river cane
Arundinaria gigantea (Walter) Muhl.
  • ALTERNATE COMMON NAME: giant cane, switch cane
  • LEAVES: leaves dimorphic, those of the main stems (culms, in grass-speak) and larger branches with thin papery sheaths and rudimentary blades, those of smaller branches with firm sheaths and well-developed blades that are linear-lanceolate; veins parallel
  • FLOWER: perfect, naked, tiny, born in spikelets; spikelets with 7-12 flowers (florets) each subtended by a scale called the lemma; spikelets large and laterally compressed, the spikelets themselves either solitary or arranged in racemes or panicles; this species is thought to be semelparous, meaning plants (possibly extensive colonies connected underground) flower just before dying
  • FRUIT: grain or caryopsis; brown, ellipsoidal, ca. 0.4” long
  • FORM: a true bamboo, stems to ca. 30’ tall and 1.5” in diameter; spreading vegetatively by rhizomes; smaller branches ascending-appressed and round in cross-section (smaller branches of the exotic genus Phyllostachys Siebold & Zucc. are spreading and are flattened on one side)
  • HABITAT: mesic fertile soils of bottomland hardwood forests and other mesic forests; often very dense on forest edges where more sunlight is received; capable of colonizing open areas in the forest matrix, or increasing in abundance following canopy opening, to form dense “canebrakes”
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: Facultative Wetland (FACW): Usually occurs in wetlands, but may occur in non-wetlands of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region
  • RANGE: southeastern US [US County Range Map]
  • USES: cut stems are used for fishing poles (cane poles), pipes and flutes (internodes hollow); soft developing shoots can be eaten green or stir-fried; some American Indian Tribes (e.g. Chitimacha) used cut strips from stems to make baskets
  • WILDLIFE: browsed by whitetail deer and cattle; provides cover for many birds and mammals, including the Louisiana black bears; larval host to at least six butterflies/skippers
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. a true bamboo, culms with distinct joints, to 30’ tall
    2. smaller branches ascending-appressed, round in cross-section

    NOTE: Arundinaria tecta (Walter) Muhl. (switch cane) is another native bamboo in Louisiana; it is known from old landscapes of the eastern Florida Parishes where it tends to grow on the margins of baygalls and in small stream corridors; the main diagnostic feature is the presence of a ring of air canals in the rhizomes, seen in cross-section