Common Reed - Phragmites australis

Alternative names

The Common Reed forms large beds; it has round, hollow stems, which typically grow to 2 metres in height, but may reach 4 metres. These stems grow from a system of stout, creeping rhizomes. The flat leaves taper into a point, and are attached to the stem by smooth sheaths, which are loose so that the leaves all point in one direction in the wind. The flowers are borne on highly branching purple inflorescences, which measure from 20 to 60 cm in length. The flowers are grouped into 'spikelets', which are 10-15 mm in length and support 1 to 6 flowers.

Identification difficulty
ID guidance

The ligule is a fringe of hairs


On mud or in shallow water; it is found in swamps and fens, ditches, at the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers as well as in coastal lagoons, brackish swamps and estuaries.

When to see it

Flowering August to October.

Life History


UK Status

Widespread and common in Britain.

VC55 Status

It is quite frequent in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 102 of the 617 tetrads.

Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map