The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Phalaris arundinacea
Phalaris arundinacea
(reed canarygrass)

Copyright Info
Phalaris arundinacea L.

Common name: reed canarygrass

Synonyms and Other Names: Reed canarygrass, canary grass, ribbon grass, gardener’s garters, speargrass, Phalaroides arundinacea (L.), Typhoides arundinacea, Phalaroides arundinacea spp. japonica (Steud.) Tzvelv, Phalaroides arundinacea var. picta (L.) Tzvelev

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Morphology varies based on the characteristics of the habitat it is found it (Kurtz and Hansen 2014). General characteristics include large, coarse grass with an erect, hairless stem and gradually tapering leaf blades. Blades are flat and have a rough texture on both surfaces. The lead ligule is membranous and long. The compact panicles are erect or slightly spreading (depending on the plant's reproductive stage), and range from 7 to 40 centimeters long with branches from 5 to 30 centimeters in length. Single flowers occur in dense clusters in May to mid-June. Flowers are green to purple at first and change to beige over time. This grass is one of the first to sprout in spring, and forms a thick rhizome system that dominates the subsurface soil. Seeds are shiny brown in color (WI DNR 2009).

Size: Ranges from 0.6 to 2.8 meters in height. Leaf blades are 8 to 25 centimeters long and 65 to 190 mm in width.

Native Range: Phalaris arundinacea is a circumboreal species (Larson 1993). In North America, this species is common throughout most of southern Alaska and Canada, as well as all but the southeastern portion of the U.S. (Hitchcock et al. 1969). There is both confusion and controversy surrounding the native range of reed canarygrass in North America (Waggy 2010). This species has both native and introduced populations in close proximity since it is both native to North America and has had European transplants cultivated for agricultural use (Waggy 2010). In general, Phalaris arundinacea is treated as a native species in North America (Waggy 2010) and in the Great Lakes region with gene influence from non-indigenous populations (Huffman et al. 1986, Reuter 1986, Howe 2000, Maurer et al. 2003, Czarapata 2005).

Its native range has been hard to decipher until recently when DNA samples confirmed the presence of distinct populations present in North America that are not present in Europe or Asia (Jakubowski et al. 2013). Jakubowski et al. (2013) solidified Phalaris arundinacea as a native to North America from Alaska through New Brunswick, Canada.

