Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Arundo donax
(giant reed)

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Datasheet

Arundo donax (giant reed)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Arundo donax
  • Preferred Common Name
  • giant reed
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. donax is an aggressive species with an ability to reproduce quickly, allowing it to out-compete native plant species, and has established itself as one of the primary threats to native riparian habitats in its introduced range, dramati...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Arundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.
TitleHabit
CaptionArundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.
Copyright©A.R. Pittaway
Arundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.
HabitArundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.©A.R. Pittaway
Arundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.
TitleHabit
CaptionArundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.
Copyright©A.R. Pittaway
Arundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.
HabitArundo donax, or 'giant reed'; growth habit. Crete. 11 August 2011.©A.R. Pittaway
Giant reed, showing typical habit.
TitleHabit
CaptionGiant reed, showing typical habit.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Giant reed, showing typical habit.
HabitGiant reed, showing typical habit.©Sheldon Navie
Leaves on young shoots.
TitleLeaves
CaptionLeaves on young shoots.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Leaves on young shoots.
LeavesLeaves on young shoots.©Sheldon Navie
Stem, nodes and base of leaves.
TitleLeaves
CaptionStem, nodes and base of leaves.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Stem, nodes and base of leaves.
LeavesStem, nodes and base of leaves.©Sheldon Navie
Leaves on stem.
TitleLeaves
CaptionLeaves on stem.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Leaves on stem.
LeavesLeaves on stem.©Sheldon Navie
Seed head.
TitleSeed head
CaptionSeed head.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Seed head.
Seed headSeed head.©Sheldon Navie
Seed head.
TitleSeed head
CaptionSeed head.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Seed head.
Seed headSeed head.©Sheldon Navie
Flower spikelets.
TitleFlower spikelets
CaptionFlower spikelets.
Copyright©Sheldon Navie
Flower spikelets.
Flower spikeletsFlower spikelets.©Sheldon Navie

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Arundo donax L.

Preferred Common Name

  • giant reed

Other Scientific Names

  • Aira bengalensis (Retz.) J.F.Gmel.
  • Amphidonax bengalensis (Retz.) Steud.
  • Amphidonax bengalensis Roxb. ex Nees
  • Arundo bambusifolia Hook.f.
  • Arundo bengalensis Retz.
  • Arundo bifaria Retz.
  • Arundo coleotricha (Hack.) Honda
  • Arundo sativa Lam.
  • Arundo triflora Roxb.
  • Arundo versicolor P. Mill
  • Cynodon donax (L.) Raspail
  • Donax arundinaceus P. Beauv. (Bed)
  • Donax bengalensis (Retz.) P.Beauv.
  • Donax bifarius (Retz.) Spreng.
  • Donax donax (L.) Asch. & Graebn.
  • Donax sativa (Lam.) J. Presl
  • Donax sativus C. Presl
  • Donax versicolor (Mill.) P.Beauv.
  • Scolochloa donax (L.) Gaudin

International Common Names

  • English: bamboo reed; giant cane; spanish reed; wild cane
  • Spanish: caña común; caña de Castilla; carizo; carrizo
  • French: canne de Provence; grand roseau
  • Arabic: ghab; qalam
  • Chinese: lu zhu
  • Portuguese: cana palustre; canno de reino

Local Common Names

  • Australia: bamboo; Danubian reed; e-grass; elephant grass; giant Danube grass; oboe reed
  • Brazil: cana do brejo; cana do reino; cana-brava; canno do reino; capim plumoso; taquara-do-reino
  • Chile: cañamo
  • Colombia: caña brava
  • Costa Rica: caña hueca
  • Cuba: caña de Castilla; caña de río; caña hueca; cañita de la india
  • Dominican Republic: cañita
  • Fiji: ngasau ni vavalangi
  • Germany: Pfahlrohr
  • Haiti: herbe roseau; roseau
  • India: nal
  • Italy: canna commune; canna comune; canna di Provenza
  • Netherlands: Pijlriet
  • Puerto Rico: caña gigante; guajana
  • Samoa: fiso palagi
  • South Africa: Spaanse-riet (Afrikaans
  • Spain: falso bamboo; gallipato alcublano; junco gigante
  • Tonga: kaho; kaho folalahi
  • Uruguay: caña musical

EPPO code

  • ABKDO (Arundo donax)

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. donax is an aggressive species with an ability to reproduce quickly, allowing it to out-compete native plant species, and has established itself as one of the primary threats to native riparian habitats in its introduced range, dramatically altering ecological and successional processes and altering habitats towards dense, monotypic stands up to 8 m tall. It is listed as one of the 100 world’s worst invasive alien species (ISSG, 2011). This species represent a serious concern in arid and semiarid habitats because it outcompete native vegetation in the access to soil-water. It uses more water than native plants, lowering groundwater tables. A. donax is highly flammable and can change fire regimes in invaded areas (USDA-ARS, 2014).

