reed, name used for several plants of the family Graminae (grass family). The common American reed, also called reedgrass and canegrass, is a tall perennial grass (Phragmites australis), widely distributed in fresh or brackish wet places. It has stout, creeping rootstalks and a large plumelike panicle. In the SW United States this grass is called carrizo and is used in building adobe huts; it has also been used for thatching and cordage. Native Americans collected a sweet exudate from the plant and made arrows of the stalks. The leaves served as edible greens and the seeds as a cereal food. Due in part to the degradation of salt marshes and in part to the supplanting of the native P. australis by Eurasian strains of the species, the reed has become invasive in American wetlands, where it often forms a monoculture. The giant reed (Arundo donax), of similar appearance, is native to the Mediterranean region but is now widely naturalized throughout tropical and warm climates, including the S and SW United States, California, and Hawaii. It is often cultivated for ornament but is also regarded as an invasive species in warmer areas of the United States. In Europe the stems have been used to make reed instruments, bagpipes, and reed organs. This is the reed from which Pan was fabled to have made his panpipe, or syrinx. The “reeds” of wickerwork are often rattan. Reeds are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Cyperales, family Poaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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