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Purple Small-reed

Calamagrostis canescens

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)
Also in this family:
Alpine Catstail, Alpine Foxtail, Alpine Meadow-grass, Annual Beard-grass, Annual Meadow-grass, Arrow Bamboo, Barren Brome Grass, Bearded Couch Grass, Bearded Fescue, Bermuda Grass, Black Bent, Black Grass, Blue Fescue, Blue Moor-grass, Bog Hair-grass, Borrer's Saltmarsh Grass, Bread Wheat, Bristle Bent, Brown Bent, Brown Sedge, Bulbous Foxtail, Bulbous Meadow-grass, California Brome Grass, Canary Grass, Carnation Sedge, Cocksfoot, Cockspur, Common Bent, Common Cord-grass, Common Millet, Common Reed, Common Saltmarsh Grass, Compact Brome Grass, Corn, Couch Grass, Creeping Bent, Creeping Soft-grass, Crested Dog's-tail, Crested Hair-grass, Cultivated Oat, Curved Hard Grass, Cut Grass, Dense Silky Bent, Downy Oat-grass, Drooping Brome Grass, Drooping Tor Grass, Dune Fescue, Early Hair-grass, Early Meadow-grass, Early Sand-grass, False Brome Grass, False Oat-grass, Fern Grass, Fine-leaved Sheep's Fescue, Flattened Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Foxtail Barley, French Oat, Giant Fescue, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Great Brome Grass, Greater Quaking Grass, Grey Hair-grass, Hairy Brome Grass, Hairy Finger-grass, Hard Fescue, Hard Grass, Harestail Grass, Heath Grass, Holy Grass, Hybrid Marram Grass, Italian Rye Grass, Knotroot Bristlegrass, Lesser Hairy Brome Grass, Lesser Quaking Grass, Loose Silky Bent, Lyme Grass, Marram Grass, Marsh Foxtail, Mat Grass, Mat-grass Fescue, Meadow Barley, Meadow Fescue, Meadow Foxtail, Meadow Oat-grass, Mountain Melick, Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass, Narrow-leaved Small-reed, Neglected Couch Grass, Nit Grass, Orange Foxtail, Pampas Grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Plicate Sweet-grass, Purple Moor-grass, Purple-stem Catstail, Quaking Grass, Ratstail Fescue, Red Fescue, Reed Canary Grass, Reed Sweet-grass, Reflexed Saltmarsh Grass, Rescue Grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Rush-leaved Fescue, Sand Catstail, Sand Couch Grass, Scandinavian Small-reed, Scottish Small-reed, Sea Barley, Sea Couch Grass, Sea Fern Grass, Sheep's Fescue, Silver Hair-grass, Six-rowed Barley, Slender Brome Grass, Small Cord-grass, Small Sweet-grass, Smaller Catstail, Smooth Brome Grass, Smooth Cord-grass, Smooth Finger-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Soft Brome Grass, Somerset Hair-grass, Sorghum, Spreading Meadow-grass, Squirreltail Fescue, Stiff Brome Grass, Stiff Saltmarsh Grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy Grass, Tor Grass, Tufted Hair-grass, Two-rowed Barley, Upright Brome Grass, Velvet Bent, Viviparous Fescue, Wall Barley, Wavy Hair-grass, Wavy Meadow-grass, Whorl Grass, Wild Oat, Wood Barley, Wood Fescue, Wood Meadow-grass, Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Yellow Oat-grass, Yorkshire Fog
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Fens, gardens, marshes, meadows, riversides, waterside, wetland.

Purple, no petals
One-flowered, purplish spikelets.
The fruit is a caryopsis. This is a type of dry, one-seeded fruit which is common to all grass species.
The stems are frequently branched. The leaves are flat, hairy and linear, up to 8mm wide. Blunt-pointed ligules.
Other Names:
Gray Reedgrass, Tall Reedgrass.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Calamagrostis canescens, also known as gray reedgrass or tall reedgrass, is a perennial grass species in the Poaceae family. It is native to North America and it is commonly found in wet meadows, along streams, and other damp habitats. 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. The plant has a grayish-green color, hence its common name. It is often used as an ornamental plant, particularly in wildflower gardens and meadows, and also for stabilizing the soil in wetland restoration projects.


