Phragmites australis


Also known as:

Common reed

Family: Poaceae

Origin: Cosmopolitan

Close up of phragmites flowers.
Can be confused as a bamboo species and grass stems are rigid and erect like bamboo. New plants can grow from small fragments being released to the environment.
Photo credit: Paul Champion, NIWA

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Notifiable organism

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Erect, tufted, rhizomatous perennial grass < 4 m tall. Stems are rigid and bamboo-like. Leaves are long, wide, flat, < 60 cm long, alternate, rigid and tapering to a point. Flowers are borne in brown/purple, feathery, drooping inflorescences < 50 cm long. Seeds are covered in silky hairs.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell phragmites. As phragmites is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.

If you see phragmites anywhere, you must report it to the Ministry of Primary Industries on 0800 80 99 66.


Freshwater and brackish water body margins, coastal areas, wetlands.


Seeds dispersed by wind and water. Vegetative spread from rhizomes and stem fragments. Human-mediated dispersal through deliberate plantings and movement of contaminated soil and machinery.

Impact on environment

Forms dense infestations, displacing native vegetation. Clogs waterways and impedes recreational activities.


Recommended approaches

Do not attempt to undertake control of this species. The Ministry of Primary Industries will carry out the control of this species.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

A field of towering phragmites.
If you see this plant you must report it to the Ministry of Primary Industries who will manage the removal of the plant. Specialist contractors will be called to ensure complete eradication.
Photo credit: Paul Champion, NIWA
A dense cluster of phragmites.
A grass that forms dense stands and can grow up to 4m tall. A plant that is declared a pest under the National Pest Plant Accord.
Photo credit: Paul Champion, NIWA
A man standing next to tall phragmites.
Prefers to grow in wet areas such as the edges of streams, lakes and ponds. Can handle freshwater environments or salt water environments.
Photo credit: Paul Champion, NIWA