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Reed canary grass

Quick facts

Reed canary grass is an invasive species. 

  • Reed canary grass can out-compete many native species and can present challenges to wetland management and restoration.

  • It is capable of forming large stands that will produce a second growth spurt in the fall if cut during the growing season.

Reed canary grass should be reported. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides detailed recommendations for reporting invasive species.

How to identify reed canary grass

  • Perennial cool season grass that grows two to six feet high.
  • Prefers moist soils such as ditches, stream banks and wetlands, but can also grow in upland areas.

Stem

  • Hairless, hollow, smooth, rounded.

Leaves

  • Rough texture, one fourth to one third inches wide, gradually tapering, up to ten inches long.
  • Prominent, highly transparent membrane at junction of leaf sheath and blade (called a “ligule”). This is how to tell the difference between reed canary grass and native bluejoint grass.
Reed canary grass

Flowers

  • Three to sixteen inch seed heads are green to purple when in bloom and change to a beige-tan color over time.
  • Typically bloom May to mid-June.

Seeds

  • Shiny brown in color, are immediately capable of germination at maturity.

Roots

  • Forms fibrous root mass at rhizome nodes.
  • Spreads via rhizome, which is a buried plant stem that sends out roots and shoots.

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

Reviewed in 2019

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