General: Common Reed (Phragmites australis) is the tallest (10-12 feet) native species of grass in
the Mojave Desert, looking more like bamboo than a typical grass.
Common Reed is an uncommon component of wet vegetation associations (wetlands, along washes and rivers) in the Lower Sonoran
(Creosote-Bursage Flats) and Upper Sonoran
(Mojave Desert Scrub and
Pinyon-Juniper Woodland) life zones.
Family: Grass (Poaceae).
Other Names: Phragmites, Phragmites communis.
Plant Form: Tall, perennial grass forming dense stands.
Height: 10-12 feet.
Stems: Stem tall, erect, round, hollow.
Leaves: Alternate, 2-ranked, linear; blades 10-20 inches long, 1/2 to 2 inches wide. At the base of each leaf, Common Reed has an open sheath (the base of the leaf does not wrap all the way around the stem), and there
is no collar (wide spot at the base of the leaf).
Flowers: Blooms July through November. Inflorescence panicle-like, to 2-feet long, plume-like, oblong.
Seeds: Tiny, achene-like grain (like a tiny sunflower seed).
Habitat: Pond edges, springs, stream edges, riverbanks, and other wet areas.
Elevation: To about 5,500 feet.
Comments: Common Reed is considered a noxious weed in some places, and currently there is debate among desert ecologists
as to whether this species should be considered a native plant or an alien, invasive plant. It certainly is an invasive species that
grows in dense, monotypic stands and crowds out other wetland species.