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Reed (plant) facts for kids

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Reeds, Reeds, Reeds. - - 366871
Reeds growing in saltmarsh in the estuary of the River Tay.

Reed is a common name for several tall, grass-like plants of wetlands.


They are all members of the order Poales (in the modern, expanded circumscription), and include:

In the grass family, Poaceae

  • Common reed (Phragmites australis), the original species named reed
  • Giant reed (Arundo donax), used for making reeds for musical instruments
  • Burma reed (Neyraudia reynaudiana)
  • Reed canary-grass (Phalaris arundinacea)
  • Reed sweet-grass (Glyceria maxima)
  • Small-reed (Calamagrostis species)

In the sedge family, Cyperaceae

  • Paper reed or papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), the source of the Ancient Egyptian writing material, also used for making boats

In the family Typhaceae

  • Bur-reed (Sparganium species)
  • Reed-mace (Typha species), also called bulrush or cattail

In the family Restionaceae

  • Cape thatching reed (Elegia tectorum), a restio originating from the South-western Cape, South Africa.
  • Thatching reed (Thamnochortus insignis), another restio species originating from the same geographic region.

Use in construction

Reed house under construction, Iraq marshes 1978 - panoramio
A reed house under construction in the marshes of Iraq, 1978
Uros Indian woman at work on a reed island in the titicace lake in Peru
Reed houses being built on a reed island in Lake Titicaca

Many different cultures have used reeds in construction of buildings of various types for at least thousands of years. One contemporary example is the Marsh Arabs.


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A man in Germany thatching a roof using reeds

Phragmites australis, the common reed, is used in many areas for thatching roofs. In the United Kingdom, common reed used for this purpose is known as "Norfolk reed" or "water reed". However, "wheat reed" and "Devon reed" are not reeds but long-stemmed wheat straw.

Use in music

Ancient Greeks used Arundo donax to make flutes known as kalamavlos; this is a compound word, from kalamos (cane) + avlos (flute). At the time, the best cane for flutes came from the banks of river Kephissos, in Attica, Greece. Several kalamavlos tuned differently and tied together, made a syrinx or Panpipes. A. donax is still the principal source material of reed makers for clarinets, saxophones, oboes, bassoons, bagpipes, and other woodwind instruments. The Var country in southern France contains the best-known supply of instrument reeds.

Other uses

Bamboo and, even more commonly, rattan stems are used as "reed sticks" to wick and disperse the scent of essential oils in aroma diffusers. (See Reed (plant) § Notes.)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Caña (vegetal) para niños

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