Family:     Poaceae (Grass family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     1- 4 m (3-13 ft)

Blooming: June-Sept.


European Common Reed

Phragmites australis subspecies australis

(Cav.) Trin. ex Steaud

Stem: unbranched, rough, green to yellowish tan, and thick with hollow internodes. Unlike the native common reed, the color is not shiny..

Flowers: large flower heads can reach up to 38 cm (15 in) tall with purplish brown spikelets.  

Leaves: alternately arranged along the stem. They are mostly smooth and blue-green.  

If you have Phragmites on your property, please refer to this wonderful booklet published by the Michigan Coastal Zone Management.

Comments: Sometimes described as a subspecies australis, with a lineage derived from Euro-Asia.  The native common reed is described by some as subspecies americanus.  To read more about how to differentiate the two subspecies, check out Michigan State's pamphlet here.


It is possibly the worst invasive plant in Northwest Indiana's wetland areas suffocating out any native species through its mat of underground stems and giant stature.   

It also contains in its rhizomes (underground stems) the pyschedelic alkaloids, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT).

Etymology: The epithet, australis, is Latin for "of the south of". The genus Phragmites is derived from two Greek words, phragma and -ites, which mean "hedge" and "resembling".


all photos by Nathanael Pilla

Grigor’eva, A.V. et al. 2013. N-[2-(5-Hydroxy-1H-indol-3-yl) ethyl]-p-coumaramide from Phragmites australis. Chemistry of Natural Compounds, 48(6): 1117-1118.

Saltonstall, K., P.M. Peterson, and R.J. Soreng. 2004. Recognition of Phragmites australis subsp. americanus (Poaceae: Arundinoideae) in North America: evidence from morphological and genetic analyses. SIDA, Contributions to Botany 21(2): 683-692.

Species Present and Exotic
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The mission of Save the Dunes is to preserve, protect and restore the Indiana dunes and all natural resources in Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan Watershed for an enhanced quality of life.

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