Control is an expensive process involving cutting plants to the ground and manual application of herbicides to avoid harming native species. Biological control efforts are being developed as one of the primary tools for the long-term management of this pest. However, A. donax is a valuable and very fast-growing crop that is being promoted for the production of fuel, fibres and pulp, and is also widely used as an ornamental. This means that further introductions are likely and the balance between exploitation and threat as an invasive plant requires careful consideration (Raghu et al., 2006; Low and Booth, 2007).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Arundo
  •                                 Species: Arundo donax

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The currently accepted scientific name of giant reed is Arundo donax L. (Poaceae), the largest and most aggressive member of the three species of the genus Arundo, in the arundo tribe (Arundineae) along with common reed (Phragmites australis or Phragmites communis) and pampas grass (Cortaderia). There are several recognized varieties, including A. donax var. donax, A. donax var. versicolor (Mill.) Kunth and A. donax var. variegata Vilm. The variegated variety, A. donax var. versicolor (var. variegata or var. picta) has white-striped leaves and is known only in cultivation, and is in most respects a diminutive of typical A. donax. By selection of off-shoots, other variegated forms have been propagated which do not differ significantly from A. donax apart from their variegated leaves.

Description

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A. donax is a tall, erect, perennial cane- or reed-like grass. One of the largest herbaceous grasses, it can grow to 2-10 m tall. Its root structure is very strong, with the fleshy, almost bulbous, creeping rootstocks (rhizomes) forming compact bundles from which grow the fibrous roots, penetrating deep into the soil. The horizontal rhizomes give rise to many-stemmed, hollow, cane-like clumps allowing it to form large colonies many metres across. These tough, individual stems or culms are divided by partitions at the nodes like in bamboo, each node 12-30 cm in length and can reach diameters of 1-4 cm with walls 2-7 mm thick. They commonly branch during the second year of growth, rarely multiple, just single lateral branches from nodes. The outer tissue of the stem is of a silicaceous nature, hard and brittle with a smooth glossy surface that turns pale yellow when the culm is fully mature. The pale, blue-green leaves clasp the stem broadly with a heart-shaped, hairy-tufted base, 2-6 cm wide at the base and tapering to a fine tip, up to 70 cm or more in length. The leaves are arranged alternately throughout the culm and very distinctly two-ranked, in a single plane. The culms can remain green throughout the year but often fade with semi-dormancy during the winter or in droughts. The flowers are borne in large plume-like panicles, 30-65 cm, at the upper tips of stems between March and September and are closely packed in a cream to brown-coloured cluster. The spikelets, flowering units comprised of one or more florets enclosed by two bracts or glumes, are several flowered, approximately 12 mm long with florets becoming successively smaller. The segmented central axis of the spikelet, the rachilla, is glabrous and dis-articulates above the glumes and between the florets. The more or less unequal glumes are 3-nerved membranous, narrow, slender, pointed and as long as the spikelets. Lemmas, the larger, outer, bract which, along with the palea, serves to contain the florets held within, are thin, 3-nerved and covered with fine, soft hair. They are narrowed upwards with the nerves ending in slender teeth.

Plant Type

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Aquatic
Grass / sedge
Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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A. donax is native to tropical and temperate regions of the Old World. Although it is often considered indigenous to the Mediterranean region (Hickman, 1993) or to warmer regions of the Old World (Munz, 1959), it may be an ancient introduction to Europe from South Asia, and the native range is here taken as Asiatic (i.e. temperate and tropical Asia; USDA-ARS, 2007). It is now widely dispersed into all similar climates of the world, and has also become naturalized and invasive in many regions, including southern Africa, sub-tropical USA (below 300 m altitude), Mexico, the Caribbean, South America and Pacific islands (Hafliger and Scholtz, 1981).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Planted Reference Notes

