This article aims at seeking the universal behavior of propagation rate variation with air superficial velocity (V-s) in a packed bed of a range of biomass particles in reverse downdraft mode while also resolving the differing and conflicting explanations in the literature. Toward this, measurements are made of exit gas composition, gas phase and condensed phase surface temperature (T-g and T-s), and reaction zone thickness for a number of biomass with a range of properties. Based on these data, two regimes are identified: gasificationvolatile oxidation accompanied by char reduction reactions up to 16 +/- 1cm/s of V-s and above this, and char oxidationsimultaneous char oxidation and gas phase combustion. In the gasification regime, the measured T-s is less than T-g; a surface heat balance incorporating a diffusion controlled model for flaming combustion gives and matches with the experimental results to within 5%. In the char oxidation regime, T-g and T-s are nearly equal and match with the equilibrium temperature at that equivalence ratio. Drawing from a recent study of the authors, the ash layer over the oxidizing char particle is shown to play a critical role in regulating the radiation heat transfer to fresh biomass in this regime and is shown to be crucial in explaining the observed propagation behavior. A simple model based on radiation-convection balance that tracks the temperature-time evolution of a fresh biomass particle is shown to support the universal behavior of the experimental data on reaction front propagation rate from earlier literature and the present work for biomass with ash content up to 10% and moisture fraction up to 10%. Upstream radiant heat transfer from the ash-laden hot char modulated by the air flow is shown to be the dominant feature of this model.