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Scandinavian Small-reed

Calamagrostis purpurea

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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 Small-reed, 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, 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:
120 centimetres tall
Ditches, fens, gardens, marshes, meadows, riversides, swamps, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Purple, no petals
One-flowered purplish spikelets. Similar in appearance to Wood Small-reed (Calamagrostis epigeios) but with longer awns.
The fruit is a caryopsis (a kind of dry, one-seeded fruit).
Hairless, linear leaves. Rare.
Other Names:
Purple Oatgrass, Purple Reedgrass.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Calamagrostis purpurea, also known as purple reedgrass or purple oatgrass, is a perennial grass species in the Poaceae family. It is native to North America, particularly in the western regions of Canada and the United States. It is commonly found in dry to moist habitats, such as meadows, open woods, and along streams. The plant has a tall, upright habit, reaching up to 120 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 purplish color on the leaves and stems, 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.


Scandinavian Small-reed, also known as Calamagrostis purpurea, is a species of grass that is native to the northern hemisphere. It is found in the Arctic, sub-Arctic, and alpine regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. This hardy plant is adapted to growing in harsh, cold environments, and is an important food source for many animals.

Description and Characteristics:

The Scandinavian Small-reed is a perennial grass that typically grows to a height of 30 to 120 cm. It has slender stems that are erect or slightly curved at the base. The leaves are narrow and flat, with a rough texture and a bluish-green color. The inflorescence of the plant is a spike-like panicle that can grow up to 20 cm long. The flowers are purple or reddish-brown and appear in late summer.


Scandinavian Small-reed is found in a variety of habitats, from wet meadows and bogs to rocky slopes and tundra. It is commonly found in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. It is a hardy plant that is adapted to growing in harsh, cold environments and can withstand frost, snow, and wind.

Ecological Importance:

Scandinavian Small-reed is an important food source for many animals, including muskoxen, caribou, and reindeer. The leaves and stems are rich in nutrients and provide a valuable source of forage in the winter when other plants are not available. The plant also provides cover and nesting sites for a variety of bird species, such as the Arctic Warbler and Lapland Longspur.

In addition to its ecological importance, Scandinavian Small-reed has cultural significance for the people of the Arctic. In traditional Inuit culture, the plant is used to make baskets, mats, and other woven items. The plant is also used as a fuel source and as insulation in traditional homes.

Threats and Conservation:

Despite its importance, Scandinavian Small-reed is facing a number of threats. Climate change, which is causing the Arctic to warm at a faster rate than other regions, is affecting the plant's habitat and distribution. In addition, human activities such as development, mining, and oil and gas exploration are also threatening the plant and its habitat.

To protect Scandinavian Small-reed and its habitat, conservation efforts are underway in many parts of the Arctic. These efforts include monitoring the plant's population and distribution, protecting its habitat through land-use planning and conservation agreements, and raising awareness about the plant's importance and conservation needs.

In conclusion, Scandinavian Small-reed is a hardy and important plant that plays a vital role in the Arctic ecosystem. It provides food and cover for a variety of animal species, and has cultural significance for the people of the Arctic. However, the plant is facing a number of threats, and it is important that we take steps to protect it and its habitat for future generations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map