Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Common Reed



This small patch of common reed Phragmites australis has colonised a small subsidence pond in Durham and has gradually developed into a fine habitat for reed buntings, which breed or feed there all year round. The plant doesn't flower until September, which means that it produces a heavy crop of seed throughout the early months of winter and this is one factor that makes it such as asset for small wetland birds in winter. Bearded reedlings' digestive system actually changes in autumn to accommodate a diet switch from insects to reed seeds. The seed heads look particularly attractive when they're back-lit by low-angle winter sun (see below)



Phragmites is a cosmoploitan plant and you can travel almost anywhere in the world, except for few tropical regions, and expect to find in in wetland habitats. These days reed beds are often used as natural sewage treatment systems, using the sewage-degrading bacteria that colonise the mud around the reeds' roots. There's a fine example at the RSPB's Saltholme Reserve on Teesside (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/tees/content/articles/2009/03/06/saltholme_official_opening_feature.shtml) and an explanation of how they work at  http://www.johnstonsmith.co.uk/fact17.html
For an example of another handsome but more exotic grass species, visit http://digitalbotanicgarden.blogspot.com/2009/12/pampas-grass-cortaderia-selloana.html

1 comment:

  1. I've often wondered what this is called. It grows at both my local lakes. It's like a magnet for Reed Buntings, Sedge and Reed Warblers. Coots and Moorhens love to hide amongst it too. A really useful plant.
    Love that backlit shot.

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