The ENEMY: Reed canarygrass (Palaris arundinacea L.)

Reed canarygrass

Reed canarygrass

Strategy: A necessary evil. This troublesome plant is the species of grass that generally lines every canal, ditch and man-made waterway in the area. This perennial plant generates large rootstocks, which produce stems that grow 4 to 7 feet in height. It produces a wide, thick stock. The seed head starts out in a tight clump, then open up with branching seedlets. It develops heavy rhizomatous roots, which is why it maintains the integrity of the bank system.

Attack: The irrigation managers planted it after building the infrastructure of the systems to maintain the stability of the bank system. Once established, it grows so think that it can fall into the ditch and start inhibiting the flow of the water. It also becomes a fire hazard if those burning it off in the spring are not careful. Although it is very high in protein content, most livestock will avoid it due to its tough, wide leaves. It also has become a dominant species in shallow water table pastures and meadows.

Defense: This is one species that I generally don’t recommend that people control. Yes, it is a problem; but generally it’s better than the alternative. That would be banks that erode away and annual weeds such as kochia, prickley lettuce or marshelder weed. This plant is great at out-competing other invading plants. Many of the irrigation managers spend a great deal of time mowing this plant. Using Roundup (Aquamaster — aquatically approved Roundup) at a low rate — 12 ozs. per acre plus aquatically approved 2,4-D at 2 quarts — to stunt the growth of the grass and kill many newly germinated weeds. Many people burn this off in the spring. Please be aware of fire laws and manage the fire adequately. Call your local weed superintendent for details.

To learn more, call Bonneville County Weed Superintendent Jeffrey Pettingill at 208-529-1397 or email