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a genus of large perennial herbs of the family Gramineae. The plants are 0.5–5 m tall and have long, spreading rhizomes. The linear-lanceolate leaf blades measure as much as 5 cm across. The inflorescence is a dense panicle reaching 50 cm long. The spikelets are three- to seven-flowered and have longhaired awns.
There are five species: two occur in the tropics of Asia and Africa, two are found only in East Asia and Argentina, and one (P. australis—formerly P. communis) is almost cosmopolitan. P. australis is widely distributed in the USSR, except in the arctic regions. It grows along shores (mainly at depths below 1.5 m), in marshes and marshy meadows, amid thickets, and in forests. It also occurs on solonchaks, sands, slopes, and other areas with nearby groundwater; it sometimes grows as a weed in fields. The plant reproduces mainly vegetatively. It usually forms dense covers, which are especially extensive in flooded areas, lowlands, and deltas of southern rivers. Young plants are eaten by cattle and horses long before flowering. P. australis is a valuable food source for muskrat, coypu, elk, and deer. The starch-rich rhizomes may be used as food.
Phragmites are used to obtain reed board, an insulating and building material suitable for roofing, fences, woven products, and coarse papers. The plants are also used as a litter for livestock and as fuel. Plantings are sometimes used to reinforce dunes and for ornamental purposes.