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Phalaris arundinacea are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AK2000201923Admiralty Island; Anchorage; Baranof Island; Bradfield Canal; Burroughs Bay; Chichagof Island; Chilkat-Skagway Rivers; Eastern Prince William Sound; Etolin-Zarembo-Wrangell Islands; Glacier Bay; Headwaters Portland Canal; Holkham Bay; Ketchikan; Kuiu-Kupreanof-Mitkof Islands; Lower Copper River; Lower Kenai Peninsula; Lynn Canal; Matanuska; Palma Bay; Prince of Wales; Stikine River; Upper Kenai Peninsula; Yakutat Bay-Gulf of Alaska
AZ196719812Upper Salt; Upper Verde
CA195120154Crowley Lake; Lake Tahoe; Middle Fork Eel; Middle Fork Feather
CO189320046Cache La Poudre; Clear; Mancos; Middle South Platte-Cherry Creek; Middle South Platte-Sterling; Tomichi
CT187720138Farmington River; Housatonic; Outlet Connecticut River; Quinebaug River; Quinnipiac; Saugatuck; Shetucket River; Thames
DE201020114Brandywine-Christina; Broadkill-Smyrna; Choptank; Nanticoke
DC189619891Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
ID1900201312American Falls; Lower Boise; Middle Salmon-Panther; Middle Snake-Succor; North and Middle Forks Boise; Palouse; Pend Oreille Lake; Priest; South Fork Clearwater; South Fork Coeur d'Alene; Teton; Upper Snake-Rock
IL1932201811Big Muddy; Cache; Des Plaines; Kankakee; Lower Ohio-Bay; Rock; Saline; Upper Fox; Upper Illinois; Upper Mississippi Region; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau
IN1911201613Blue-Sinking; Chicago; Kankakee; Little Calumet-Galien; Lower East Fork White; Middle Wabash-Little Vermilion; Muscatatuck; Patoka; St. Joseph; St. Joseph; St. Marys; Tippecanoe; Upper Wabash
IA201120112Apple-Plum; South Skunk
ME195120064Lower Kennebec River; Maine Coastal; Piscataqua-Salmon Falls; Presumpscot
MD1915201711Chester-Sassafras; Choptank; Conococheague-Opequon; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Nanticoke; Patuxent; Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva; Severn; Youghiogheny
MA191320095Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Cape Cod; Charles; Chicopee River; Merrimack River
MI1838201963Au Gres-Rifle; Au Sable; Betsie-Platte; Betsy-Chocolay; Black; Black-Macatawa; Black-Presque Isle; Boardman-Charlevoix; Brule; Carp-Pine; Cedar-Ford; Cheboygan; Clinton; Dead-Kelsey; Detroit; Escanaba; Fishdam-Sturgeon; Flint; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Kalamazoo; Kawkawlin-Pine; Keweenaw Peninsula; Lake Erie; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake St. Clair; Lake Superior; Little Calumet-Galien; Lone Lake-Ocqueoc; Lower Grand; Manistee; Manistique River; Menominee; Michigamme; Millecoquins Lake-Brevoort River; Muskegon; Northeastern Lake Michigan; Northwestern Lake Huron; Ontonagon; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pigeon-Wiscoggin; Pine; Raisin; Saginaw; Saginaw; Shiawassee; Southcentral Lake Superior; Southeastern Lake Michigan; Southwestern Lake Huron; St. Clair; St. Clair-Detroit; St. Joseph; St. Marys; Sturgeon; Tacoosh-Whitefish; Tahquamenon; Thornapple; Thunder Bay; Tittabawassee; Upper Grand; Waiska
MN1884201877Baptism-Brule; Beartrap-Nemadji; Beaver-Lester; Big Fork; Blue Earth; Bois De Sioux; Buffalo; Buffalo-Whitewater; Cannon; Chippewa; Clearwater; Clearwater-Elk; Cloquet; Coon-Yellow; Cottonwood; Crow; Crow Wing; Des Moines Headwaters; East Fork Des Moines; Eastern Wild Rice; Elk-Nokasippi; Elm-Marsh; Hawk-Yellow Medicine; Kettle; La Crosse-Pine; Lac Qui Parle; Lake of the Woods; Lake Superior; Le Sueur; Leech Lake; Little Fork; Little Sioux; Long Prairie; Lower Big Sioux; Lower Minnesota; Lower Rainy; Lower St. Croix; Middle Minnesota; Middle Red; Mississippi Headwaters; Mustinka; Otter Tail; Pine; Platte-Spunk; Pomme De Terre; Prairie-Willow; Rainy Headwaters; Rainy Lake; Rapid; Red Lake; Red Lakes; Redeye; Redwood; Rock; Root; Roseau; Rum; Rush-Vermillion; Sandhill-Wilson; Sauk; Shell Rock; Snake; Snake; South Fork Crow; St. Louis; Thief; Twin Cities; Two Rivers; Upper Cedar; Upper Des Moines; Upper Iowa; Upper Minnesota; Upper Red; Upper St. Croix; Vermilion; Watonwan; Zumbro
MO193120182South Fork Salt; Tarkio-Wolf
MT196320187Bitterroot; Flathead Lake; Lower Yellowstone-Sunday; North Fork Flathead; South Fork Flathead; Stillwater; Swan
