Despite being called the common reed (Phragmites australis) this is not a reed at all, it is a species of grass; its wonderful florescence is the sure indicator of this as no reed or rush has anything like it. It may not be a reed but it certainly is common. You can find Phragmites just about anywhere in lowland Britain where there is water! It occurs in fens, swamps, ditches, lakes and on riversides, both in brackish and alkaline waters, even in acid bogs! Although it has the scientific name of Phragmites australis there does not appear to be any direct link to the plant originating in Australia, it is very much a native of Europe.
This plant can spread to cover large areas and forms an invaluable habitat for birds. Here in Dorset, of course, some parts of Poole Harbour, Christchurch Harbour, Radipole Lake and Lodmore all have vast Phragmites reed beds. If you want to find bearded tit or cettis warbler, water rail or bittern, or even marsh harrier, then it is a large Phragmites bed you need. They are also used by swallows and starlings for roosting, often in large numbers.
A large, bold plant visible all year the flowers are at their best from August until October. The stems of this plant are harvested and used for thatching, basket weaving and other country crafts.