmites in North America. The Eurasian genotype can be distinguished from the North American genotype by its shorter ligule
Ligule
A ligule — is a thin outgrowth at the junction of leaf and leafstalk of many grasses and sedges or a strap-shaped corolla, such as that of a ray floret in plants in the daisy family....

s of up to 0.9 millimetre (0.0354330708661417 in) as opposed to over 1 millimetre (0.0393700787401575 in), shorter glumes of under 3.2 millimetre (0.125984251968504 in) against over 3.2 millimetre (0.125984251968504 in) (although there is some overlap in this character), and in culm
Culm
Culm, in botanical context, originally referred to a stem of any type of plant. It is derived from the Latin word for 'stalk' and now specifically refers to the above-ground or aerial stems of grasses and sedges....

 characteristics.
  • Phragmites australis subsp. americanus - Recently, the North American genotype has been described as a distinct subspecies
    Subspecies
    Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

    , subsp. americanus, and
  • Phragmites australis subsp. australis - the Eurasian variety is referred to as subsp. australis.

Native and introduced species

In North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, the status of Phragmites australis was a source of confusion and debate. It was commonly considered an exotic species and often invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

, introduced
Introduced species
An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

 from Europe. However, there is evidence of the existence of Phragmites as a native plant
Native plant
Native plant is a term to describe plants endemic or naturalized to a given area in geologic time.This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area...

 in North America long before European colonization of the continent . It is now known that the North American native forms of P. a. subsp. americanus are markedly less vigorous than European forms. The recent marked expansion of Phragmites in North America may be due to the more vigorous, but similar-looking European subsp. australis.

Phragmites australis subsp. australis is causing serious problems for many other North American hydrophyte
Aquatic plant
Aquatic plants are plants that have adapted to living in aquatic environments. They are also referred to as hydrophytes or aquatic macrophytes. These plants require special adaptations for living submerged in water, or at the water's surface. Aquatic plants can only grow in water or in soil that is...

 wetland plants, including the native Phragmites australis subsp. americanus. Gallic acid
Gallic acid
Gallic acid is a trihydroxybenzoic acid, a type of phenolic acid, a type of organic acid, also known as 3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoic acid, found in gallnuts, sumac, witch hazel, tea leaves, oak bark, and other plants. The chemical formula is C6H23COOH. Gallic acid is found both free and as part of...

 released by Phragmites is degraded by ultraviolet light to produce mesoxalic acid
Mesoxalic acid
Mesoxalic acid, also called oxomalonic acid or ketomalonic acid, is an organic compound with formula C3H2O5 or HO-3-OH.Mesoxalic acid is both a dicarboxylic acid and a ketonic acid. It readily loses two protons to yield the divalent anion C3O52−, called mesoxalate, oxomalonate, or ...

, effectively hitting susceptible plants and seedlings with two harmful toxins. Phragmites are so difficult to control that one of the most effective methods of eradicating the plant is to burn it over 2-3 seasons. The roots grow so deep and strong that one burn is not enough.

Growth and habitat

Phragmites australis, Common reed, commonly forms extensive stands (known as reed bed
Reed bed
Reed beds are natural habitats found in floodplains, waterlogged depressions andestuaries. Reed beds are part of a succession from young reed colonising open water or wet ground through a gradation of increasingly dry ground...

s), which may be as much as 1 square kilometre or more in extent. Where conditions are suitable it can spread at 5 metres (16.4 ft) or more per year by horizontal runners, which put down root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s at regular intervals. It can grow in damp ground, in standing water up to 1 metres (3.3 ft) or so deep, or even as a floating mat. The erect stems grow to 2–6 m (6.6–19.7 ) tall, with the tallest plants growing in areas with hot summers and fertile growing conditions.

The leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are long for a grass, 20–50 cm (7.9–19.7 in) and 2–3 cm (0.78740157480315–1.2 in) broad. The flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are produced in late summer in a dense, dark purple panicle
Panicle
A panicle is a compound raceme, a loose, much-branched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers attached along the secondary branches; in other words, a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes....

, about 20–50 cm long. Later the numerous long, narrow, sharp pointed spikelets appear greyer due to the growth of long, silky hairs.

It is a halophyte
Halophyte
A halophyte is a plant that grows where it is affected by salinity in the root area or by salt spray, such as in saline semi-deserts, mangrove swamps, marshes and sloughs, and seashores. An example of a halophyte is the salt marsh grass Spartina alterniflora . Relatively few plant species are...

, especially common in alkali
Alkali
In chemistry, an alkali is a basic, ionic salt of an alkali metal or alkaline earth metal element. Some authors also define an alkali as a base that dissolves in water. A solution of a soluble base has a pH greater than 7. The adjective alkaline is commonly used in English as a synonym for base,...

ne habitats, and it also tolerates brackish water, and so is often found at the upper edges of estuaries
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 and on other wetlands (such as grazing marsh
Grazing marsh
Grazing marsh is a British Isles term for flat, marshy grassland in polders. It consists of large grass fields separated by fresh or brackish ditches, and is often important for its wildlife.-History:...

) which are occasionally inundated by the sea.

Common reed is suppressed where it is grazed
Grazing
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

 regularly by livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

. Under these conditions it either grows as small shoots within the grassland sward, or it disappears altogether.

In Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, common reed is rarely invasive, except in damp grassland
Grassland
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants . However, sedge and rush families can also be found. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica...

s where traditional grazing
Grazing
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

 has been abandoned.

Wildlife in reed beds

Common reed is very important (together with other reed-like plants
Reed (plant)
Reed is a generic polyphyletic botanical term used to describe numerous tall, grass-like plants of wet places, which are the namesake vegetation of reed beds...

