Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea)


Appearance: Perennial coarse cool season grass that grows 2 - 6' high. It had been especially selected for its vigor, and is one of the first to sprout in spring. Erect hairless stems.

Leaf blades: 1⁄4"-1⁄3" wide, gradually tapering, up to 10" long. It has a highly transparent ligule (a membrane where blade and sheath meet) which distinguishes it from the native bluejoint grass.

Flowers: Densely clustered single florets, green to purple changing to beige over time, blooms May to mid-June.

Roots: Reproduces vegetatively through horizontal stems growing below the soil surface, called rhizomes, creating a thick impenetrable mat at or directly below the soil surface.

Ecological Threat:

  • Reed canary is a major threat to natural wetlands. It out competes most native species.
  • It presents a major challenge in wetland mitigation efforts.
  • It forms large, single-species stands, with which other species cannot compete.
  • If cut during the growing season a second growth spurt occurs in the fall.
  • Invasion is associated with disturbances, such as ditch building, stream channeling sedimentation and intentional planting.
  • This Eurasian species has been planted throughout the U.S. since the 1800s for forage and erosion control. While many Minnesota state agencies have removed it from their planting lists, it is still being planted in the state.


Control Methods:


  • Consecutive annual burns spring or fall
  • Mowing mid-June and October to reduce seed and encourage native species
  • Frequent cultivation followed by fall seeding


  • Application of glyphosate (Rodeo)
  • Preliminary research indicates that fall chemical application may be most effective
C. Reinhardt and S. Galatowitsch. 2000. Best management practices for minimizing reed canary grass prior to wetland restoration. Final report to Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District and Minnesota Dept. of Transportation. Dec. 5, 2000. 40 pp.


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources