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European common reed

Quick facts

European common reed is a restricted noxious weed. Importation, sale, and transportation of plants is prohibited. 

  • European common reed can form dense stands that displace native common reed and other wetland plant species, reduce habitat quality for fish and wildlife, and alter ecosystem functioning and hydrology. 
  • European common reed is a "cryptic invader" in Minnesota since the native subspecies is widespread throughout the state and the non-native subspecies is easily confused with it. 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture monitors this invasive species. Please report it at Arrest the Pest.

How to identify European common reed

  • European common weed (Phragmites australis subsp. australis) is a perennial grass with large flower heads (inflorescences) reaching heights of up to 20 feet. 


  • Cane-like stems.
  • Dull, hollow, tan and ridged. 


  • Deep green leaves up to 20 inches long and one half to one and one half inches wide.
  • Membrane at junction of leaf sheath and blade (called a "ligule") is less than one millimeter. 
  • Sheathes tightly adhere to stem and remain attached through winter. 


  • Dense, feathery seed heads up to 16 inches long.
  • Green to purple when in bloom and change to tan-gold over time. 


  • Grayish in color, covered in fine silky hairs.
  • Each flowering stalk produces thousands of seeds. 


  • Produces rhizomes that can reach lengths of up to 60 feet and depths of six feet and allow for vegetative reproduction. 
  • Also capable of spreading via stolons. 
European common reed
European common reed


Angela Gupta, Extension educator; Amy Rager, Extension educator; Megan M. Weber, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2019

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