Africa

AlgeriaPresentIntroduced
BotswanaPresentIntroduced
Cabo VerdePresentIntroduced
Côte d'IvoireAbsent, Eradicated
EgyptPresentIntroduced
Equatorial GuineaPresentIntroducedNot established
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced
GabonPresentIntroducedEstablishment uncertain
GambiaAbsent, Intercepted only
GhanaAbsent, Formerly present
Guinea-BissauPresent
KenyaPresentIntroducedNoxious weed
LesothoPresentIntroduced
LibyaPresentIntroduced
MadagascarPresentIntroduced
MoroccoPresentIntroduced
NamibiaPresent, Widespread
NigeriaPresent
RwandaAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
Saint HelenaPresentIntroduced
SeychellesPresentIntroduced
-Aldabra IslandsPresentIntroduced
SomaliaPresentIntroduced
South AfricaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedInvasive
TunisiaPresentIntroduced
UgandaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Western SaharaPresentIntroduced

Asia

AfghanistanPresentNativePlanted
AzerbaijanPresentPlantedOrigin uncertain
BahrainPresentNative
BangladeshPresentIntroducedInvasive
BhutanPresentNative
CambodiaPresentNative
ChinaPresentNativePlanted
-FujianPresentNative
-GuangdongPresentNative
-GuizhouPresentNative
-HainanPresentNative
-HunanPresentNative
-JiangsuPresentNative
-SichuanPresentNative
-TibetPresentNative
-YunnanPresentNativePlanted
GeorgiaPresentPlantedOrigin uncertain
IndiaPresentNativePlanted
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentNative
-Andhra PradeshPresentNative
-AssamPresentNative
-BiharPresentNative
-ChandigarhPresentNative
-ChhattisgarhPresentNative
-Dadra and Nagar HaveliPresentNative
-Daman and DiuPresentNative
-DelhiPresentNative
-GoaPresentNative
-GujaratPresentNative
-Himachal PradeshPresentNative
-Jammu and KashmirPresentNative
-JharkhandPresentNative
-KarnatakaPresentNative
-KeralaPresentNative
-Madhya PradeshPresentNative
-MaharashtraPresentNative
-ManipurPresentNative
-NagalandPresentNative
-OdishaPresentNative
-PunjabPresentNative
-RajasthanPresentNative
-Tamil NaduPresentNative
-Uttar PradeshPresentNative
-West BengalPresentNative
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-JavaPresentIntroduced
-Maluku IslandsPresentIntroduced
-SumatraPresentIntroduced
IranPresentNative
IraqPresentNative
IsraelPresentPlantedOrigin uncertain
JapanPresentNative
JordanPresentPlanted
KazakhstanPresentNative
LaosPresentNative
LebanonPresentNative
MalaysiaPresentNativePlanted
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroduced
MyanmarPresentNative
NepalPresentNativePlanted
North KoreaPresentNative
OmanPresentNative
PakistanPresentNative
PhilippinesPresentIntroduced
Saudi ArabiaPresentNative
SingaporePresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalized
South KoreaPresentNative
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced
SyriaPresentNative
TaiwanPresentNative
TajikistanPresentNative
ThailandPresentNative
TurkeyPresentNative
TurkmenistanPresentNative
UzbekistanPresentNative
VietnamPresentNative
YemenPresentNative

Europe

AlbaniaPresentIntroducedPlanted
BelgiumPresentIntroducedCasual alien
CroatiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
CyprusPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
Federal Republic of YugoslaviaPresentIntroduced
FrancePresentIntroducedPlanted
-CorsicaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
GreecePresentIntroducedPlanted
HungaryPresentIntroduced
ItalyPresentIntroducedInvasive
MaltaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
North MacedoniaPresentIntroduced
PortugalPresentIntroducedPlanted
-AzoresPresentIntroduced
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
RomaniaPresentIntroduced
SerbiaPresentIntroduced
Serbia and MontenegroPresentIntroduced
SpainPresentIntroducedPlanted
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
SwitzerlandPresentIntroducedInvasive
UkrainePresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
United KingdomPresentIntroduced

