Sunday, May 10, 2020

Phalaris arundinacea as an Ornamental Grass

Phalaris arundinacea (or Reed Canary Grass as it's known here locally) is a perennial C3 grass that has become invasive in certain wetland areas, where it forms dense monotypic stands as it spreads using its thick rhizomes.

The species has become important for various commercial uses. For example, its ability to grow in contaminated soil has made it a prime candidate for phytoremediation, and as a very fast grower it has also been used in biomass production.

The genus has also become infamous because of its ability to poison animals. P. arundinacea contains tryptamine alkaloids, and may also accumulate high levels of selenium. It has a history of poisoning cattle and sheep, and a related species was involved in the "drunken" behavior of kangaroos in Australia, which can end in the death of the animal.

The wild form of this species is green and very tall, reaching more than 2 meters high. But there are also several ornamental varieties which have become popular in the trade.

I bought P. arundinacea 'Strawberries and Cream' last Fall and planted it in an enclosed cement container. The grass thrived, and this Spring I had to transplant out some of the plants or it would have engulfed the Calamagrostis acutiflora (Karl Foerster?) that shared the enclosure with it.

I love the leaves of this grass, which are strikingly white and green, with some pinkish highlights. The species also seems pretty tough, and a few days after transplanting them out, the somewhat withered looking grasses had pushed out new culms.

New stems poking out soon after transplant
I expect they will soon spread quickly to fill the available space, hopefully before the heat of summer, as this is a cool season grass.

I love working with tough species!

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