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Publication Information

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Title: Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl.

Author: Connor, Kristina

Date: 2004

Source: In: Francis, John K. ed. 2004. Wildland shrubs of the United States and its Territories: thamnic descriptions: volume 1. Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-GTR-26. San Juan, PR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 91-92.

Publication Series: Paper (invited, offered, keynote)

Description: Giant cane, also known as cane or switchcane, is a perennial monocot, a woody grass, and one of only two native bamboos. With its stem-like rhizomes and hard, ‘woody’ stems, giant cane can grow to a height of 8 to 9 m but is typically less. Giant cane is found at elevations ranging from sea level in southern floodplains to 610 m elevation in the Appalachian Mountains. It can grow in dense thickets in the Mississippi Delta and in other southern swamplands. Its range extends from southern Maryland west into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, south to the Gulf Coast and west to Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Giant cane formerly occupied large areas (canebrakes) in floodplains of southern rivers; now these thickets are usually found only in the Mississippi Delta where they form in low-lying, shady moist areas. Elsewhere, giant cane is usually intermixed with shrubs. It is fire dependent and resprouts from rhizomes. It has a broad tolerance for weather and can withstand temperatures ranging from -23 to 41 oC. It grows in a variety of soil types (muck lands to mountain slopes and rich alluvial soils) and is rugged, cold-hardy and adaptable. Giant cane primarily spreads by rapid vegetative reproduction from large rhizomes. It flowers infrequently, and at irregular intervals, in early spring. The dense thickets of giant cane provide cover for nesting birds and small mammals. In addition, the young shoots are edible, sometimes used as a potherb and of good nutritional quality. The leaves are a preferred food for southern pearly eye butterfly caterpillars. The leaves extend well above the ground, plants can be completely defoliated by cattle and are also uprooted by swine. Thus, while grazing capacity of cane is high, careful management is required to prevent deterioration of the plants.

Keywords: species description, giant cane

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
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Citation:


Connor, Kristina 2004. Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl. In: Francis, John K. ed. 2004. Wildland shrubs of the United States and its Territories: thamnic descriptions: volume 1. Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-GTR-26. San Juan, PR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 91-92.

 


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