Monday, June 8, 2015


When my memories take me back to the times spent on the sunny, sandy Kuşadası beaches of my childhood in the 1950s, I also remember reeds. I played with reed stems. Reeds were used for making changing cabins, restaurant awnings or platforms to sit on.

When I remember reeds I think of languorous summer afternoons, tiny waves lapping the shore, hot sand scorching our feet, cloth covered cork life vests ……

Arundo donax in April

I’m working on identifying reeds correctly. Economically reeds are grouped with leaf and stem crops in the grass family. 12 subfamilies are recognized in the grass family Poaceae. The subfamily Arundinoideae of the family Poaceae includes the giant reed and the common reed. The giant reed, Arundo donax, is taller with longer leaves and with a longer, more compact inflorescence than the common reed. The common reed, Phragmites australis subsp. australis (the European common reed variety), is a little shorter, with shorter and more narrow leaves, and a shorter inflorescence that looks more open and often leans to one side.

Reed is abundant in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Turkey, planted as field hedges and found in wetlands. It is used in basket and mat weaving. The reeds (Arundo donax with specific properties) that grow at Samandağ in the Hatay Province of Turkey (Southeastern Turkey) are the best reeds in the world for making reedpipe (kaval) and ney, a flute like instrument the name of which comes from the Persian word ‘nay’ for reed. The Turkish ney (reed flute), together with insturments such as tanbur (long necked lute), rebab (type of fiddle), kudüm (small drums) and others, is an important component of classical Turkish music.

Photograph: Rifat Varol, Feb. 20, 2012 The names of the above ney in Turkish are ‘boynuz başpareli kız ney’ and ‘yıldız ney’. (

A.donax is also the principal source material for reeds of woodwind instruments such as clarinets, saxophones oboes, etc. Sound is produced by blowing air into the mouthpiece of the instrument which then causes a thin strip of reed to vibrate.

                                                      The common reed where the Göksu River meets the Black Sea (Ağva, Turkey)

Reeds have been of use to us in many ways over thousands of years.

                                                                        The common reed in Malta in April, 2014

                                             Life vest similar to the one my parents tied around my waist to go swimming


  1. I used to love playing with the reed stems. When they started paving over everything, there were fewer reed stems to collect...

  2. Hi Beste - I've never seen reed beds per se ... we use reed here for thatching ... but I can quite see instruments being made out of reeds ... love the photos.

    I saw reeds in the Okavango, Botswana ... where they used it as shading .. and no doubt the Africans used it for housing ... I went to the loo one day, and zigzag enclosure of reeds .. and there was a long thin snake weaving its way along the reed sides ... I was glad to get out ... I've no idea what it was ... but they're not my favourite creatures ... though writing about them, as I did in my post in March 2014, made me realise how clever they've become over the eras ...

    Cheers Hilary

  3. Oh, snakes, although I like to think of them as handsome looking creatures, I would not like to meet one in the wild.