You are now looking at one of the great joys of my life, an eight-foot tall stand of common reed at my place in the country. It sits in a boggy spot at the edge of my lawn and gives us incredible privacy from the road.
It's one of a number of politically incorrect plants installed here long ago. At least, I'm assuming it was deliberately introduced back when an ability to naturalize was a desirable trait in a beautiful plant. But it could be a native stand that looks organized because it's been controlled so long by mowing.
Common reed really illustrates how tortured the natives versus invasives debate can be. That's because one common reed subspecies is native, another is introduced, and they are barely distinguishable. The University of Connecticut's Invasive Plant Atlas of New England says of the common reed, "Unfortunately, some non-native strains of this plant have also made
their way here, and it is suspected that these strains are the ones that
have exhibited invasive tendencies."
That sounds like a political position more than science to me.
Here's another fact-sheet on common reed, this one by the National Park Service, that is a masterpiece of ambivalence. Can it be invasive if it's also native?
I don't just love my common reed because it hides me from the few cars that pass my place every day. I love it because it is teeming with noisy life. The birdsong from these reeds at dusk is so loud that it often interrupts a dinner-table conversation hundreds of feet away. I like to stand in front of these reeds at that time of day and listen to the conversations taking place within the placid-looking mass of stems. There are so many whistles and trills, it sounds like a thousand R2D2s all going off a once.
There are not just birds in there, either. There are rustling sounds at ground level, too–deer, ducks, turtles, muskrats, who knows–so many, that standing in front of the wall of stems is like standing in front of a heavy curtain with the main hall of Grand Central Station on the other side.
In a spot that otherwise would be a less life-affirming kind of monoculture, a soggy lawn, I think it is just fantastic.