Phalaris aquatica originated from Southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Southern France, Crete, Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria), North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Lybia, Tunisia) and the Caucasus (Azerbaijan). It was introduced, and is now widely naturalized, into South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and the USA (USDA, 2016). In Australia, bulbous canary grass pastures cover about 1.6 million ha (Popay, 2015).
Bulbous canary grass is a cool season perennial that grows mainly during autumn, winter and spring (Ecocrop, 2016). It is a fast-growing grass that keeps growing during winter and reseeds readily (Dyer, 2005). It responds quickly to early autumn rainfall (Watson et al., 2000).
Phalaris aquatica can be naturally found along roadsides, water courses, field borders, foothill grasslands, woodland glades and waste areas (Popay, 2015). It grows from sea level up to an altitude of 1200 m. It does well in Mediterranean-like climate areas (Dyer, 2005). It requires 500 mm annual rainfall with good distribution from autumn to spring for optimal growth (Watson et al., 2000). However, it can grow in places where annual rainfall is as low as 300 mm provided the soil has good moisture holding capacity (Dyer, 2005). Optimal growth is obtained where temperature is between 15 and 25°C. As a typical Mediterranean species, bulbous canary grass can survive both low winter temperatures with severe frosts, and high summer temperatures. It continues to grow during mild winters.
Phalaris aquatica does well in most soils, from shallow acidic ones to deep self-mulching alkaline ones. It responds positively to most fertilizer applications. In acidic soils, it is poorly tolerant of Al3+ but can withstand high levels of manganese (Watson et al., 2000). It generally does better in deep heavy textured, fertile soils. It is tolerant of waterlogging and is a drought-resistant species. It outcompetes many grasses such as cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata), fescue (Festuca spp.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne spp.). In drier areas, the depth of the soil is an important factor for its survival: the deeper the soil, the deeper the roots can grow and find water. In low rainfall areas soil moisture holding capacity is of utmost importance for its persistence (Dyer, 2005; Watson et al., 2000).