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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Reed Canary Grass

reed canary grass
Why are they a problem?

Reed canary grass is increasingly dominating wet meadows in the Upper Midwest. Reed canary grass is highly tolerant to flooding, resistant to burning, and quickly forms virtual monocultures by shading native grasses and forbs with its dense growth and litter production.  It is a prolific seed producer and spreads through  rhizome growth at an amazing rate.

Wet meadow restoration is hampered because reed canary grass takes over the wet meadow zone when wetland hydrology is restored. Native wet meadow plants have difficulty becoming established unless drastic and expensive management is applied.

Fast Facts
Origin: Native to North America and of circumpolar distribution.  In North America, introduction of–and interbreeding with–European strains of reed canary grass has created an agressive and invasive strain.
Preferred habitat: Temporarily or seasonally flooded areas that have been disturbed.
Size: Flowering stems can reach height of almost 2m.
Method of introduction: Has been promoted for seeding as "marsh hay" in wet meadow areas.
What are UMESC scientists doing to help?
reed canary grass

Very little is known about the importance of wet meadows for maintaining biodiversity and healthy plant and animal populations in grassland/wetland ecosystems. We also do not know what might be lost when reed canary grass takes over.

The UMESC scientists are studying how birds and insects use wet meadow habitats dominated by reed canary grass versus wet meadows with more diverse vegetation. Researchers are also evaluating methods for controlling reed canary grass and improving conditions for wildlife within midwestern USFWS National Wildlife Refuges.

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Page Last Modified: November 3, 2015