Reed canary grass is a major threat to natural wetlands. It outcompetes many native species by reducing available area, sunlight and nutrients. They grow in large, monoculture stands, reducing biodiversity. It also presents a major challenge in wetland mitigation efforts. The rhizomes of the grass can form dense mats along with dead stems that prevent native seeds for germinating. This species of grass is hard to control because of its persistent rhizome system, and its ability to grow both vegetatively and sexually.
Phalaris arundinacea is a grass that is native to Eurasia. Even though there is a strain of reed canary grass native to the Western United States, the one invading wetlands of the Eastern coast are European cultivars that were specifically bred for high rates of growth, vigor, and adaptability across a range of environments. It was likely introduced for pasture and erosion control.
Reed canary grass is a tall growing perennial grass. Its creeping rhizomes frequently form a thick sod layer, preventing other plants from growing. The upright stems grow up to 2 meters tall from the rhizomes, and the flat leaf blades are up to .5m long by 2 cm wide. They have open sheaths, hollow stems, small clasping auricles and membranous ligules. Its inflorescences are compact and resemble spikes when immature. When in full bloom, the inflorescences change to a dark purple, becoming straw colored when fruits have developed and dispersed.
These grasses grow most prominently in low elevation wetlands, wet ditches, along roadsides and in river floodplains. It can grow in seasonally or continually wet locations. Although it isn't adapted to dry environments, the grass can survive through prolonged periods of droughts. It is well adapted to wel soils and soils that have a pH below 6.0. Reed canary grass is widespread through the Lower Hudson region, and at this time is not regulated by New York state.