Plant is often a large sprawling mass


Leaves alternate


Scientific Name

 Arundo donax L.

Common Names

giant reed


South Europe and Asia



Distinguishing Characteristics

This is a tall reed to 6m which is erect, has woody stems and is perennial  (life-cycle greater than 1 growing season) with thick knotty horizontal rhizomes (root stems) and little branches. It grows in very large clumps and resembles bamboo.

Leaves are evenly spaced and in 2 rows on either side of the stem. Leaves are numerous, mid to bright green, lance-shaped and tapering to a point. Leaves are arranged into 2 rows on lengthy green/tan-coloured stems and are alternate in arrangement. Leaves wrap around the stem forming a ribbed sheath.

Flower and seed head (inflorescence) is a dense panicle (many branched) of creamy yellow spikelets and is silky in nature. 

Use: this plant has many uses, such as: supports when tied with vines, paper pulp, screens, craft items, biomass for energy production, and young plants have some food value for animals.


Other plants easily confused with this plant

Giant reed is easily confused with Phragmites australis, native reed. Native reed is a much smaller plant than giant reed and dies back in Winter. Usually native reed only grows to 2-3m but can be taller, the stems however are much thinner.

Bamboos can be distinguised from both giant reed and native reed by observing the leaf where it meets the stem. Leaves of both native and giant reed form a sheath at the stem, bamboos have what look like short leaf stems (petiole-like).

Sources & References

"Plantnet FloraOnline"  (2005)

"Weeds - an illustrated botanical guide to weeds of Australia" by B. A. Auld and R. W. Medd

"Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney" Les Robinson 


Prepared by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked by IEWF, Oct 2005 

Checked by Barbara Wiecek, Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, June 2006