Reed (Botany) - Encyclopedia

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REED, a term applied to several distinct species of large, waterloving grasses. The common or water-reed, Phragmites communis (also known as Arundo phragmites), occurs along the margins of lakes, fens, marshes and placid streams, not only throughout Britain, but widely distributed in arctic and temperate regions. Another very important species in Ammophila arenaria (also known as A. arundinacea or Psamma arenaria), the sea-reed or marram-grass, a native of the sandy shores of Europe and N. Africa. Both species have been of notable geological importance, the former binding the soil and so impeding denudation, and actually converting swamp into dry land, largely by the aid of its tall (5 to Io ft.) close set stems. The latter species, of which the branching rootstocks may be traced 30 or even 40 ft., is of still greater importance in holding sand-dunes against the sea, and for this purpose has not only been long protected by law, but has been extensively planted on the coasts of Norfolk, Holland, Gascony, &c. Other reeds are Calamagrostis (various species), Gynerium argenteum (pampas grass), Deyeuxia, &c., also Arundo Donax, the largest European grass (6 to 12 ft. high), which is abundant in Europe. Reeds have been used from the earliest times in thatching and in other branches of construction, and also for arrows, the pipes of musical instruments, &c. Reed pens are still used in the East. Plants belonging to other orders occasionally share the name, especially the bur-reed (Sparganium) and the reed-mace (Typha), both belonging to the natural order Typhaceae. The bulrushes (Scirpus), belonging to the natural order Cyperaceae, are also to be distinguished.

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