Notice: Atrium is currently undergoing maintenance. During this time, some or all images may not be displayed.


Phalaris L.

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Genus Parent: Poaceae Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • CANARY GRASS - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Diagnosis: Glabrous erect-tufted annuals; inflorescence a very dense, tightly contracted, spike-like panicle; spikelets sessile, strongly laterally compressed, with 1 terminal perfect floret and 2 sterile reduced or scale-like lemmas below; disarticulation above glumes, the sterile lemmas falling with the fertile one; glumes keeled and winged (along keel) in upper half, ± equal, awnless; lemma of fertile floret keeled, appressed-pubescent, awnless.


Ecology: Some species are potentially toxic. Some species are considered noxious weeds.

Notes: A primarily n temperate C₃ genus of 16–21 species native to Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, n Asia, and the Americas, with centers of distribution in the Mediterranean and the sw U.S. (Baldini 1995; Barkworth ined.). Some are valuable as fodder, as pasture grasses, or as a grain crop (mainly for birdseed); others are considered significant weeds (Watson & Dallwitz 1992). Some species deposit silicon in the lemmas in the form of microfibers and friable sheets; the sharp, elongated fibers fall into a size range potentially important as carcinogens. The fruits of a number of species “are known contaminants of the cereal crops of the Middle East, and have been implicated as factors in the high incidence of oesophageal cancer in north-east Iran” (Sangster et al. 1983). The dense inflorescences are sometimes used in dried floral arrangements (Burrows & Tyrl 2001) and are sometimes dyed green and used to simulate shrubs in model landscapes (Barkworth ined.). Phalaris arundinacea L., REED CANARY GRASS, a circumpolar species native to the n U.S., is weedy and difficult to eradicate and is considered a noxious weed in WA and NC (Kartesz 1999). Some species of Phalaris are potentially toxic to grazing livestock, with toxins including alkaloids (Clay 1988; Burrows & Tyrl 2001). (Ancient Greek name for an undetermined grass) (subfamily Pooideae, tribe Poeae)