Phalaris arundinacea | ‘Alpiste Roseau’, ‘Caniço-malhado’, ‘Gardener’s-garters’, ‘Hierba Cinta’, ‘Kusa-yoshi’, ‘Pasto Cinto’, ‘Reed Canary Grass’, ‘Ribbon Grass’ and ‘Rohrglanzgras’ | Seeds
Phalaris arundinacea is a tall bunchgrass of the Poaceae family, which generally grows in large stands on floodplains and the banks of rivers and streams, the shores of lakes and in other open wetland habitats. Arundinacea is most often known as the ‘Reed Canary Grass’, but is also called ‘Alpiste Roseau’, ‘Caniço-malhado’, ‘Gardener’s-garters’, ‘Hierba Cinta’, ‘Kusa-yoshi’, ‘Pasto Cinto’, ‘Ribbon Grass’ and ‘Rohrglanzgras’. There are also several ornamental cultivars available at the present time, including lush variegated types such as ‘Castor’ and ‘Feesey’.
An attractive perennial, the species has a wide distribution across Asia, northern Africa, Europe and North America and is sometimes reported to be an invasive species. This is because arundinacea is capable of taking over its environment, inhibiting existing vegetation and therefore reducing biological diversity. Because of this, we’d advise you to grow this species in containers of some kind, so as to minimise the unintended spreading of the seeds and rhizomes (through which it propagates).
That aside, arundinacea is certainly an interesting species of the popular Phalaris genus, reaching up to roughly two metres tall once mature. The plant’s blue-green leaf blades grow up to around thirty centimetres long, with its spikelets coloured a lighter-green – commonly with dark-green or purple streaks. Arundinacea even produces delicate creamy-tan coloured flowers, making it a versatile addition to any ornamental garden.
It’s fun and easy to grow from seed and (like the related Phalaris aquatica), although drought-tolerant prefers ample water. It’s happy to grow in full sun to light shade and should be sown approximately fifty centimetres apart, in mildly acidic to mildly alkaline soil (a range of roughly 6.1pH-7.8pH).
Perhaps surprisingly to many Westerners, Phalaris arundinacea is a fairly popular edible plant, with all parts including the root, seed and stem being eaten. It’s used variously either cooked or raw (in a similar fashion to potatoes or bamboo shoots), coarsely-ground to make a flour or porridge, as an herb, as a sweet or sweetener (it contains up to 5% sugar), or simply processed for the starch content. Arundinacea’s stems have been reported as containing 4.8g protein, 0.8g fat, 90.0g total carbohydrate, 41.2g fibre and 4.4g ash; it’s consequently not too bad an option if you’re looking for some free food! The grass can also easily be turned into bricks or pellets for burning in biomass power stations and is also used for its fibre in pulp and papermaking processes and as a forage or hay crop too. So many reasons to have a crack at growing this much-admired Phalaris species!
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018