) for wildlife and conservation, particularly in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, where several species of bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s are strongly tied to large Phragmites stands. These include:
  • Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus)
  • Reed Warbler
    Reed Warbler
    The Eurasian Reed Warbler, or just Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus, is an Old World warbler in the genus Acrocephalus. It breeds across Europe into temperate western Asia. It is migratory, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa....

     (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
  • Great Bittern
    Great Bittern
    The Eurasian Bittern or Great Bittern is a wading bird of the heron family Ardeidae. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds applies.-Etymology:...

     (Botaurus stellaris)

Phytoremediation water treatment

Phragmites australis is one of the main wetland plant species used for phytoremediation
Phytoremediation
Phytoremediation Phytoremediation Phytoremediation (from the Ancient Greek , and Latin (restoring balance or remediation) describes the treatment of environmental problems (bioremediation) through the use of plants that mitigate the environmental problem without the need to excavate the...

 water treatment.

Waste water from lavatories and greywater
Greywater
Greywater is wastewater generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands...

 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
Constructed wetland
A constructed wetland or wetpark is an artificial wetland, marsh or swamp created as a new or restored habitat for native and migratory wildlife, for anthropogenic discharge such as wastewater, stormwater runoff, or sewage treatment, for land reclamation after mining, refineries, or other...

 or artificial reed bed, where bioremediation
Bioremediation
Bioremediation is the use of microorganism metabolism to remove pollutants. Technologies can be generally classified as in situ or ex situ. In situ bioremediation involves treating the contaminated material at the site, while ex situ involves the removal of the contaminated material to be treated...

 bacterial action on the surface of roots and leaf litter removes some of the nutrients
Plant nutrition
'Plant Nutrition is the study of the chemical elements that are necessary for growth. In 1972, E. Epstein defined 2 criteria for an element to be essential for plant growth:# in its absence the plant is unable to complete a normal life cycle or...

 in biotransformation
Biotransformation
Biotransformation is the chemical modification made by an organism on a chemical compound. If this modification ends in mineral compounds like CO2, NH4+, or H2O, the biotransformation is called mineralisation....

. The water is then suitable for irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

, groundwater recharge, or release to natural watercourses.

Thatching

Reed is used in many areas for thatching roofs. In the British Isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

, 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
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 straw.

Other uses

Some other uses for Phragmites australis and other reeds in various cultures include basket
Basket
A basket is a container which is traditionally constructed from stiff fibres, which can be made from a range of materials, including wood splints, runners, and cane. While most baskets are made from plant materials, other materials such as horsehair, baleen, or metal wire can be used. Baskets are...

s, mats, pen tips, and a rough form of paper. Additionally, the reeds are used as nesting tubes by individuals keeping solitary bees such as Mason Bee
Mason bee
Mason bee is a common name for species of bees in the genus Osmia, of the family Megachilidae. They are named from their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood made by wood boring insects....

s.

In the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, 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".

In Australian Aboriginal cultures, reeds were used to make weapons like spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

s for hunting game.

Food

Numerous parts of Phragmites can be prepared for consumption. For example, 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." Also, the wheat-like seeds on the apex of the stems "can be ground into flour or made into gruel." Rootstocks are used similarly.

Legend and literature

When Midas
Midas
For the legend of Gordias, a person who was taken by the people and made King, in obedience to the command of the oracle, see Gordias.Midas or King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. This was called the Golden touch, or the...

 had his ears transformed into donkey's ears, he concealed the fact and his barber was sworn to secrecy. However the barber could not contain himself and rather than confiding in another human, he spoke the secret into a hole in the ground. The reeds that grew in that place then repeated the secret in whispers.

Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 was "drawn out of the water where his mother had placed him in a reed basket to save him from the death that had been decreed by the Pharaoh against the firstborn of all of the children of Israel in Egypt" (Exodus 2:10). However, the plant concerned may have been another reed-like plant, such as papyrus
Cyperus papyrus
Cyperus papyrus is a monocot belonging to the sedge family Cyperaceae. It is a herbaceous perennial native to Africa, and forms tall stands of reed-like swamp vegetation in shallow water....

, which is still used for making boats.

One reference to reeds in European literature is Frenchman Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

's saying that Man is but a 'thinking reed' — roseau pensant. In Jean de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional...

's famous fable The Oak and the ReedLe chêne et le roseau, the reed tells the proud oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

: "I bend, and break not" —"Je plie, et ne romps pas", "before the tree's fall."

See also

  • Constructed wetland
    Constructed wetland
    A constructed wetland or wetpark is an artificial wetland, marsh or swamp created as a new or restored habitat for native and migratory wildlife, for anthropogenic discharge such as wastewater, stormwater runoff, or sewage treatment, for land reclamation after mining, refineries, or other...

  • Phytoremediation
    Phytoremediation
    Phytoremediation Phytoremediation Phytoremediation (from the Ancient Greek , and Latin (restoring balance or remediation) describes the treatment of environmental problems (bioremediation) through the use of plants that mitigate the environmental problem without the need to excavate the...

  • Deben Estuary

  • Reed bed
    Reed bed
    Reed beds are natural habitats found in floodplains, waterlogged depressions andestuaries. Reed beds are part of a succession from young reed colonising open water or wet ground through a gradation of increasingly dry ground...

  • Reed fields
  • Reed boat
    Reed boat
    Reed boats and rafts, along with dugout canoes and other rafts, are among the oldest known types of boats. Often used as traditional fishing boats, they are still used in a few places around the world, though they have generally been replaced with planked boats. Reed boats can be distinguished from...

  • Reed mat


External links


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