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Invasive Species Management

Facts About Giant Reed

  • Native of India
  • Present throughout the southern U.S.
  • Found along riparian corridors
  • Perennial grass
  • Grows to 30 feet tall
  • Spreads through rhizomes
  • Forms impenetrable thickets
  • Fire and flood hazard
  • Low habitat value

Arundo - aka 'Giant Reed' (Arundo donax)

Giant reed, also known as wild cane, is a tall, perennial grass that can grow to more than 20 feet in height. Its fleshy, creeping rootstocks form compact masses from which tough, fibrous roots emerge that penetrate deep into the soil. Leaves are elongate, 1 to 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

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 also ignites easily and can create intense fires.

Giant reed can float miles downstream where root and stem fragments may 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 native vegetation.

Giant reed 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 in Los Angeles, Calif. in the early 1800s. 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 also is used in basketry, for fishing rods, livestock fodder, medicine, and soil erosion control.

Reproduction 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.

The chemical method of treatment will be most effective against giant reed, and areas will be closely monitored to prevent any possible regrowth of the weed.

Las Vegas Wash Project Coordination Team • 100 City Parkway, Suite 700 • Las Vegas, NV 89106 • (702) 822-3300