Reed (A. S. hreod), a name of tall coarse grasses, especially of the genera phragmites and arundo. The common reed of this country and England was called arundo phragmites by Linnaeus, but later botanists have considered it sufficiently distinct to form a new genus phragmites (Gr. growing in hedges, though the plant is an aquatic), but some still retain it in arundo; in recent American works it is given as P. communis. It is a stout perennial grass, 6 to 12 ft. high, with numerous broad leaves, and bearing a large terminal, purplish brown panicle, which is sometimes a foot long, very loose and nodding; each spike-let consists of three to seven flowers, surrounded by long silky hairs. This is found over a large part of both continents, on the edges of ponds, in ditches and marshes, and where it occurs abundantly looks at a distance like a field of broom corn. In Europe the reed is utilized in various ways; it is planted by the margin of streams in order that its long and branching rootstocks may bind the soil and prevent the encroachment of the water upon the banks; animals will eat the herbage when quite young, but it soon becomes too tough for them. In northern Europe the stems are valued for thatching, being much more durable than straw, and rude huts are sometimes constructed from them; and they are used for making hurdles and for other domestic purposes, among which is that of weaving mats for screening wall fruit, covering hotbeds, and protecting plants in various ways; it is said that the flower panicles are used in Sweden to afford a greenish dye.
As the plants form dense and tall thickets, they afford protection to various water and marsh birds and quadrupeds. In ornamental grounds where there is a moist locality, the reed may be introduced with good effect as an ornamental plant. - The Cyprus reed, arundo donax, is a much more robust plant, growing 15 ft. or more high, with abundant leaves and very large terminal panicles of a brownish white color; it is found in southern Europe, eastern Asia, western Africa, and on this continent in Mexico and Texas; and it is apparently the reed mentioned in Scripture. It is used as supports for vines, for fishing poles, and various other purposes. There is a variegated form, A. donax versicolor, in which the leaves are marked with very distinct bands of white and green; it is one of the best of variegated plants, holding its markings under the hottest sun, but it does not grow so tall as the green kind. Both forms are occasionally seen in northern gardens, where it is necessary to give their roots a good covering of litter when winter sets in. - The large reed or cane of the southern states is described under Canebrake. - Sea reed is calamagrostis arenaria (ammophila of some authors), a coarse rigid grass 2 to 3 ft. high, with abundant firm running root-stocks; it is frequent on the coast of Europe, and on our shores from New Jersey to Maine, and along the great lakes.
The plant is capable of being utilized to retain blowing sands. Besides the names above given, it has been called psamma and maram by authors.
Common Seed (Phragmites communis).