Phalaris (plant)

Phalaris is a genus of grasses. Various species of Phalaris grow on every continent except Antarctica. They can be found in a broad range of habitats from below sea level to thousands of feet above sea level and from wet marshy areas to dry places. P. arundinacea and P. aquatica are sometimes invasive species in wetlands.

Phalaris aquatica.jpg
Phalaris aquatica
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Pooideae
Supertribe: Poodae
Tribe: Poeae
Subtribe: Phalaridinae
Genus: Phalaris

15-22 species (see text)


Some Phalaris species contain gramine, which, in sheep and to a lesser extent in cattle, is toxic and can cause brain damage, other organ damage, central nervous system damage, and death.[1][2]

Phalaris arundinacea, Phalaris aquatica, and Phalaris brachystachys are known to contain the alkaloids DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, and 5-OH-DMT (bufotenin). Some research has been done into the variability of alkaloids in the Phalaris grasses. Strains with high levels of alkaloids are best avoided in locations with grazing cattle and sheep, due to potential toxicity. Such high-alkaloid strains include Phalaris aquatica AQ-1 and the species P. brachystachys. Seasonal and weather patterns also appear to affect alkaloid concentration, as most toxicity occurs in autumn and in times of drought. Regrowth after grazing or mowing also shows a considerable increase in alkaloids.

In June 2018, mobs of wild kangaroos were observed[3] suffering from "phalaris staggers" which causes head tremors, a loss of co-ordination and collapse. When phalaris is used to feed livestock, farmers can administer cobalt to their animals or spray it on their pastures to protect animals against the effects of phalaris. However, this treatment is not available to wild kangaroos and they suffer from poisoning due to the alkaloids. The staggers syndrome is more common in livestock in areas with limestone soils, which contain less cobalt than basalt soils.

Phalaris species known to contain alkaloids
Total alkaloids (dried)
Phalaris aquatica
Phalaris arundinacea
Phalaris brachystachys
Aerial parts up to 3%

None of the above alkaloids is said to have been found in P. californica, P. canariensis, P. minor and hybrids of P. arundinacea together with P. aquatica.[4]


Some species are used in dried flower arrangements. Phalaris canariensis is commonly used for birdseed.

Phalaris arundinacea is also being trialled as a potential bioenergy crop in Ireland.[6]


Species include:


  1. ^ Cheeke, Peter R. (31 August 1989). Toxicants of Plant Origin - Google Book Search. ISBN 9780849369902. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  2. ^ phalaris pdf Archived 2015-11-24 at the Wayback Machine - AU Dept. of Agriculture and Food
  3. ^ Kangaroos under the influence: Grass to blame for staggering death of 'drunken' kangaroos, Jo Printz and Mark Kearney, ABC News Online, 2018-06-21
  4. ^ a b c "Lycaeum". Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  5. ^ a b c Erowid Phalaris FAQ
  6. ^ Reed Canary Grass. Teagasc. 2007.

External linksEdit