Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Common Reed - Phragmites australis

February's Grass of the Month

See January's entry for an Introduction to to "Grass of the Month" . This is February's contribution, even though just put up in March

Grass of the month 1: January - Reed Canary Grass - Phalaris arundinacea
Grass of the month 2: February - The Common Reed - Phragmites australis
Grass of the month 3: March - Blue Moor-grass Sesleria caerulea
ReedsThe Common Reed - see right (Phragmites australis)
As most people who have studied grasses will tell you, you can distinguish Reed Canary-grass from the Reed by looking at the ligule - the little membrane that sticks up at the blade sheath junction. In the Canary-grass (left) it IS a membrane. In the Reed (Right) it is a row of hairs.
Phalaris ligule      Phragmites
sorry.. writing up this page has got interrupted..
I just bought the latest book "Grasses of the British Isles" by Tom Cope and Alan Gray in 2009- which may be meant to replace the last comprehensive book on British Grasses which was written by Hubbard in 1954 with a third edition in 1984, but I think I will say, complements it, and has extra species in.
The Latin names of some grasses have changed YET again. Hey ho. I teach Grass ID courses - and up till now have been giving a students a sheet with the English names, and three columns for the Latin names. Now I will have to have four columns..
Still Phragmites australis is still called Phragmites australis (though long ago it was called Phragmites communis).
The Reed is a lowland plant of wetland habitats but grows at 470m on Brown Clee Hill (Salop) and at 375m at Malham Tarn Fen. Here are some facts I have just learned from this book: Some populations may be long lived perhaps 1000 years old..
Common reed was one of the first grasses to reach Krakatau. There is a basal tuft of long silky hairs on the light "seed" helping its dispersal by wind. It is said by Ridley (1930) to be the most widely distributed of all flowering plants in the world.

Reeds are used for thatching and reed beds make good nature reserves.
Here reeds have been used to screen the path at the RSPB Nature Reserve on Morcambe Bay. (photo 30th Jan)

29 Jan 2010 Here are Reeds at Malham Tarn fen at 385 m above Sea Level. Their growth was restricted to an old trout breeding pool but inthe last 15 years they have started marching out across the botanically very rich fen..

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