Tuesday, April 15, 2014


For those of you who haven’t attempted making arrows using common reed or Phragmites australis may I suggest you give it a try.  A selfbow with a pull weight of between 35 and 50 pounds shoots phragmites arrows with amazing accuracy.  Interestingly, 90 percent of your phragmites arrows will not need to be sorted for flexibility or what archers call the arrow’s spine weight.  You can grow your own phragmites in your yard and thus have a ready access of arrow material when needed.  Phragmites arrows will take game up to the size of elk and they are also excellent for backyard practice.

Phragmites grows best in full sunlight and, in fact, the best reed arrows are harvested from exposed areas where the reed shaft can harden and thus develop a thick cuticle.  The reeds growing in the photo below are recent transplants to my gray water outlet pond behind the cabin.  Within a few days of being planted the rhizomes started to sprout.

Gray Water Pond

 Find a locale where phragmites is growing (look along drainage ditches, canals, ponds and other wetland areas) then dig around the base of an individual clump of reeds.  You’ll encounter the rhizomes or root complexes within an inch of digging.  Carefully cut around a section of rhizomes making sure to protect the smaller and more fragile feeder roots and then place the entire segment into a pot.  It’s preferable to collect from five to ten rhizome clumps (or more) in order to insure you’ll have a successful transplanting.  You need not include the reed shaft itself.  I usually collect rhizomes when I’m out gathering reeds to make into arrows.  I’ll slice off the reed with my machete and then collect the rhizome underneath.  That means when you plant the rhizome you’ll have a small part of the reeds projecting above the ground.  After you extract the rhizome from the ground you must quickly cover it with moist soil.  Rhizomes begin drying out almost immediately after being removed from the ground.  I cover each rhizome with moist dirt taken directly from the spot where the plant was growing.  I always soak the moist dirt with more water when I reach my truck but it doesn’t have to be immersed in water.  This insures that the rhizomes are saturated and helps them through the trauma of being taken from the ground.

Phragmites in gray water pond 

If you plant your rhizomes in a pot be sure the soil is well drained.  I place a layer of sand on the bottom leaving about one-third of the depth at the top with potting soil.  I plant the rhizome clump into the potting soil then cover the soil with a layer of mulch to keep the soil damp and protect it from other grasses or herbs that might take hold.

Phragmites growing around your gray water pond will help keep the pond free of herbaceous plants (weeds) and at the same time filter out any impurities in the water.  When the phragmites takes hold any odors associated with your gray water pond will all but disappear.  Be sure and plant several rhizome clumps around your pond so that the roots creeping underneath will spread evenly.  Within a year you will be able to start harvesting arrow shafts.

If you plant phragmites in pots then may I suggest you plant between five and ten 1-5 gallon pots.  In this way you can harvest the shafts in consecutive order.  In other words, you’ll begin at one end and as needed cut shafts from pot to pot.  By the time you finally get back to the first pot the reeds will have grown high enough to produce another round of suitable arrow shafts.

Phragmites stakes to start off grape vines

Phragmites also comes in handy for garden stakes.  The stakes above will support the grape vines until ready for transplantation.

I know people who make flutes with phragmites and of course it makes excellent thatch material.  When I was a boy I took part in thatching a number of jacales and even a large stone-walled cabin with phragmites.  Use your imagination.  Your phragmites plantings will serve for a number of projects from arrow shafts to bird houses to flutes to “tricklers.”  I’ll post an article on making bird houses with phragmites and some neat tricklers using both phragmites and Arundo donax.

Phragmites reeds drying


  1. Wow! This is just incredible. Thank you, thank you, thank you. :)

    1. You're welcome. Now go out and grow some arrows. I hope you have a good time.

    2. Thanks for this article Arturo! I have just started getting into primitive archery and making my own equipment. I live in Tucson, AZ and their seems to be an abundance of this plant in the washes. I don't hear much about this plant on youtube tutorials as people are mostly using eastern river cane (which I think is a bit thicker) but I'm glad to see that somebody is using it. Would you maybe post pictures of some of your cane arrows? Also, is spine weight not really an issue for this plant? It's hard to believe. I guess I will just have to see for myself.

    3. Rafael,
      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. The cane I am using is native to much of the Southwest but it should not be confused with Arundo donax which is larger and is not native. Phragmites australis berlandieri is much thinner, about the width of a normal arrow. It is lightweight but very strong when properly dried. Spine weight is not a consideration with this cane if you keep draw weight between 40-50 pounds which is more than enough for most hunting. The Eastern cane you mention is Arundinaria sp and that is a true bamboo; in fact, it's the only bamboo occurring in the US. It is found as three different species but A. gigantia is the most common. I will post pictures and I'll go ahead and do a tutorial for you on how I make my hunting arrows. I'll post it in about two weeks or thereabouts. Thanks for your question.