Chesapeake Bay Introduced Species Database

Phragmites australis

Common name(s):
Common Reed
Image courtesy of Hitchcock and Chase 1950, U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Phragmites australis


Phragmites communis; Phragmites vulgaris; Phragmites phragmites; Phragmites berlanderi; Arundo phragmites; Arundo panicula laxa

Potentially Misidentified As:

Arundo donax; Saccharum gianteum

Common Names:

Common Reed


Phragmites australis is a complex species, varying greatly over its worldwide range, and locally, in chromosome number, in individual alleles, and in morphology (Gervais et al. 1993; Haslam 1972; Hauber et al. 1991; Tucker 1990; Ward et al. 2010; Guo et al. 2013). As a species, P. australis is native to North America, but rapidly expanding, invasive populations in the eastern United States have long been suspected as possible introduced genotypes. Analysis of chloroplast DNA sequences of living plants has confirmed this suspicion. According to this analysis, at least 11 haplotypes of P. australis are native to North America (Saltonstall 2002a), and at least 5 are native to Northeastern North America (Saltonstall 2002b). Native North Amewrican forms are now recognized as P. australis spp. americanus (Saltonstall et al. 2004). tHowever, Haplotype M, the dominant type in Eurasia and North Africa, appears to have been introduced to North America in the 19th century, and now dominates populations of P. australis from Nova Scotia to South Carolina (Saltonstall 2002a). In recent samples from the Atlantic Coast between ME and SC, native haplotypes (F and Z) were found at many scattered locations (Saltonstall et al. 2002; Meadows and Saltonstall 2007). Eleven Chesapeake Bay samples, from locations ranging from the upper Bay to the mouth and adjacent Atlantic, were haplotype M (Saltonstall 2002b). This introduced haplotype is now the predominant form of P. australis in the Chesapeake Bay region. Preliminary observations indicate that native and introduced haplotypes can be distinguished visually. However, these distinctions have not yet been developed for all the North American haplotypes (Blossey 2002).

Additonal introduced forms of P. australis have been found in North America. Meyerson et al. (2013) identified stands of Haplotype L, from northern Europe, in Quebec, and populations on the Gulf Coast have recognized as Haplotype I, or 'Med', introduced from the Mediterranean and Africa (Saltonstall et al. 2002; Lambertinit et al. 2006; Guo et al. 2013).

Species Names - The first valid species description was from Australia- the name Phragmites australis took precedence over the widely used name Phragmites communis. Some of the many genetic forms of P, australis show the characterisitcs of separate species, including differences in chromosome numbers, and low rates or an absence of hybridization (Saltonstall et al. 2004; Meyerson et al. 2010; Ward 2010;). It is likely that many of these forms will be given full species status in the future.

Potentially Misidentified Species - Arundo donax (Giant Reed) is introduced and local in uplands and nontidal wetlands, Saccharum giganteum (=Erianthus giganteus, Giant Plumegrass, Sugarcane Plumegrass) is native, in nontidal wetlands and uplands.

This data was last modified on Thursday, May 1st, 2014.
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