NE189119744Lower Niobrara; Middle Platte-Buffalo; Pumpkin; Upper Middle Loup
NV198020188Goose; Long-Ruby Valleys; Smoke Creek Desert; Truckee; Upper Carson; Upper Owyhee; Upper Quinn; Warner Lakes
NH191620087Ammonoosuc River-Connecticut River; Headwaters Connecticut River; Lower Androscoggin River; Merrimack River; Pemigewasset River; Saco River; Waits River-Connecticut River
NJ188920047Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Delaware; Lower Hudson; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Mullica-Toms; Raritan; Rondout
NY1879201528Black; Bronx; Buffalo-Eighteenmile; Chaumont-Perch; Chemung; Chenango; Grass; Hudson-Wappinger; Irondequoit-Ninemile; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Lower Hudson; Mohawk; Northern Long Island; Oak Orchard-Twelvemile; Oneida; Oswegatchie; Owego-Wappasening; Salmon-Sandy; Saranac River; Saugatuck; Seneca; Southern Long Island; Southwestern Lake Ontario; St. Lawrence; Upper Allegheny; Upper Genesee; Upper Hudson
NC201920192Hiwassee; Lower Little Tennessee
ND190619062Devils Lake; Lower Souris
OH2006202221Ashtabula-Chagrin; Auglaize; Black-Rocky; Blanchard; Cedar-Portage; Cuyahoga; Grand; Hocking; Huron-Vermilion; Lake Erie; Little Scioto-Tygarts; Lower Maumee; Mahoning; Mohican; Raccoon-Symmes; Sandusky; Shenango; Tiffin; Tuscarawas; Upper Scioto; Upper Wabash
OR1897201938Alsea; Beaver-South Fork; Clackamas; Donner und Blitzen; Goose Lake; Illinois; Lake Abert; Little Deschutes; Lost; Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Lower Columbia-Sandy; Lower Grande Ronde; Lower John Day; Mckenzie; Middle Fork John Day; Middle Fork Willamette; Middle Owyhee; Middle Snake-Succor; North Santiam; North Umpqua; Siletz-Yaquina; Siltcoos; Silvies; Siuslaw; South Santiam; South Umpqua; Sprague; Umpqua; Upper Deschutes; Upper John Day; Upper Klamath; Upper Klamath Lake; Upper Malheur; Upper Willamette; Wallowa; Warner Lakes; Williamson; Wilson-Trusk-Nestuccu
PA1861201812Brandywine-Christina; Clarion; French; Kiskiminetas; Lake Erie; Lower Delaware; Lower Susquehanna; Middle Allegheny-Tionesta; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Schuylkill; Upper Allegheny
RI190719362Blackstone River; Narragansett
SD189219703Middle Cheyenne-Spring; Redwater; Upper James
UT1894200910Bear Lake; Beaver Bottoms-Upper Beaver; East Fork Sevier; Fremont; Little Bear-Logan; Lower Dolores; Lower Weber; Provo; Upper Bear; Utah Lake
VT187820076Black River-Connecticut River; Headwaters Connecticut River; Hudson-Hoosic; Lake Champlain; Passumpsic River; St. Francois River
VA189719373Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Rapidan-Upper Rappahannock
WA1897201959Banks Lake; Chief Joseph; Colville; Crescent-Hoko; Deschutes; Dungeness-Elwha; Duwamish; Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake; Grays Harbor; Hoh-Quillayute; Hood Canal; Kettle; Lake Chelan; Lake Washington; Lewis; Little Spokane; Lower Chehalis; Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Lower Columbia-Sandy; Lower Cowlitz; Lower Crab; Lower Skagit; Lower Snake-Tucannon; Lower Spokane; Lower Yakima; Methow; Middle Columbia-Hood; Middle Columbia-Lake Wallula; Naches; Nisqually; Nooksack; Okanogan; Palouse; Pend Oreille; Puget Sound; Puyallup; Queets-Quinault; Rock; San Juan Islands; Sanpoil; Sauk; Similkameen; Skokomish; Skykomish; Snohomish; Snoqualmie; Stillaguamish; Strait of Georgia; Upper Chehalis; Upper Columbia-Entiat; Upper Columbia-Priest Rapids; Upper Cowlitz; Upper Crab; Upper Skagit; Upper Spokane; Upper Yakima; Walla Walla; Wenatchee; Willapa Bay
WV200420165Cheat; Gauley; Greenbrier; South Branch Potomac; Tygart Valley
WI1938201939Bad-Montreal; Beartrap-Nemadji; Black; Black-Presque Isle; Brule; Castle Rock; Door-Kewaunee; Duck-Pensaukee; Flambeau; Fox; Jump; Kickapoo; La Crosse-Pine; Lake Dubay; Lake Michigan; Lake Superior; Lake Winnebago; Lower Chippewa; Lower Fox; Lower St. Croix; Lower Wisconsin; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Menominee; Milwaukee; Namekagon; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Oconto; Peshtigo; Pike-Root; Red Cedar; South Fork Flambeau; St. Louis; Upper Chippewa; Upper Fox; Upper Fox; Upper Rock; Upper St. Croix; Upper Wisconsin; Wolf
WY189620166Big Horn Lake; Greys-Hoback; North Fork Shoshone; Redwater; Upper Laramie; Upper Tongue

