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. 2009 Rewrite. Available to download free from the British Reed Growers Association website in pdf format (Download a copy). A completely updated version of the original (see below).

THE REED, 1969. Norfolk Reedgrowers Association, 50 pp. (1972–Reprint with Further Chapters by other Authors.)



The reed, Phragmites communis Trin., in relation to its cultivation and harvesting in East Anglia for thatching.

Phragmites communis
Trin., whose aerial shoots form reeds, is an abundant and cosmopolitan plant of wet places. Exploitation is, of course, greatest where marshlands are extensive, as in the Danube delta, The Netherlands, and Scandinavia. Production, with a high degree of mechanisation, is mainly for the cellulose industry. Minor uses of the dead reeds include thatching, protective coverings in horticulture, fences, sheds, banking canals, litter, etc., the green shoots can be used as fodder (living or dried); the fruits for stuffing (e.g. bolsters); and the rhizomes for an alcoholic drink (Haslam 1972).

In Britain, production at present is barely equal to the demand from the thatching industry, so there is no immediate prospect of cultivation for cellulose. In The Netherlands, reeds are used in the reclamation of new polders. Their water consumption is high, and they are grown for a few years to drain the polder and render it fit for arable farming. Low-lying regions of new land can be used permanently for reed cultivation. Areas thus laid out and developed for cellulose production can give a very high yield.


Reeds are most common in lowland and coastal marshes, but are widespread throughout Britain, being found in small depauperate patches as well as covering wide expanses of marsh. Large coastal reedbeds, found at the back of saltmarshes where freshwater dilutes the sea water, are most common round the south and east coasts. Freshwater reedbeds occur on low-lying ground near river beds or on lake shores. Since reed requires a fairly high nutrient status (1, 10), the greatest areas of such beds are in East Anglia where there are large and nutrient-rich wetlands. Reeds are abundant in wetlands near the main rivers (Waveney, Bure, Yare, Little Ouse, etc.), their tributaries, and the Broads.