Reedbeds have an important ecological role. They can be used for filtering pollution and sewage from water. They also absorb toxic or agricultural run-off when planted around buildings and motorways.


The common reed (Phragmites australis) naturally colonises wet areas including ponds, ditches, dykes, fens and estuaries and these areas soon build up into expansive reedbeds. If reedbeds dry out, plant litter builds up and scrub will take over.

Reedbeds used to be important for the local economy as they were traditionally harvested in the winter months and used for thatching material. Reeds also have an important role in water treatment processes.


Reeds are attractive plants throughout the year. They are lush green in late spring and early summer with magenta flowers appearing in late summer. The feathery seed heads turn silver-gold in the late autumn, depending on the direction and strength of the sunlight.

Habitat for wildlife

Reedbeds have great conservation value and are good breeding or roosting sites for a variety of birds including the bittern (Botaurus stellaris), reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), bearded tit (Panurus biarmicus) and marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus).

In the Wildlife Garden our reedbed provides a refuge for amphibians and from late spring the tall thick growth provides an area for foxes (Vulpes vulpes) to pass close to the pond, sometimes unnoticed.

Managing reedbeds

The three sections of the small reedbed in the Wildlife Garden are cut on rotation, in the winter, which stimulates their growth. However they are not recommended for a small garden as their fibrous roots, so beneficial as a filter, will soon dominate a small garden pond.

Each year our pond management includes removing large quantities of reeds that have spread from the reed bed.

Reedbeds in the Museum's Wildlife Garden

Our reedbed acts as a purification system. Overflow from the pond drains through the reedbed and its fibrous roots filter out particles from the water. Microbes living in and around the roots remove harmful chemicals.

Wildlife Garden blog


Keep up to date with what’s happening in the Museum’s Wildlife Garden and discover some of the latest sightings in this tranquil haven.

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