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Reed Canary Grass

Phalaris arundinacea Linnaeus
Synonym: ribbon grass

Reed Canary Grass Reed Canary Grass
Michael Shephard, USDA Forest Service


Commodities Affected:
Aquatics Forestry and Natural Areas



Reed canary grass grows to 2-5 feet tall. The hairless stems have rough leaf blades 3-10 inches long.  The flowers occur in dense clusters and are green to purple, changing to beige and becoming more open as they mature. The plant spreads aggressively through a thick system of underground stems.  Widely planted for forage and erosion control, this grass has taken over large areas of both open and forested wetlands throughout Indiana. It forms monocultures by out-competing all the native wetland plant species. There may be native strains in the state; however, there is no reliable way to tell the native from the non-native strains.  Note: Plant with caution – plant only for forage and only in cases where extended flooding precludes using other species; do not allow seed to form on plants; do not plant for erosion control, wildlife habitat, or landscaping purposes.



In 100 Years of Change in the Distribution of Common Indiana Weeds by William and Edith Overlease (2002) reported that reed canary grass was not recorded in Indiana in 1899 (Coulter’s Catalogue of Indiana Plants) or in 1940 (Deam’s Flora). Dean noted that “reed canary grass is often used in cultivation and found as an escape in colonies along roadsides and in waste places.”  In 2002, Overlease noted that reed canary grass “escaped in ditches and locally spreading from plantings.”   Reed canary grass is found in all 92 counties in Indiana.