Species of the Month - October

Each month we feature a picture of a species to be found on The Commons. Wherever possible, all species featured have been photographed here. This month, we are featuring the Common Reed (Phragmites australis).

Being so common and long lasting it is easy to pass them by with hardly a glance. But at this time of the year the golden stems, topped with large purple flowering spikes, have a certain beauty, both individually, and in stands as they dance to the wind. They also have an acoustic fascination, changing tempo as the wind increases: it begins, in the words of the song, by “whispering” (it is after all a grass), then rustling, then rippling, to finally hissing like blowing sand in a full gale.

The Common or “Norfolk” Reed has had many practical uses and is still used for thatching today. It has also been found to provide an organic method of cleansing domestic and industrial waste water rather than sending it to a sewerage works. It has conservation value in providing a habitat for wetland birds such as the Sedge Warbler and Bearded Tit.

There the good news ends! Common Reed is a vigorous plant which outcompetes the lower more delicate flora. Orchids, Bogbean, and Grass of Parnassus, in which our Common abounds, would all be casualties if this bully was left unchecked. Without intervention the Common would become a dense jungle with little wildlife value, which in turn would be overrun by scrubby trees. It is only through regular cutting of the reed that the Common’s precious plant community can be preserved.

More pictures and information can be found on the Wildlife Trusts website.

Click here to see other Species of the Month, or here for last year's Plants of the Month.