Table last updated 7/20/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Phalaris arundinacea grows in saturated or nearly saturated soils but not where standing water persists for extended periods of time. While it doesn’t originally establish in areas inundated with water, Phalaris arundinacea can tolerate periods of inundation once established (Weinmann et al. 1984). Phalaris arundinacea occurs in many wetland communities including wet meadows, prairie potholes, marshes, riparian areas, and peatlands (Waggy 2010).

Reed canarygrass spreads quickly by rhizomes (Hitchcock 1951) which originate below ground. They begin growing in early spring (April) and decline in mid-August (Hutchinson 1992). Large quantities of pollen are produced for wind pollination (Merigliano and Lesica 1998) and flowering increases throughout the season and with longer daylight hours. Seed dispersal is passive and does form a soil seed bank (Preuninger and Umbanhower 1994); seeds remain viable in the soil for more than one year (Leck 1996).

Means of Introduction: Human activity best explains the range expansion of Phalaris arundinacea in North America. It has been cultivated for use as hay and for forage for livestock (Hitchcock 1951). It has been extensively cultivated and is considered good forage for livestock, particularly cattle but its ability to survive under continuous grazing is questionable (Kilbride and Paveglio 1999). Reed canarygrass can be used for erosion control, shoreline stabilization, and pollutant filtration (Marten 1985). In the past, it has been recommended for revegetation of disturbed sites (e.g. pipeline corridors (Cody et al. 2000), firelines (Bolstad 1971), and recently burned sites (Slinkard et al. 1970)). Future use in revegetation projects will likely be reconsidered since reed canarygrass can dominate a site and almost all populations have some nonnative genes (Howe 1999). This species has extended its native range throughout North America by taking advantage of disturbed wetland habitats (Zedler and Kercher 2004). Once Phalaris arundinacea invades, it establishes dense, single species stands that pose a threat to wetlands since it grows so quickly that competing species are inhibited and eliminated (Apfelbaum and Sams 1987).

Status: Established. Phalaris arundinacea spreads by seed, stem fragments, and rhizomes making this species extremely difficult to contain. In established areas, abundance of Phalaris arundinacea increases as abundance and biodiversity of native species decreases.

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...


Phalaris arundinacea outcompetes and displaces native plants, including endangered species, and often forms dense stands, becoming the most abundant plant species (Barnes 1999; Lavergne and Molofsky 2004; Lesica 1997; Mulhouse and Galatowitsch 2003; Padgett and Crow 1994). These dense, monotypic stands often cause sediment deposition (Hodgson 1968; Werner and Zedler 2002). The stands also provide food and habitat to native animals (Holzer and Lawler 2015; Semere and Slater 2007) and have been used to feed livestock and horses (Hodgson 1968). Substrate in areas dominated by the species often have a change in microbial and fungi masses (Tavi et al 2010) and have a lower insect diversity (Hansen and Castelle 1999; Lavergne and Molofsky 2004). Species diversity in beaver dams is also lower in P. arundinacea dominated areas (Perkins and Wilson 2005). Dense, floating mats of P. arundinacea can clog water ways with its dense, floating mats (Lefor 1987), and through sediment deposition (Hodgson 1968).

References: (click for full references)

Anderson, H. 2012. Invasive reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea subsp. Arundinacea) Best management practices in Ontario. Ontario Invasive Plant Council, Peterborough, Ontario.

Annen, C.A., R.W. Tyser, and E.M. Kirsch. 2005. Effects of a selective herbicide, sethoxydim, on reed canary grass. Ecological Restoration 23(2): 99-102.

Apfelbaum, S.I., and C.E. Sams. 1987. Ecology and control of reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinaces L.) Applied Ecological Services, Brodhead, Wisconsin.

Bahm, M.A., T.G. Barnes, and K.C. Jensen. 2014. Evaluation of herbicides for control of reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea). Natural Areas Journal 34: 459-464.

Barnes, W.J. 1999. The rapid growth of a population of reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.) and its impact on some riverbottom herbs. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 126(2):133-138. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2997289.

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Cody, W.J., K.L. MacInnes, J. Cayoutte, and S. Darbyshire. 2000. Alien and invasive native vascular plants along the Norman Wells Pipeline Project, District of Mackenzie, Northwest Territories. The Canadian Field Naturalist 114: 126-137.

Comes, R.D., L.Y. Marquis, and A.D. Kelley. 1981. Response of seedlings of three perennial grasses to dalapon, amitorle, and glyphosate. Weed Science 29(5): 629-621.

Czarapata, E.J. 2005. Invasive plants of the Upper Midwest: An illustrated guide to their identification and control. The University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, Wisconsin.

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Galatowitsch, S.M., N.O. Anderson, and P.D. Ascher. 1999. Invasiveness in wetland plants in temperate North America. Wetlands 19(4): 733-755.

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Herr-Turoff, A., and J.B. Zedler. 2005. Does wet prairie vegetation retain more nitrogen with or without Phalaris arundinacea invasion? Plant and Soil 277: 19-34.

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Author: Sturtevant, R., K. Dettloff, W. Conard, and Cayla Morningstar

Revision Date: 1/17/2024

Citation Information:
Sturtevant, R., K. Dettloff, W. Conard, and Cayla Morningstar, 2024, Phalaris arundinacea L.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=2938, Revision Date: 1/17/2024, Access Date: 7/20/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/20/2024].

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