Chinese reed

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Chinese reed
Chinese reed (Miscanthus sinensis)

Chinese reed ( Miscanthus sinensis )

Order : Sweet grass (Poales)
Family : Sweet grasses (Poaceae)
Subfamily : Panicoideae
Genre : Miscanthus
Type : Chinese reed
Scientific name
Miscanthus sinensis

Chinese reed ( Miscanthus sinensis ), also erroneously known as elephant grass , is a perennial species of the sweet grass family (Poaceae). It comes from East Asia (China, Japan, Korea).


Miscanthus sinensis is characterized by a reed-like habit, forms dense to loose clumps and reaches heights between 80 and 200 (rarely 300 to 400) centimeters. The plants form a horizontally growing, short rhizome , the attached root system can penetrate to a depth of 2.5 m, depending on the nature of the soil.

The unbranched, sturdy stalks have a diameter of 3 to 10 millimeters, the nodes can be bald or slightly hairy. The alternating leaves at the base of the stem and along the stem show the upright leaf position that is characteristic of C4 plants , which enables maximum light absorption. The leaf sheath can be hairy or hairy tomentose. The 18 to 75 centimeter long and 0.3 to 2 (to 4) centimeter wide leaf blade is linear and flat, tapers from the base or is broadly rounded and tapers to a point. The midrib protrudes, the edges rough or smooth. The 0.5 to 4 millimeter long ligula is ciliated.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Far East', leaves

The inflorescence is a 20 to 36 (from 10) centimeter long, almost bald to tomentose hairy panicle , the inflorescence axis is 6 to 16 centimeters long. The individual grapes (the number of which can vary significantly, especially with varieties) are 10 to 40 (4 to 100) centimeters long and reach a diameter of 10 to 30 (from 8) centimeters, the internodes of the rachis are bare and smooth to slightly rough, their knots hairy. The lower flower stalks are 0.5 to 1.5 millimeters long, the upper 1.5 to 4 millimeters.

The seated on unequal length Ährchenstielen, paired spikelets are filzig hairy to bald awl-shaped and 4 to 6.5 millimeters long. They are surmounted by the 5 to 8 millimeter long callus hairs , the roughly identically shaped, membranous husks are five-nerved, tapered, 4 to 6.5 millimeters long and bald to hairy on the back, the tips and the upper edge are hairy. The lower lemmas are lanceolate and translucent, 3.5 to 4 millimeters long, hairy at the tip and the edges, otherwise glabrous, a vein is missing. The upper lemmas are similar to them, but only reach a length of 2.5 to 3.5 millimeters. The awns are 4 to 12 millimeters, the upper palea are 1 to 2 millimeters long scale leaves. The three dust bags are around 2.5 millimeters long.

With a length of 2.2 mm, a thickness of 0.9 mm and a thousand-grain mass of 300 to 950 mg, the elliptical caryopsis is typical of plants spread out in the wind .

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 40 or 46.

Distribution and habitat

Chinese reed is widespread in large parts of China as well as in Japan and Korea on mountain slopes, on coasts and disturbed locations at altitudes below 2000 meters.

Species introduced as ornamental plants in the USA have spread uncontrollably through seeds and have therefore been classified as invasive just 20 years after introduction . They were able to spread particularly in the zones of the temperate latitudes of the Atlantic coast; They are most effectively combated with herbicides containing glyphosate .


In the countries of origin, around 40 species of butterflies have become known that visit the Chinese reed as host plant, most of them from the genera of the Hesperiidae and Nymphalidae .

Miscanthus has what is known as C4 metabolism , a form of photosynthesis that is particularly efficient under certain environmental conditions ; Therefore, compared to the C3 plants , the plant is characterized by a particularly high biomass output under certain climatic conditions .


Miscanthus sinensis was first described by Nils Johan Andersson in 1855 . The species is considered to be very variable, which is why many sub-taxa were described and are now understood as synonymous species. Synonyms are: Miscanthus condensatus Hack. , Saccharum japonicum Thunb. , Miscanthus transmorrisonensis Hayata .


In the areas of origin, the Chinese reed was known as a raw material for mats and wickerwork for privacy and wind protection and as a forage plant. Since the 1950s, it has been cultivated as an ornamental plant in Europe alongside Miscanthus sacchariflorus . There are numerous varieties that are used in garden design, such as 'Strictus', 'Far East' and 'Malepartus'.

As early as 1935, a special, fast-growing variety, the giant Chinese reed ( Miscanthus × giganteus ), a cross between the Chinese reed and Miscanthus sacchariflorus , was introduced from Japan via Denmark to Central Europe, which can reach heights of up to four meters in Europe and therefore since the end of the 1970s it has been increasingly grown as a renewable raw material for energy and material use.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c According to
  2. a b c d e f g Shou-liang Chen & Stephen A. Renvoize: Miscanthus sinensis , in: Flora of China , Vol. 22, pp. 581-583, online
  3. ^ Tropicos. [1]
  4. Entry Miscanthus sinensis , NRCS, US Dep. of Agriculture - with current distribution map
  5. entry Chinese silver grass
  6. J. Swearingen, K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, S. Zwicker: Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and US Fish & Wildlife Service, 2002, p. 82, quoted from
  7. Natural History Museum: HOSTS - a Database of the World's Lepidopteran Hostplants
  8. Rafaël Govaerts (Ed.): Miscanthus sinensis. In: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP) - The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . Accessed May 31, 2020.

Web links

Commons : Chinaschilf ( Miscanthus sinensis )  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files