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Wood Small-reed

Calamagrostis epigejos

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Poaceae (Grass) (Grass)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, gardens, grassland, marshes, meadows, riversides, roadsides, saltmarshes, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside, swamps, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Purple, no petals
Flowers are in loosely clustered panicles, up to 14 inches (35cm) long. Dark purple, greenish or silvery at first and turning pale brown with age.
The fruit is a caryopsis. A caryopsis is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit.
A clump-forming, deciduous perennial grass. The mid-green leaves are flat and linear.
Other Names:
Bush Grass, Bushgrass, Common Wood Reed, Feathertop Grass, Feathertop Reed Grass, Wood Small Reed, Woodland Reedgrass, Writing Reed.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Calamagrostis epigejos, also known as wood small-reed or woodland reedgrass, is a perennial grass species in the Poaceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia and North America and it is commonly found in moist, shaded or semi-shaded areas, such as woods, meadows, and along streams. The plant has a tall, upright habit, reaching up to 150 cm in height. The leaves are narrow, linear and have a smooth surface, and the panicles (flower cluster) are large and feathery, blooming in the late summer. It is often used as an ornamental plant, particularly in wildflower gardens and meadows, and also for stabilizing the soil in wetland restoration projects.


Wood Small-reed (Calamagrostis epigejos) is a perennial grass species that is commonly found in Europe and Asia. It is a versatile plant that can grow in a variety of conditions, including both wet and dry habitats, making it an important component of many different ecosystems. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics and uses of Wood Small-reed, as well as some interesting facts about this species.

Characteristics of Wood Small-reed

Wood Small-reed is a relatively small grass species, usually growing to a height of around 1 meter. The plant has narrow, green leaves that are typically around 20-40cm long, and a long stem that supports a large, feathery inflorescence. The inflorescence is made up of many small, brownish-pink flowers that are arranged in a distinctive, branching pattern.

One of the key characteristics of Wood Small-reed is its adaptability to a range of different habitats. The plant can grow in wet or dry soils, and is often found in woodland clearings, heathlands, and along the edges of wetlands and rivers. Wood Small-reed is also tolerant of grazing and cutting, and can regenerate quickly after being disturbed.

Uses of Wood Small-reed

Wood Small-reed has a number of uses in both traditional and modern medicine. The plant has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, where it is known as Zhu Ye, to treat a variety of conditions including diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and dysentery. It is believed that the plant contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and diuretic properties.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Wood Small-reed also has a number of practical applications. The plant is often used in soil stabilization projects, where its extensive root system can help to prevent erosion and improve soil structure. Wood Small-reed is also used as a forage crop for livestock, and can be an important food source for many different animal species.

Interesting facts about Wood Small-reed

  • Wood Small-reed is often found growing in the same areas as other important wetland plants, such as Purple Loosestrife and Reed Canary Grass. These plants form complex ecosystems that provide important habitat for a wide range of animal species, including many types of birds and insects.
  • Wood Small-reed is known by a number of different common names, including Korean Feather Reed Grass, British Wood Reed, and Common Calamagrostis. The Latin name Calamagrostis is derived from the Greek words kalamos (meaning 'reed') and agrostis (meaning 'grass').
  • The seeds of Wood Small-reed are a valuable food source for many bird species, including the Eurasian Tree Sparrow and the Goldfinch. The plant is also an important host for a number of insect species, including the Calamagrostis blotch miner and the Calamagrostis webworm.

Wood Small-reed is a fascinating and important plant species that plays a crucial role in many different ecosystems. Its adaptability and versatility make it a valuable resource for humans and animals alike, and its medicinal properties have been recognized for centuries. As we continue to explore and understand the world around us, Wood Small-reed will undoubtedly continue to play an important role in our lives.

Ecology and Habitat

Wood Small-reed is native to Europe and Asia, and has been introduced to North America, where it is considered an invasive species in some areas. The plant is commonly found in open woodlands, forest clearings, hedgerows, meadows, and along riverbanks and wetlands. It prefers moist, fertile soils, but can also tolerate drier conditions. It is a cool-season grass and usually begins growth in early spring.

Reproduction and Growth

Wood Small-reed reproduces primarily by rhizomes, which are underground stems that can spread and give rise to new plants. It also produces seeds, which are dispersed by wind and can remain viable in the soil for several years. The plant typically flowers from July to September, and the feathery inflorescence is an attractive feature that can persist into winter.

Uses in Landscaping and Gardening

Wood Small-reed is sometimes used in landscaping and gardening as an ornamental grass. Its attractive, feathery inflorescence can add texture and interest to a garden, and it can be used to create a naturalistic, prairie-style planting scheme. The plant is also useful for erosion control and stabilizing slopes.

Medicinal Uses

As mentioned earlier, Wood Small-reed has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is believed to have diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, and is used to treat a variety of conditions including urinary tract infections, diarrhea, and dysentery. In modern medicine, the plant is being studied for its potential use as a treatment for osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.

Insects Associated with Wood Small-reed

Wood Small-reed is an important host for several insect species. The Calamagrostis blotch miner is a moth whose larvae mine tunnels in the leaves of the plant. The Calamagrostis webworm is a moth whose larvae spin silken webs that protect them from predators as they feed on the plant. The plant is also used as a food source by many other insect species, including grasshoppers and beetles.

Wood Small-reed is a fascinating and versatile plant species that has a wide range of uses and ecological significance. Its adaptability to different habitats and tolerance of disturbance make it an important component of many different ecosystems, and its medicinal properties have been recognized for centuries. Whether as a landscape plant or a wild species, Wood Small-reed is an important and valuable part of our natural world.


Wood Small-reed belongs to the grass family (Poaceae) and the genus Calamagrostis, which contains about 260 species worldwide. Some other common names for this species include common reedgrass, orchard grass, and hedgehog grass.

Physical Characteristics

Wood Small-reed is a perennial grass that can grow up to 1.5 meters tall. The leaves are flat, narrow, and can reach up to 25 cm long. The stem is erect and somewhat woody at the base, with a characteristic blue-green color. The inflorescence, which is the flowering part of the plant, consists of numerous small, feathery spikelets that are arranged in a panicle. The seeds are small and light, with a feathery awn that helps them disperse in the wind.


In some parts of North America, Wood Small-reed has become an invasive species that can outcompete native plants and reduce biodiversity. It can form dense stands that can interfere with the establishment of other species, and can also increase the risk of wildfires due to its high flammability. To help control the spread of Wood Small-reed, it is important to limit disturbance to natural habitats and avoid planting it in areas where it is not native.

Cultural Significance

Wood Small-reed has been used in various cultural contexts throughout history. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is known as xiao mai and is used to treat urinary tract infections, edema, and other conditions. The plant has also been used as a thatching material for roofing and walls, and the stems have been used for making baskets, mats, and other woven objects.

Overall, Wood Small-reed is a fascinating and versatile species that has both ecological and cultural significance. While it can be invasive in some contexts, it also has many beneficial uses and can play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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