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Arundinaria gigantea (Giant cane)
Romfh, Peggy

Arundinaria gigantea

Arundinaria gigantea (Walter) Muhl.

Giant cane, River cane, Switch cane, American bamboo

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Arundinaria gigantea ssp. gigantea, Arundinaria gigantea ssp. macrosperma


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A woody perennial from hard, tough rhizomes, forming open to dense colonies. The slender stems are 3-25 ft. tall, at first unbranched, later branching and forming fanlike clusters. Basal leaves and those on primary branches are short and narrow; upper leaves are longer and wider. Spikelets occur on long, slender stalks, flowering at infrequent intervals. Flowering stems die after seeds mature. Smaller, more blue-green populations on lower, wetter sites are classified as Arundinaria gigantea var. tecta but are sometimes considered a completely separate species, A. tecta, referred to as Switch cane.

The northernmost bamboo in the Americas, Arundinaria gigantea at one time ranged from what is now southern New Jersey, southern Ohio, and southern Illinois south to northern Florida and west to eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma, forming its own ecosystems called canebrakes. In some areas, like the Gulf Coast savannas and what would become Kentucky, landscapes as far as the eye could see were covered with this giant grass. It formed the understory in cane savannas in the Southeast and provided cover for a variety of animals, some of which relied on it, like Wood Bison, Canebrake Rattlesnakes, Swamp Rabbits, and several species of warbler. When its numbers were huge, it often seeded out all at once, inviting great flocks of birds to partake of the feast. Humans, too, utilized the plant for basketry and home construction. Today, it is limited to occasional patches, as it was cleared away with European invasion from the 16th to 19th centuries.


Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Inflorescence: Spike
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr , May
Bloom Notes: Bloom: dark green


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MD , MO , MS , NC , NJ , OH , OK , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV
Native Distribution: Southern New Jersey to s. IL, s. to northern FL & eastern TX. In Texas, confined to the eastern region no farther west than the Brazos River.
Native Habitat: River banks; damp woods; bogs; rich-soiled uplands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Wet soils.
Conditions Comments: Not Available


Use Wildlife: Relied on by Bachmans Warbler, Swainsons Warbler, turkeys, Canebrake Rattlesnakes, Swamp Rabbits, Wood Bison, Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, and Elk
Use Other: Extensively used for basketry by southeastern indigenous peoples, as well as for home-building by groups like the Caddo
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Creole Pearly Eye (Enodia creola), Southern Pearly Eye (Enodia portlandia), Southern Swamp Skipper (Poanes yehl), Cobweb Little Skipper (Amblyscrites aesculapius), Cane Little Skipper (Amblyscrites reversa), Yellow Little Skipper (Amblyscrites carolina)
Deer Resistant: No


Description: Not Available
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Native alternatives for non-native, invasive bamboo in New York
March 26, 2006
I hope you can help me. This is not about wildflowers. I'm interested in planting bamboo as a screen (25'+). I know all the pros/cons and would need to have a nursery to put in barrier. I need some...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS


Bibref 1780 - Canebrakes: Bamboo Forests of the Southeast, in Wild Earth journal, volume 12, number 2, pp. 38-45 (2002) Platt, Steven; Christopher Brantley; and Thomas Ra...
Bibref 1282 - Explorers' Texas: The Lands and Waters (1984) Weniger, Del
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 21 - Canebrakes, Bamboo Forests of the Southeast (2002) Wildlands Project

Additional resources

USDA: Find Arundinaria gigantea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Arundinaria gigantea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Arundinaria gigantea


Record Modified: 2015-08-22
Research By: TWC Staff

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