Giant Reed
Arundo donax - Linnaeus
Poaceae (Grass) Family

Photo courtesy Benton Soil and Water Conservation District

 Giant Reed is an introduced herbaceous perennial in the Grass family (Poaceae). It is native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Old World, including the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys in Iraq. It Alabama it has been planted as a windbreak, as an ornamental, and for erosion control. It has persisted or escaped to roadsides, fields, vacant lots, and along streams. Giant Reed is a perennial from thick rhizomes. The plant forms large clumps, excluding most other vegetation. Stems are from three to thirty feet in height, and are hollow.

The leaves are alternate, linear in outline, glabrous, with minutely serrate margins; distinct light tan colored wedge at the base of each blade.

The flowers are produced in large, dense panicles at the tops of the stems. The panicles are at first tinged with purple and become tan as they mature

Fruit is a grain.

Giant Reed is one of the species referred to as ‘reeds” in the Bible. It has been used for thousands of years to construct houses, boats, screens, mats, animal pens, fish traps, and to make woodwind instruments, walking stinks, fishing poles, and arrows. The Marsh Arab culture of the Tigris and Euphrates river deltas depended heavily on this species.

In Alabama variegated forms with white or yellowish striped leaves are often cultivated and known as “Fortune Grass”. Supposedly the more white or yellow on the leaves indicated better fortunes for the owners.

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