Phragmites americanus (Saltonstall, P.M. Peterson, & Soreng) A. Haines

American reed

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

American reed is the native close relative to the invasive common reed (Phragmites australis). Until recently these two taxa were not distinguished, and efforts to eradicate the common reed may have impacted populations of the less common American reed. However, they are relatively easy to distinguish, and genetic studies confirm these morphological differences. The most apparent distinguishing field character is that the middle and upper stem internodes of American reed are smooth, shiny and red-brown to dark red-brown during the growing season. In common reed by contrast, the middle to upper stem internodes are dull, ridged, and tan-colored during the growing season.

Habitat

Brackish or salt marshes and flats, fens, fresh tidal marshes or flats, shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
20–40 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
12–18 mm
Glume relative length
neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
Awn on glume
  • the glume has an awn
  • the glume has no awn
One or more florets
there is more than one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
1–1.7 mm
Anther length
1.5–2 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    1.5–2 mm
    Anther number
    3
    Awn on glume
    • the glume has an awn
    • the glume has no awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    2–8
    Floret types within spikelet
    there are at least two distinct forms of florets within one spikelet
    Glume relative length
    neither glume is quite as long as all of the florets
    Glume veins
    • 1
    • 3
    Glumes per spikelet
    2
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the spikelets are uniform
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    • the inflorescence axis is arched or curved outward
    • the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branches
    the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
    Inflorescence crowding
    • the panicle is somewhat to very congested (crowded), and the branches may not be clearly seen without close inspection
    • the panicle is somewhat to very spread out, with clearly-evident branches
    Inflorescence length
    150–350 mm
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the spikelets are borne on stalks or on branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence is branched, and the branches do NOT both grow from the same side of the plant AND look like spikes
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    NA
    Lemma awn coiled
    NA
    Lemma awn length
    0 mm
    Lemma awn number
    the lemma has no awn
    Lemma base hair length
    6–12 mm
    Lemma base hairs
    the lemma has hairs at the base
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    the lemma is hairless between the veins
    Lemma keel hairs
    the keel of the lemma is hairless
    Lemma marginal vein hairs
    the marginal vein of the lemma is hairless
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma tip
    the lemma tip is a simple point, with or without an awn (long narrow extension ending in a point)
    Lemma vein number
    3
    Lower glume length
    3–6.5 mm
    One or more florets
    there is more than one floret per spikelet
    Reproductive system
    some flowers on the plant have both carpels and stamens, while other flowers have only one type of reproductive organ (polygamous)
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is no extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet length
    12–18 mm
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Upper glume length
    3–6.5 mm
    Upper glume shape
    the upper glume is widest at or below the middle
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizomes
    yes
    Roots
    the plant has rhizomes (horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Basal leaves
    the plant has few or no leaves coming from the base of the flowering stem
    Leaf auricles
    • the leaves do not have auricles
    • the leaves have auricles
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section, or slightly folded or rolled inwards
    Leaf blade width
    20–40 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    1–1.7 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane with fine hairs
    Leaf margin glands
    there are no glands along the edges of the leaf blade
    Leaf sheath closed around stem
    the margins of the leaf sheath are overlapping and not fused together except in the basal half (or less)
    Leaf sheath hair type
    there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
  • Place
    Habitat
    wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • brackish or salt marshes and flats
    • fens
    • fresh tidal marshes or flats
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow singly or a few together (they may form diffuse colonies)

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Connecticut
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), special concern (code: SC)
New Hampshire
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), endangered (code: E)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Phragmites australis

Synonyms

  • Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. ssp. americanus Saltonstall, P.M. Peterson, & Soreng

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Phragmites

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Phragmites americanus (Saltonstall, P.M. Peterson, & Soreng) A. Haines NC

American reed. Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. ssp. americanus Saltonstall, 
P.M. Peterson, & Soreng • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Tidal river shores, fens, lake shores.