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedPlanted
BahamasPresentIntroduced
BarbadosPresentIntroducedArundo donax var. versicolor
BelizePresentIntroduced
BermudaPresentIntroducedPlanted
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedArundo donax var. versicolor
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedPlanted
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasivevar. donax
DominicaPresentIntroducedArundo donax var, versicolor
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedPlanted
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedPlanted
GrenadaPresentIntroducedArundo donax var. versicolor
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedPlanted
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedPlanted
HaitiPresentIntroducedInvasiveArundo donax var. versicolor
JamaicaPresentIntroducedPlanted
MartiniquePresentIntroducedPlanted
MexicoPresentIntroducedInvasive
MontserratPresentIntroducedArundo donax var. versicolor
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedPlanted
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroducedArundo donax var. versicolor
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedArundo donax var. versicolor
Sint MaartenPresentIntroducedArundo donax var. versicolor
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced
U.S. Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
United StatesPresentIntroduced1700InvasivePlanted
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedPlanted
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedPlanted
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlantedNoxious weed. One of the most serious and widespread invasive species in California; First reported: 182*
-DelawarePresentIntroduced
-FloridaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-KansasPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-MarylandPresent
-MississippiPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-MissouriPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-NevadaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-TennesseePresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-TexasPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-UtahPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-West VirginiaPresentIntroducedInvasive

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedPlanted
-Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedInvasive
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedInvasiveNoxious weed
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedPlanted
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Christmas IslandPresentIntroducedInvasive
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedPlanted
Federated States of MicronesiaPresentIntroducedPohnpei Island
FijiPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
GuamPresentIntroducedPlanted
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced
NauruPresentIntroducedInvasive
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
New ZealandPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
NiuePresentIntroduced
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroducedInvasive
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroduced
PalauPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
SamoaPresentIntroducedInvasivePlanted
TongaPresentIntroducedInvasive
VanuatuPresentIntroduced
Wallis and FutunaPresentIntroducedInvasive

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedInvasive
BoliviaPresentIntroducedPlanted
BrazilPresentIntroducedPlanted
-Fernando de NoronhaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-GoiasPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Mato GrossoPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroducedPlanted
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedPlanted
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
ChilePresentIntroducedInvasiveAlso invasive on J. Fernandez Island
ColombiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
EcuadorPresentIntroducedInvasiveContinental Ecuador: Carchi, El Oro, Esmeralda, Guayas, Napo, Pichincha, Scucmbios, Tungurahua; Original citation: Jorgensen and Leon-Yanez (1999)
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasiveIsabela, Floreana, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Islands; Original citation: Guezou et al. (2010)
French GuianaPresentIntroducedPlanted
ParaguayPresentIntroducedPlanted
PeruPresentIntroducedPlanted
SurinamePresentIntroduced
UruguayPresentIntroducedPlanted
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedPlanted

History of Introduction and Spread

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It is believed that A. donax was introduced from Asia via the Middle East to the entire Mediterranean basin in prehistory. It was only later exported from the Mediterranean by early French and Spanish colonialists, and widely dispersed, largely by man into all the subtropical and warm temperate areas of the world. In many areas it has become well established. In its native range, it is abundant in India, ascending to elevations of 2500 m in the Himalayas, and is found throughout China and South-East Asia. The species has been successfully introduced into northern, central and southern parts of Africa. In South Africa, A. donax was first recorded in 1953 (Foxcroft et al., 2007). It has been introduced into Australia and many islands of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In Australia it was first collected in Queensland in 1912.

A. donax has also been widely dispersed in the New World, from the USA to South America, and occurs in most of the West Indies. It was first introduced into the United States at Los Angeles, California in the early 1800's, and it escaped from cultivation as far north as Virginia and Missouri. It has been widely planted, often as an ornamental, throughout the warmer states of the USA, especially in the south-west where it was planted along ditches for erosion control since 1820. In California A. donax was first planted in the 1820’s to provide roofing materials and for erosion control in the Los Angeles Basin area, from where it escaped and rapidly spread throughout the southern and southwestern United States (Hoddle and Goolsby, 2010). In the West indies, A. donax was first reported in 1864 for Jamaica and Antigua (Grisebach, 1864) and in 1883 in Puerto Rico (Bello, 1883).

