Phragmites australis (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steudel

Family: Gramineae


  • Phragmites communis Trin.,
  • P. vulgaris (Lamk) Crépin.

Vernacular names

  • Common reed (En).
  • Roseau (Fr)
  • Indonesia: glagah asu, plumpung (Javanese), bayongbong (Sundanese)
  • Malaysia: tebu salah, rumput gedabong
  • Philippines: tambo (Tagalog), bagang (Bisaya), lupi (Bikol)
  • Laos: 'o:z no:yz
  • Thailand: o, o-noi (northern), o-lek (central)
  • Vietnam: cây sậy.


Almost cosmopolitan, even in Arctic regions.


Used to stabilize river and lake banks, for desalinization, weed control and initial soil preparation of newly reclaimed polders, biological purification of waste water (helophyte filter), roofing and hedging, fuel, and paper manufacture. Young shoots are eaten as a vegetable in China.


  • Perennial grass, up to 4.5(-6) m tall with stout, creeping rhizomes and stolons.
  • Leaf sheaths loose, overlapping; ligule consisting of hairs, up to 1.5 mm long; blade flat, up to 60 cm × 0.8-6 cm, greyish-green, glabrous or covered with whitish powder.
  • Inflorescence a dense panicle, feathery, nodding at the top, 15-40 cm long, brownish to purplish.
  • Spikelets 2-6-flowered, 10-18 mm long; florets exceeded by 6-10 mm long hairs of the rachilla.

P. australis occurs in moist and wet locations, but often also on firm ground, up to 2200 m altitude. Propagation is by planting rhizomes or by sowing. In new polders aerial sowing has been practised. Phragmites karka (Retz.) Trin. ex Steudel is more common in the moist tropics of South-East Asia, Australia and Africa, and can be used for the same purposes. Apart from all beneficial roles, reeds may become weedy and overgrow canals and drains, necessitating cumbersome cleaning operations.

Selected sources

  • Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink Jr., R.C., 1963-1968. Flora of Java. 3 volumes. Wolters-Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. 647, 641, 761 pp.
  • Gilliland, H.B., 1971. A revised flora of Malaya: an illustrated systematic account of the Malayan plants, including commonly cultivated plants. Volume 3: Grasses of Malaya. Botanical Gardens, Singapore. 319 pp.
  • Holm, L.G., Plucknett, D.L., Pancho, J.V. & Herberger, J.P., 1977. The world's worst weeds: distribution and biology. University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu, United States. 609 pp.
  • van der Zon, A.P.M., 1992. Graminées du Cameroun. Volume 2: Flore. Wageningen Agricultural University Papers No 92-1. Wageningen, the Netherlands. 557 pp.


  • M.S.M. Sosef & L.J.G. van der Maesen