Arundo donax Fact Sheet

Greg getting a satellite fix on the Enemy

Scientific name: Arundo donax

Common names: Giant Reed, Wild Cane


Arundo donax is a bamboo-like grass that prefers stream banks and other wet areas. It attains heights of 25 feet and once established tends to form large, continuous root masses. A single clump typically has hundreds of stems that grow very close together and very rapidly-- several inches per day in the Spring and Summer. The plant reproduces vegetatively by spreading outward and from clumps broken off from an adult plant, which can happen in flood events. Both the stems and the underground parts called rhizomes have the ability to propagate.

Arundo was imported from the Mediterranean by the early Spanish settlers. It was once useful to people for building materials and as a rapidly growing barrier. As many alien plants do, Arundo has escaped cultivation and reproduced itself until it is now out of control.

Why Arundo is undesirable-

Because of the many detrimental effects of the spread of Arundo, it is agreed by biologists and land management professionals to be one of the primary threats to the health of the streams and waterways of the Western United States.

Because the plant did not evolve in California, the newcomer Arundo has no effective competitors in our California stream beds. The dense, high growing plant quickly chokes and kills everything in its path. The result is a sea of "Cane"- a single species, where there were once hundreds. Wildlife that depended on the alders, cottonwoods, bays, willows, annuals, and open space lose their habitats and food sources. In addition to these adverse effects, Arundo consumes three times more water than native plants, is a fire hazard, and creates serious flood control problems.

What the Sonoma Ecology Center is doing about it-

The Watershed Council of the Sonoma Ecology Center has obtained a grant from the California Department of Water Resources Urban Stream Restoration Program to begin eradication of Giant Reed in the Sonoma Creek channel. We are planning volunteer workdays in the Spring of 1995 to remove clumps and haul away or burn the biomass, and to replant with native trees and shrubs. As part of our program, we are making efforts to educate the public about this and other pest plants, so nurseries stop selling it and people know not to plant it or dump cuttings into waterways.

How to get involved-

There are many pest-plant eradication and creek restoration efforts in progress state-wide; call your local environmental center or Resource Conservation District to find out about your area. The paper cited below contains a listing of Arundo projects in California. To volunteer your help in the Sonoma area, call the Sonoma Ecology Center at 996-9744.


California Exotic Pest Plant Council/Team Arundo's Arundo donax Workshop Proceedings, available from the Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District, PO Box 3507, Riverside, CA 92519-3507.

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