Risk of Introduction

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Further spread is highly probable given its ease of propagation from water-carried rhizome fragments and the commercial availability/agricultural plantings of A. donax and value as an alternative to tree products and as a soil-stabilizing ornamental species. Regulatory processes have been initiated in California to add it to the CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) Noxious Weed List which may result in state-wide ordinances preventing sale or transfer of A. donax. The California Exotic Pest Plant Council puts A. donax on its 'List A: Most Invasive Wildland Pests'. However, A. donax growth and productivity is also being studied to assess its suitability for the production of biomass for energy, paper pulp, and the construction of building materials which would ultimately lead to the establishment of more A. donax plantations and an economic industry based on it.

Habitat

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A. donax is a hydrophyte but can grow in a wide range of conditions, from moist well-drained soils to those with a water table at or near the surface. Soil preferences are also broad, occurring on coarse sands, gravelly soils, heavy clays and river sediments from freshwater to semi-saline soils on brackish estuaries or in ditches, and along the banks of streams, rivers and lakes. There are abundant naturalized populations in California, along the Rio Grande River, Texas, USA, and in Mexico. It is almost certain that invasive populations are the result of escapes and displacement of plants from commercial plantations and horticultural propagation. It is spread throughout the southern USA in private gardens and is spreading into riparian habitats from Arkansas and Texas to California, and may be established in coastal areas from Maryland south to Florida. It is particularly prominent in the coastal river basins in southern California where it sometimes occupies entire river channels from bank to bank (Jackson et al., 1994) and is thought to have invaded following large storms in the late 1960s. In Hawaii, it has naturalized in coastal areas, often in thickets (Wagner et al., 1999). In Fiji, it is widespread on hillsides, in open forest, and along roadsides, up to about 200 m (Smith, 1979).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Multiple
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
LittoralCoastal areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
LittoralCoastal dunes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterIrrigation channels Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterIrrigation channels Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
FreshwaterRivers / streams Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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A. donax is not usually a weed of crops, rather tending to out-compete and displace native vegetation in riparian habitats. However, it has been reported as invasive in pasture/cropland in South Africa, Tanzania, Egypt, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic (ISSG, 2007; Randall, 2012).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Baccharis salicifolia (seepwillow)AsteraceaeWild host
    Populus (poplars)SalicaceaeWild host
      Rubus ursinus (boysenberry)RosaceaeWild host
        Salix (willows)SalicaceaeWild host

          Growth Stages

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          Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

          Biology and Ecology

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          Genetics

          The base chromosome is x=12, but with numerous ploidy levels reported, with 2n=60, 2n=72, 2n=110 and 2n=112. A chromosome number of 2n=40 has been recorded for A. donax var. macrophylla. There are generally low levels of genetic variation in introduced populations as they tend to reproduce only vegetatively.

          Physiology and Phenology

          New shoots arise from rhizomes in nearly any season, but most commonly in the spring. Growth also occurs in any season, but is highly sensitive to temperature and moisture. Under favourable conditions (warm and wet months), A. donax grows very rapidly. Growth rates of up to 0.7 m/week have been recorded, putting it among the fastest growing terrestrial plants. Young culms develop at the full diameter of older canes and further growth involves thickening of the walls. The new growth is soft, very high in moisture and has little wind resistance (Perdue, 1958). Age of individual culms is certainly more than one year and branching seems to represent stem growth in later years, whereas rhizomes show indeterminate growth. Branches can also form when a stem is cut or laid over. Die-back is infrequently observed but culms fade or become partially brown in winter, becoming dormant under cold conditions.

          Reproductive Biology

          Very little information is available in the literature regarding the biology of A. donax. Although plants have been grown in scattered locations from seed collected in Asia, it is reported that A. donax does not produce viable seeds in most areas where it is apparently well-adapted. The importance of sexual reproduction to the species, as well as seed viability, dormancy, germination and seedling establishment have yet to be well studied. Population expansion thus occurs almost exclusively through vegetative reproduction in most reported cases, either from underground rhizome extension of a colony or from plant fragments carried downstream, to become rooted and form new clones (Else, 1996). Root formation can also occur where an attached culm has fallen over and is in contact with the substrate, and such layering has now been proposed as a more common means of reproduction in invasive stands in the USA than either via rhizome extension or plant fragments (Boland, 2006). Much of the cultivation of A. donax is therefore initiated by planting rhizomes that root and sprout readily. Wild stands in the USA have reportedly yielded over 20 t of oven-dry biomass per ha (Perdue, 1958).

