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How to Identify Reed Canary Grass

By Mark Pendergast

A native of North America, Europe, and Asia, reed canary grass has a reputation for producing good hay and providing reliable forage for livestock. However, farm animals do not always find the taste of reed canary grass to their liking, so farmers might need to pen the animals in a fenced enclosure to make them eat it. Reed canary grass spreads progressively, and in some areas of the United States, it has escaped from pastureland and invaded wetlands. Some states classify reed canary grass as an invasive species.

Examine the grass in question. Reed canary grass grows 2 to 9 feet high and has broad leaves, 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide.

Look to see if the plant grows in masses. You typically find reed canary grass growing in dense stands rather than random, individual plants.

Check the flower head. Reed canary grass produces a spike-like, 2- to 8-inch-long flower cluster, according to Montana State University. Early in the growing season, you should find green to purple flowers. Later in the year, the blooms turn beige.

Examine the seeds. They will be round and smooth, with either a brown or gray-black color.

Dig up a plant with a hand trowel. If the plant is reed canary grass, you should find a rhizome -- a horizontal, underground stem.

 

Things You Will Need

  • trowel

Tips

  • Choose a recent cultivar, such as "Palaton" when you use reed canary grass as livestock forage. Evidence suggest animals find it more palatable.
  • The seed lasts three to four years for reproductive purposes, significantly less time than the six to eight years of many other forage grasses.

Warning

  • Check for reed canary grass on any rural land that you own. Reed canary grass has the ability to crowd out native vegetation.

About the Author

 

Mark Pendergast has worked as a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on topics such as health, sports and finance. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and librarian and has written for the "Northside Sun" and "Jackpot," among other publications. Pendergast holds a Bachelor of Arts from Millsaps College.