Reed (Phragmites australis)

Common ReedThe Reed is a large, tall, coarse perennial (comes back year after year) grass that grows to 3.5 meters (12 feet) tall and has long gray-green leaves about 4 centimeters (1 1/2 inch) wide and 1-2 feet long. It has large clusters of dark purple or brown flower branches in early summer. These rarely produce grain and become fluffy, gray masses late in the season.  Its roots are horizontal runners that put down roots at regular intervals.

The Reed commonly forms in extensive “reed beds” which may be 1/2 square mile or larger.

Where to Find: Reeds have purplish heads that appear gray/brown after covered in tiny hairsReed is common in alkaline habitats and tolerates brackish water well.  Look for reed in any open, wet area, especially one that has been disturbed through dredging. It can grown in damp ground, in standing water, or as a floating mat.  Reed is found throughout the temperate regions of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Edible Parts: All parts of the plant are edible raw or cooked in any season. Harvest the stems as they emerge from the soil and boil them (older plants may be tougher). You can also harvest them just before they produce flowers, then dry and beat them into flour. You can also dig up and boil the underground stems, but they are often tough. Seeds are edible raw or boiled, but they are rarely found.  The stalks excrete a manna-like gum which is also edible.

Spreading habitat of the reed (a reed bed)

Reed leaves

Reeds in Spring and Summer

Reeds in the Fall

Dead reeds in the winter

Color drawing of a Reed illustrating its various components

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