Purple small-reed (Calamagrostis canescens) is a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to North America. It is a member of the grass family, and it is commonly found in wetlands and other moist areas, such as marshes, bogs, and fens.

The plant has an upright growth habit, reaching a height of up to 3 feet (1 meter). Its leaves are narrow, long, and slightly rough, with a bluish-green color. The stems are slender and wiry, and the flowers are arranged in dense clusters at the top of the stem.

One of the most striking features of Purple small-reed is its inflorescence. The flowers are tiny and delicate, with a deep purple color that contrasts sharply with the bluish-green leaves. The inflorescence appears in mid to late summer, and it is a valuable source of food for a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and moths.

Purple small-reed is an important plant in wetland ecosystems, where it provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and small mammals. The plant's dense root system helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion, and it also plays a role in filtering water and reducing the effects of pollutants.

In addition to its ecological importance, Purple small-reed has also been used for a variety of traditional and medicinal purposes. Native American tribes used the plant for weaving baskets and mats, as well as for making medicines to treat a variety of ailments, including stomach issues and respiratory problems.

Today, Purple small-reed is still valued for its aesthetic and ecological qualities, and it is often used in wetland restoration and landscaping projects. Its striking color and texture make it a popular choice for ornamental gardens, and it is also an important component of many native plant communities.

Despite its many benefits, Purple small-reed is facing a number of threats, including habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, and climate change. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this valuable plant and ensure that it continues to thrive in the years to come.

Purple small-reed is a beautiful and ecologically important plant that deserves our attention and protection. Whether in the wild or in our own gardens, this plant provides valuable habitat and beauty, and reminds us of the important role that native plants play in our environment.

Purple small-reed is a plant that is adapted to wetland environments, and as such, it has developed a number of unique characteristics that enable it to thrive in these conditions. For example, the plant's long, narrow leaves help to minimize water loss through transpiration, while its dense root system allows it to anchor itself in the soft, mucky soils of wetlands.

In addition to its ecological and aesthetic value, Purple small-reed has also been the subject of scientific research aimed at understanding its various properties and potential uses. For example, researchers have found that the plant contains a number of bioactive compounds with potential therapeutic applications, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Furthermore, Purple small-reed has been used in ecological restoration projects aimed at restoring damaged wetland habitats. By planting native wetland species, such as Purple small-reed, it is possible to restore the ecological function and biodiversity of these important ecosystems.

It is worth noting that Purple small-reed is just one example of the many valuable and often-overlooked native plant species that are found throughout North America. By promoting the use of these plants in our gardens and landscapes, we can help to protect and restore the biodiversity and ecological function of our local environments, while also enjoying the aesthetic beauty and unique character of these fascinating plants.

Purple small-reed is a plant that has been used by humans for a variety of purposes for thousands of years. Native American tribes used the plant for weaving baskets and mats, as well as for making cordage, clothing, and even thatch for roofs. The plant was also used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments, such as stomach issues and respiratory problems.

Today, Purple small-reed is still used for many of these same purposes, as well as for new applications. For example, the plant is sometimes used as a natural dye, producing shades of purple and pink. Additionally, the dense root system of Purple small-reed can help to stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion, making it a useful plant for erosion control projects.

Another interesting characteristic of Purple small-reed is its ability to sequester carbon. Wetland ecosystems are known to be highly effective carbon sinks, with plants like Purple small-reed playing an important role in capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, many wetland ecosystems are under threat due to human activities such as development, agriculture, and resource extraction. By understanding the ecological and cultural significance of plants like Purple small-reed, we can work to protect these important ecosystems and ensure that they continue to provide important benefits for both humans and the environment.

In conclusion, Purple small-reed is a fascinating plant that has played an important role in human cultures and ecological systems for thousands of years. As we continue to face a range of environmental challenges, it is important to recognize the value of native plant species like Purple small-reed and work to protect and promote their use in a variety of contexts. By doing so, we can help to ensure a more sustainable and resilient future for ourselves and the planet.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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