Reed Canarygrass

Phalaris arundinacea

Family Poaceae | Class C Noxious Weed

Reed canarygrass (RCG) is a rhizomatous, sod forming, cool-season (C3), long-lived perennial grass in the Poaceae Family. Cool season (C3) grasses, grow well as long as temperatures are mild, but their photosynthesis becomes inefficient at high temperatures. RCG produces dense crowns, prominent networks of rhizomes, and monotypic stands that currently dominate portions of many riparian areas in the Hood Canal. RCG is widespread throughout most of North America including Washington State (King County, 2015; Roche et al., 2019; Lavergne & Molofsky, 2006; Miller, Martin, & MacConnell, 2008; Roche et al., 2019).

Native to temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere, RCG is widely distributed throughout Eurasia.  Not completely nonnative to North America.  A few wild populations predate European settlements in North America, but these populations were not considered aggressive.  Exotic and native forms occur in North America, however there is no reliable way to tell the difference between native and introduced populations (Lavergne & Molofsky, 2004; Roche et al., 2019; King County, 2015).

Most strains of RCG commonly encountered in North America act as a typical invasive plant and are thought to have originated as cultivars bred for high productivity and stress tolerance, or as hybrids between native genotypes and those cultivars. Non-native European cultivars were introduced into the Pacific Northwest shortly after 1850 for hay and forage and continued to be introduced for uses including: perennial cover for permanent pastures, soil stabilization along stream banks and shorelines, erosion control, wastewater treatment and biomass production (Hovick & Reinartz, 2007; Lavergne & Molofsky, 2006; King County, 2015; Lavergne & Molofsky, 2004).

Works Cited

Hovick, S. M., & Reinartz, J. A. (2007). RESTORING FOREST IN WETLANDS DOMINATED BY REED CANARYGRASS: THE EFFECTS OF PRE-PLANTING TREATMENTS ON EARLY SURVIVAL OF PLANTED STOCK. The Society of Wetland Scientists, 27(1), 24-39. Retrieved November 23, 2020.

King County. (2015, February). King County Noxious Weed Control Program Best Management Practices: Reed Canarygrass. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from

Lavergne, S.; Molofsky, J. (2006). Control Strategies for the Invasive Reed Canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L) in North American Wetlands: The Need for an Integrated Management Plan. Natural Areas Journal, 26(2), 208-214. Retrieved November 20, 2020, from

Lavergne, S., & Molofsky, J. (2004). Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) as a Biological Model in the Study of Plant Invasions. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 23(5), 415-429. Retrieved November 23, 2020.

Miller, T. W., Martin, L. P., & MacConnell, C. B. (2008). Managing Reed Canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) to Aid in Revegetation of Riparian Buffers. Weed Science Society of America, 22(3), 507-513. Retrieved November 20, 2020, from

PNW Weed Management Handbook. Reed Canarygrass – Phalaris arundinacea. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from

Roche C. T., Brainerd R. E., Wilson B. L., Otting N., Korfhage R. C. (2019). Field Guide to the Grasses of Oregon and Washington. Oregon State University Press.  Corvallis, OR. 

Waggy, Melissa, A. 2010. Phalaris arundinacea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: /database/feis/plants/graminoid/phaaru/all.html [2020, December 18].

WA State Noxious Weed Control Board. Reed Canarygrass-Phalaris arundinacea. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from