Giant reed, also known as
wild cane, is a tall, perennial grass that can grow to over 20 feet in height.
Its fleshy, creeping rootstocks form compact masses from which tough, fibrous
roots emerge that penetrate deeply into the soil. Leaves are elongate, 1-2
inches wide and a foot long. The flowers are borne in 2-foot long, dense,
plume-like panicles during August and September.
Giant reed chokes
riversides and stream channels, crowds out native plants, interferes with
flood control, increases fire potential, and reduces habitat for wildlife,
including the Least Bell's vireo, a federally endangered bird. The long,
fibrous, interconnecting root mats of giant reed form a framework for debris
dams behind bridges, culverts, and other structures that lead to damage.
It ignites easily and can create intense fires.
Giant reed can float miles downstream where
root and stem fragments may take root and initiate new infestations. Due
to its rapid growth rate and vegetative reproduction, it is able to quickly
invade new areas and form pure stands at the expense of other species. Once
established, giant reed has the ability to outcompete and completely suppress
IN THE UNITED STATES
Giant reed is distributed from Arkansas and Texas
to California, where it is found throughout the state, and in the east,
from Virginia to Kentucky and Missouri and generally southward.
HABITAT IN THE UNITED STATES
becomes established in moist places such as ditches, streams, and riverbanks,
growing best in well drained soils where abundant moisture is available.
It tolerates a wide variety of conditions, including high salinity, and can
flourish in many soil types from heavy clays to loose sands.
Giant reed was probably first
introduced into the United States at Los Angeles, California in the early
1800's. Since then, it has become widely dispersed into all of the subtropical
and warm temperate areas of the world, mostly through intentional human introductions.
Today, giant reed is widely planted throughout the warmer areas of the United
States as an ornamental and in the Southwest, where it is used along ditches
for erosion control.
Giant reed has a variety of uses ranging from
music to medicine. Primitive pipe organs were made from it and the reeds
for woodwind instruments are still made from its culms, for which no satisfactory
substitutes are known. It is also used in basketry, for fishing rods, livestock
fodder, medicine, and soil erosion control.
BIOLOGY & SPREAD
of giant reed is primarily vegetative, through rhizomes which root and sprout
readily. Little is known about the importance of sexual reproduction in giant
reed, or about its seed viability, dormancy, and germination, and seedling
establishment. Research on these topics may yield some additional improvements
in the management of giant reed.
Areas infested with
giant reed are best restored through chemical means. Mechanical control (e.g.,
repeated mowing) may be somewhat effective, but if small fragments of root
are left in the soil, they may lead to reestablishment.
Systemic herbicides, such as glyphosate (e.g.,
Rodeo®), may be applied clumps of giant reed, after flowering, either as a
cut stump treatment or as a foliar spray. When applying herbicides in or
around water or wetlands, be sure to use products labeled for that purpose
to avoid harm to aquatic organisms.
Prescribed burning, either alone or combined
with herbicide applications, may be effective if conducted after flowering.
Once giant reed has been reduced sufficiently, native plants may be seeded
or transplanted at the treated site.
USE PESTICIDES WISELY: ALWAYS READ THE ENTIRE PESTICIDE LABEL CAREFULLY, FOLLOW ALL MIXING AND APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS AND WEAR ALL RECOMMENDED PERSONAL PROTECTIVE GEAR AND CLOTHING. CONTACT YOUR STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR ANY ADDITIONAL PESTICIDE USE REQUIREMENTS, RESTRICTIONS OR RECOMMENDATIONS.
NOTICE: MENTION OF PESTICIDE PRODUCTS ON THIS WEB SITE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE ENDORSEMENT OF ANY MATERIAL.
For more information on
the management of giant reed, please contact:
SUGGESTED ALTERNATIVE PLANTS
species that are adapted to local conditions should be used in restoration projects
and as a substitute for giant reed in landscapes and erosion control
Nancy Benton, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington,
Gary Bell, The Nature Conservancy, Santa Fe,
Jil M. Swearingen, National Park Service, Washington, DC
John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy, Davis,
Forest & Kim Starr, US Geological Survey, HI
Hoshovsky, Marc. 1996. Element Stewardship Abstract:
Arundo donax. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia.
Perdue, R.E. 1958. Arundo donax - source of
musical reeds and industrial cellulose. Economic Botany 12(4):368-404.
Swearingen, J. 2009. WeedUS Database of Plants Invading Natural Areas in the United States: Giant Reed (Arundo donax). http://www.invasive.org/weedus/subject.html?sub=3009.
The Nature Conservancy. Giant
Reed: Element Stewardship Abstract. In: Wildland Weeds Management & Research
Program, Weeds on the Web.
Tidwell, B. 1995. Native Habitat Restoration:
Controlling Arundo donax. Monsanto Company.
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Plant Conservation Alliance, Alien Plant Working Group.