Phalaris arundinacea, sometimes known as reed canarygrass, is a tall, perennial bunchgrass that commonly forms extensive single-species stands along the margins of lakes and streams and in wet open areas, with a wide distribution in Europe, Asia, northern Africa and North America.
The stems can reach 2.5 m in height. The leaf blades are blue-green when fresh and straw-colored when dry. The flowers are borne on the stem high above the leaves and are pinkish at full bloom.
A number of cultivars of P. arundinacea have been selected for use as ornamental plants, including variegated (striped) cultivars – sometimes called ribbon grass – such as 'Dwarfs Garters' and 'Strawberries and Cream'. The latter gets its name from the large white stripes and pinkish color that appears on the leaves at varying times. When grown, although drought-tolerant, it likes abundant water and can even be grown as an aquatic plant.
Reed canarygrass grows well on poor soils and contaminated industrial sites, and researchers at Teesside University's Contaminated Land & Water Centre have suggested it as the ideal candidate for phytoremediation in improving soil quality and biodiversity at brownfield sites.
The grass can also easily be turned into bricks or pellets for burning in biomass power stations. Furthermore it provides fibers which find use in pulp and papermaking processes.
P. arundinacea is also planted as a hay crop or for forage.
In many places, P. arundinacea is an invasive species in wetlands, particularly in disturbed areas. When P. arundinacea invades a wetland, it suppresses native vegetation and reduces diversity. The grass propagates by seed and rhizome, and once established, is difficult to eradicate.