Saturday, September 10, 2011

Invasive Species: Giant Reed

This species actually goes by numerous names, including bamboo reed, giant cane, reed grass, and numerous others.
Giant cane (Arundo donax), which can be nearly two and a half meters tall

This is another organism from the 100 World's Worst Invasives list, where it sits at #10.

Bamboo (left) and giant reed (right)
Giant reed is a species of grass and its native range runs all the way from the Eastern Mediterranean, up to much of the former Soviet Union, and East to the Pacific. It has been introduced practically everywhere. It's major impacts are mostly caused by its rapid growth and spread. It can easily out-compete most native species, and recovers from fires significantly faster that other plants. It is also a cause of fire because of it is actually highly flammable! It is a massively tall grass, with the only taller grasses being bamboo.

It is an attractive plant, and as such it is often grown as an ornamental and its flowers (which are somewhat purple) are used for decoration. It has been used to make musical instruments, including pipe organs. It is also used to reduce erosion in wet areas. Giant cane has also found use in folk medicine, where it is believe to cure or help ease numerous illnesses.

Close up of the leaves
Control and management methods vary greatly. Australia does not allow the plant to be imported. Some pesticides work, though its effectiveness largely depends on the method used when applying, as does physically pulling the plants out of the ground if done properly. Burning does not work, as it can actually help the reed spread. Biological controls have been rather ineffective, but it seems goats may be an effective way to control this aggressive grower.

Images are from Wikimedia Commons under creative commons licenses: one, two, three

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