Arundo donax L.

Common Name: Giantreed

Synonyms and Other Names:

Arundo bifaria Retz., Arundo glauca Bubani, Arundo latifolia Salisb., Arundo sativa Lam., Cynodon donax (L.) Raspail, Donax arundinaceus P. Beauv., Donax donax (L.) Ash. & Graebn., Scolochloa arundinacea (P. Beauv.) Mert. & Koch, Scolochloa donax (L.) Gaudin, Arundo donax var. angustifolia Döll, Arundo donax var. lanceolata Döll



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Identification: Arundo donax is perennial and one of the largest herbaceous grasses ranging from 2-8 m in height. It is tall, erect, and cane/reed-like in appearance. Rootstocks are fleshy, nearly bulbous, compact masses which extend to tough fibrous roots that penetrate deep into the soil.
Hollow stems range in diameter from 1 to 4 cm and frequently branch in the second year of growth. Stems are hollow with 2-7mm thick walls which are divided by partitions at nodes, the nodes varying in length from 12-30 cm. The outer tissue of the stem is hard and brittle with a smooth glossy surface. This surface turns pale golden yellow when the stem is fully mature.  Leaves are broad at the base and taper to a fine point. They emerge from the stem on opposite sides and are 5-8 cm in length. Leaf sheaths are tightly wrapped around the stem and commonly persist after leaves have fallen. Flowers form terminally and are plume-like panicles 30-60 cm long (Perdue 1958).


Size: 2-8m


Native Range: Native to countries surrounding Mediterranean Sea and parts of Pacific Basin (Perdue 1958, USDA 2017)


This species is not currently in the Great Lakes region but may be elsewhere in the US. See the point map for details.

Table 1. States/provinces with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Arundo donax are found here.

State/ProvinceFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AZ201820181Little Colorado Headwaters
CA201320182Salinas; San Francisco Coastal South
DC193819381Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
HI200220111Kauai
MD193119592Patuxent; Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva
NV201420174Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Las Vegas Wash; Meadow Valley Wash; Upper Amargosa
NJ189018901Hackensack-Passaic
NM189518951Mimbres
NC193319331Upper Yadkin
TX1852202112Austin-Travis Lakes; Black Hills-Fresno; Bois D'arc-Island; Elm-Sycamore; Lampasas; Lower Colorado-Cummins; Lower San Antonio; Medina; Middle Canadian-Spring; Middle Guadalupe; San Ambrosia-Santa Isabel; Upper Neches

Table last updated 5/21/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.


Ecology: Arundo donax is a resilient, versatile and fast growing plant. The most suitable conditions for Arundo donax are well-drained soils with abundant moisture. Its preferred environment is along the border of lakes or along ditches and canals.  It is able to grow in all types of soils that have a pH between 4.8 and 7.0, including heavy clay, loose sand, and gravelly soil.  At favorable conditions canes grow at 0.3 to 0.7 m per week over several months and more than 20 tons per hectare of above-ground dry mass can be produced . It is tolerant of soils with low amounts of nitrogen but shows low tolerance of soils with calcium carbonate. When growing in low-nitrogen conditions the buds of the rhizome are produced at a greater distance apart and the underground structures are greatly expanded. In Liao et al. (2017), Arundo donax showed high  biomass growth at six different nutrient treatments, the lowest of which was 4 mg L-1 of nitrogen and 0.4 mg L-1 of phosphorous and the highest treatment contained 16 mg L-1 of nitrogen and 3.2 mg L-1 of phosphorous suggesting a wide range of nutrient tolerance. Arundo donax can tolerate excessive salinity and established two to three year old growth can survive severe drought as well as periods of excessive moisture. The annual precipitation minimum for growth is 35 inches and precipitation maximum is 65 inches. This tolerance is a result of coarse drought-resistant rhizomes and deep penetrating roots which reach 24 inches deep minimum, enabling access to deep water tables. Drought can significantly reduce the size of Arundo donax if it occurs in the first year of growth.  Dormant plants possess the ability to survive low temperatures down to 7°F but frost after initiation of spring growth can cause serious damage; 220 frost free days a year are required for growth (Perdue 1958; USDA 2017).

The primary mode of reproduction for Arundo donax is vegetative, which is the most common method used for cultivation. Sprouts rise from disturbed stems or rhizomes even if buried 3 to 10 feet deep (USDA Forest Service 2014). Stems and rhizomes remain viable for at least one month upon separation from the parent plant (Wijte et al. 2005). Little is known of seed production. Plants reportedly do not produce viable seeds in areas they are well adapted too, however some plants have been grown using seeds collected in Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Iran. Dense seed heads at the top of tall stem are assumed to be used for wind seed dispersal (Perdue 1958). Active growth occurs in the spring, summer, and fall and flowers bloom in late spring (USDA 2017).

Arundo donax stems and leaves contain a variety of noxious chemicals which likely protect it from insects and grazers. Chemicals include silica, triterpines, sterols, cardiac glyscoides, curare-mimicking indoles,hydroxamic acid and other alkaloids (Bell 1997; Zúniga et al. 1983). However, corn borers, spider mites, and aphids have been reported to infest the plant (Bell 1997).


Means of Introduction: Arundo donax was intentionally introduced to Los Angeles in the 1820’s for erosion control and thatching for roofs (Hoshovsky 1987).

