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Post by wannabemountainman on Mon 13 Jul 2009, 13:13

Phragmites australis -
(Cav.)Trin. ex Steud.

Common Reed

Author(Cav.)Trin. ex Steud.
Botanical references17, 200

SynonymsArundo phragmites - L.

Phragmites communis - Trin.

Phragmites vulgaris - (Lam.)Crépin.

Known HazardsNone known
RangeCosmopolitan, in most regions of the world, including Britain, but absent from the Amazon Basin.
HabitatShallow water and wet soil, avoiding extremely poor soils and very acid habitats[17].
Edibility Ratingapple iconapple iconapple iconapple iconapple icon 5 (1-5)
Medicinal Ratingapple iconapple icon 2 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

icon of man
icon of perennial/biennial/annual
Perennial growing to 3.6m by 3m at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from
July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The
flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are
pollinated by Wind.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils.
The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.
It requires moist or wet soil and can grow in water.
The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.


Pond; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Root; Seed; Stem.

Edible Uses: Sweetener.

Root - raw or cooked like potatoes[2, 13, 74, 102, 106, 183]. It
contains up to 5% sugar. The flavour and texture are best when the root
is young and still growing[144]. It can be dried, ground coarsely and
used as a porridge[12, 46, 62]. In Russia they are harvested and
processed into starch[269].
Young shoots - raw or cooked[61, 62, 102, 179]. They are best if used
before the leaves form, when they are really delicious[144]. They can
be used like bamboo shoots[183]. The partly unfolded leaves can be used
as a potherb and the Japanese dry young leaves, grind them into a
powder and mix them with cereal flour when making dumplings[183]. The
stems are reported to contain 4.8 g protein, 0.8 g fat, 90.0 g total
carbohydrate, 41.2 g fiber, and 4.4 g ash[269].
Seed - raw or cooked[257]. It can be ground into a powder and used as a
flour[57, 62, 102, 106]. The seed is rather small and difficult to
remove from the husk but it is said to be very nutritious[183].
A sugar is extracted from the stalks or wounded stems[2, 5, 62, 95]. A
sweet liquorice-like taste[95], it can be eaten raw or cooked[62]. The
stems can be boiled in water and then the water boiled off in order to
obtain the sugar[178]. A sugary gum that exudes from the stems can be
rolled into balls and eaten as sweets[183].
A powder extracted from the dried stems can be moistened and roasted
like marshmallow[62, 95, 102, 183].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants.
Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiasthmatic; Antidote; Antiemetic; Antitussive; Depurative; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Lithontripic; Refrigerant; Sialagogue; Stomachic; Styptic.

The leaves are used in the treatment of bronchitis and cholera, the ash
of the leaves is applied to foul sores[218].
A decoction of the flowers is used in the treatment of cholera and food
poisoning[218]. The ashes are styptic[218].
The stem is antidote, antiemetic, antipyretic and refrigerant[218].
The root is antiasthmatic, antiemetic, antipyretic, antitussive,
depurative, diuretic, febrifuge, lithontripic, sedative, sialogogue and
stomachic[147, 176, 218, 238]. It is taken internally in the treatment
of diarrhoea, fevers, vomiting, coughs with thick dark phlegm, lung
abscesses, urinary tract infections and food poisoning (especially from
sea foods)[238, 257]. Externally, it is mixed with gypsum and used to
treat halitosis and toothache[238]. The root is harvested in the autumn
and juiced or dried for use in decoctions[238].

Other Uses

Basketry; Biomass; Broom; Cork; Dye; Fibre; Fuel; Furniture; Insulation; Miscellany; Paper; Pencil; Soil stabilization; Thatching; Weaving.

The common reed can provide a large quantity of biomass and this is
used in a wide variety of ways as listed below. Annual yields of 40 -
63 tonnes per hectare have been reported[269]. The plant is also
converted into alcohol (for use as a fuel), is burnt as a fuel and is
made into fertilizer[238]. The plant is rich in pentosans and may be
used for the production of furfural - the nodes and sheaths yield 6.6%
whilst the underground parts over 13% of furfural[269]. The pentosan
content increases throughout the growing period and is maximum in the
mature reed[269]. The reed can be used also for the preparation of
absolute alcohol, feed yeast and lactic acid[269].
The stems are useful in the production of homogeneous boards[269]. They
can also be processed into a fine fibrous material suitable as a filler
in upholstery[269].
The stems have many uses. They are used for thatching roofs[1, 46, 74,
106]. It can last for 100 years[169]. The stems and leaves are also
used for building dwellings, lattices, fences, arrows by Indians, and
for weaving mats, carrying nets, basket making, insulation, fuel, as a
cork substitute etc[13, 74, 99, 102, 115, 257, 269].
The stem contains over 50 percent cellulose and is useful in the
manufacture of pulps for rayon and paper[269]. The fibre from the
leaves and stems is used for making paper[189]. The fibre is 0.8 - 3.0
mm long and 5.0 - 30.5µm in diameter. The stems and leaves are
harvested in the summer, cut into usable pieces and soaked for 24 hours
in clear water. They are then cooked for 2 hours with lye and beaten in
a blender. The fibre makes a khaki paper[189].
A fibre obtained from the plant is used for making string[95, 106]. The
flowering stalks yield a fibre suitable for rope making[269].
The leaves are used in basket making and for weaving mats etc[169,
A light green dye is obtained from the flowers[6, 115].
Freshly cut shoots are a good green manure[74] (Does this man as a soil
mulch?[K]). The inflorescences are used as brooms[74].
The plant can be used as a cork substitute[74]. No further details.
The plant is mixed with mud to make a plaster for walls[145].
Pens for writing on parchment were cut and fashioned from the thin
stems of this reed[269], whilst the stems were also used as a linear
measuring device[269].
The plant has a very vigorous and running rootstock, it is useful for
binding the soil along the sides of streams etc[115]. It is planted for
flood control since it stablizes the banks and gradually builds up soil
depth, thus raising the level of the bank.

Cultivation details

A very easily grown plant that thrives in deep moisture retentive soils
such as marshes and swamps, whilst it also grows well along the sides
of streams, lakes and ponds, in shallow water, ditches and wet
wastelands[162, 200, 269]. Plants are tolerant of moderately saline
water[169, 269]. The plant is reported to tolerate an annual
precipitation in the range of 31 to 241cm, an annual temperature in the
range of 6.6 to 26.6°C and a pH of 4.8 to 8.2[269].
Plants are hardy to about -20°c[200]. This species is very fast growing
with a very vigorous and invasive running rootstock that can be 10
metres or more long, it can form very large stands in wetlands[200,
238, 260]. Difficult to eradicate once established, it is unsuitable
for planting into small spaces[200, 238, 269].
The flowering heads are often used in dried flower arrangements[238].
There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value[238].


Seed - surface sow in spring in a light position. Keep the soil moist
by emmersing the pot in 3cm of water. Germination usually takes place
quite quickly. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they
are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer.
Division in spring. Very simple, any part of the root that has a growth
bud will grow into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out
direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better
to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a
cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in
late spring or early summer.

Your Bic Lighter and your pocket knife...Don't leave home without 'em!

“Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival.” W. Edwards Deming

Posts : 433
Join date : 2009-07-12
Age : 70
Location : M'boro UK

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