Arundo donax has a low probability of introduction to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: Low).
Potential pathway(s) of introduction: Dispersal, Release

Arundo donax has shown rapid clonal spread through flood dispersal of rhizome and culm fragments, however records of this species occur >100km from the Great Lakes Basin making likelihood of introduction low (Mariani et al. 2010). Arundo donax shows low probability of spreading through unauthorized intentional release. It is available for sale on popular online retailers Ebay and Amazon in addition to gardening supply websites. In a document released from MSU Dr. Art Cameron (2010) Arundo donax is listed as an ornamental grass suitable for Michigan gardens. Historically Arundo donax was also listed for ornamental use by the Michigan State Pomological Society (1883).  This trade and planting is limited in the Great Lakes Region, specifically in Wisconsin Chapter NR 40 and the Illinois whitelist approach to aquatic plants.


Status: Arundo donax has a moderate  probability of establishment if introduced to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: High).

Arundo donax is a resilient, versatile and fast growing plant with strong competitive abilities which have led to the plant becoming highly invasive in particular areas of the United States. Giant Reed has shown qualities which indicate that it could overwinter however its spread North into colder climates appears to be limited even in its native range. The range of Arundo donax potentially could increase with the effects of climate change.


Great Lakes Impacts:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...

EnvironmentalSocioeconomicBeneficial



Arundo donax has the potential for high environmental impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Where invasive in Southern California, Arundo donax, has shown high environmental impact. Its competitive abilities have led to declines of native species including Salix spp., Baccharis salicfolia,  and Propulus spp. which provide nesting habitat for native birds (Oakins 2001). The dominance of Arundo donax also caused a decline of arthropod abundance (Herrera and Dudley 2003). It also alters the ecosystem with its large continuous clonal root masses which stabilize banks and terraces  altering hydrology (Bell 1997).

Arundo donax has the potential for moderate socio-economic impact if introduced to the Great Lakes

In Southern California Arundo donax creates a fire hazard which is a hazard to human health and property. It also alters hydrology, forcing streams in new directions which can result in areas becoming designated as high flood risk increasing insurance costs and reducing property value (Oakins 2001).

Arundo donax has the potential for moderate positive effect if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Arundo donax is of “great promise” for the development of novel drugs for human diseases (Al-Snafi 2015). It has also shown potential for nutrient removal from wastewater and phytoremediation of heavy metals from water (Liao et al. 2017; Mirza et al. 2010; Papazoglou et al. 2004).


Management: Regulations

Wisconsin prohibits the transport, possession, or introduction of Arundo donax (Wisconsin Chapter NR 40).

Listed as caution species by Indiana Invasive Species Council indicating incomplete assessment but potential for invasion and impacts

Note: Illinois regulates aquatic plants that are not explicitly approved. Therefore, Arundo donax is restricted in Illinois.

Note: Check federal, state, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Control
Biological
While not palatable, livestock will graze on young green shoots during the dry season. Goats can be used to suppress resprouts after other treatments have been completed (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Currently no biological control is approved (USDA Forest Service 2014).  Rhizaspidioutus donacis is an insect found in the native range of Arundo donax and is expected to become available in the United States for use as a biological control agent. R. donacis attacks rhizomes and underground buds. 

Physical
Digging can remove individual plants, first cut the canopy then pull out reed stems, rhizomes and roots. Uprooted material should be removed/burned to prevent rerooting (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Mechanical methods can treat individual plants, tools including handtools, backhoe, excavator, etc., to wider scale hammer-flail mowers, root plows, rakes etc. Mechanical methods should be used in conjunction with chemical control and planting of native species for best effects. Soil disturbance caused by mechanical control can inhibit succession by native plants (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Excavating can remove small dense stands of Arundo donax and does not require pre-cutting. Not recommended by streambed or edge to avoid transport of material downstream (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Chemical
Application of herbicide is effective but typically takes 3-5 years of repeated use for complete control. Primary herbicides used are imazapyr and/or glyphosate. Glyphosate is used in .5-1 pint per acre with a product that is 2 pounds active ingredient per gallon. Imazapyr is used in 1-2 quarts per acre. Glyphosate and Imazapyr is used in a mix of a 1 quart: 1 quart ratio per acre (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Herbicide can be applied using cut-stump methods or foliar application. Cut-stump can be applied from October through December and foliar applications can be applied when plants are flowering in August to late October. Possible tools include aerial application by helicopter, truck and ATV sprayers, towed sprayers, backpack sprayers and hand sprayers (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Other

Cut-regrow-spray: used in spaces where Arundo donax is mature and densely packed. Stalks are cut using a brush cutter, chain saw, or loppers early in the growth season. Debris should be removed. After plants have grown to approximately 3 feet (3-6 weeks) use Glyphosate foliar application (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Mulch-excavate-spray: Also used for dense stands. Mulch with hammer-flail mower attached to tractor in the fall. Using a track-mounted excavator mulch to remove roots and stack debris. Use same cut-regrow-spray method above. Recommended to monitor and treat resprouting plants for3-5 years after initial treatment (USDA Forest Service 2014).

Note: Check state and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for pesticide/herbicide/piscicide/insecticide use.


References (click for full reference list)


Author: Hopper, K.


Contributing Agencies:
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Revision Date: 8/14/2018


Citation for this information:
Hopper, K., 2024, Arundo donax L.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/greatlakes/FactSheet.aspx?Species_ID=3595&Potential=Y&Type=2&HUCNumber=DGreatLakes, Revision Date: 8/14/2018, Access Date: 5/21/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.