          Environmental Requirements

          A. donax is extremely tolerant to different climates and can survive and grow at almost any time under a wide variety of environmental conditions. However, it does not appear to tolerate high elevations over much of its native and introduced ranges, nor does it like continental environments where regular freezing occurs. In Egypt, it was found to tolerate both higher and lower water table levels than Phragmites australis. Often found on sand dunes near seashores. It tends to favour low gradients <2% grade) over steeper and smaller channels, but scattered colonies can be found in moist sites or springs on steeper slopes. It is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 300-4000 mm, annual temperatures of 9-29°C and a soil pH of 5.0-8.7 (Duke, 1975). It has been found at altitudes approaching 4000 m in Ecuador (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007).

          Climate

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          ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
          As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
          Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
          B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Tolerated < 860mm precipitation annually
          BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
          BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
          C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
          Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
          Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
          Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

          Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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          Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
          45 7 0 4000

          Air Temperature

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          Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
          Mean annual temperature (ºC) 7 29

          Rainfall

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          ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
          Dry season duration06number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
          Mean annual rainfall3004000mm; lower/upper limits

          Soil Tolerances

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          Soil drainage

          • impeded
          • seasonally waterlogged

          Soil reaction

          • acid
          • alkaline
          • neutral

          Soil texture

          • light
          • medium

          Special soil tolerances

          • infertile
          • saline

          Natural enemies

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          Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
          Longiunguis donacis Herbivore Leaves
          Microsphaeropsis arundinis Pathogen Leaves/Stems
          Puccinia arundinis-donaeis Pathogen Leaves
          Puccinia torosa Pathogen Leaves
          Tetramesa romana Herbivore Stems

          Notes on Natural Enemies

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          Armillaria mellea, Leptostroma donacis, Papularia sphaerosperma, Puccinia coronata and Selenophoma donacis have been identified as affecting A. donax (Bell, 1997). The effects and specificity of Phoma glomerata and Alveophoma arundinis attacking the leaves and stems have yet to be ascertained. The leaves of A. donax contain a number of toxic and unpalatable natural minerals and chemicals, such as silica, cardiac glycosides, hydromaxic acids, and alkaloids that protect the plant from native insects (Bell, 1993). Due to the presence of these toxic chemicals and minerals that protect the plant from native insects that might attempt to feed or reproduce upon it, such species become scarce with the invasion of A. donax. Unfortunately, little is known about predators in its invasive range that can damage or kill A. donax. A number of invertebrates are known to feed on the grass in Eurasia and Africa (El-Enany, 1985; Hoshovsky, 1987). Caterpillars of Phothedes dulcis have been reported feeding on A. donax in France (Dufay, 1979); Zyginidia guyumi in Pakistan (Ahmed et al., 1977) and the moth borer, Diatraea saccharalis in Barbados (Tucker, 1940) have also been reported.

          Means of Movement and Dispersal

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          Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

          In its native range, wind dispersal of seeds is facilitated by having a dense seed head on the end of a tall, flexible stem, presumably sending the seeds some distance. Established plants may expand by rhizome extension roughly 0.5 m per year. More research is needed to determine the importance of sexual reproduction and whether viable seeds are in fact produced in this species. In its introduced range, vegetative propagation is key to its establishment in new locations, and is essentially an intra-basin and downstream phenomenon with rhizome fragments dispersing along watercourses, particularly post flooding.

          Agricultural Practices

          It may be spread locally by agricultural machinery and as a contaminant in soil and crop seeds.

          Intentional Introduction

          A. donax has been purposefully introduced by man and cultivated into many of the subtropical and warm temperate areas of the world for a number of uses. It is planted as an ornamental and cultivated for a variety of uses including erosion control along ditches and drainage canals. It is available via the nursery trade and spreads as a garden escapee and through the disposal of garden waste.

          Pathway Vectors

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          VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
          Debris and waste associated with human activities Yes Yes USDA-NRCS (2014)
          Land vehiclesSeeds, plant fragments Yes Yes USDA-NRCS (2014)
          Machinery and equipmentSeeds, plant fragments Yes Yes USDA-NRCS (2014)
          Plants or parts of plants Yes Yes Dudley (2000)
          Soil, sand and gravelSeeds, plant fragments Yes Yes USDA-NRCS (2014)
          WaterSeeds Yes Yes USDA-NRCS (2014)
          WindSeeds Yes Yes USDA-NRCS (2014)

          Plant Trade

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          Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
          Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
          Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx seeds
          Fruits (inc. pods) seeds
          Growing medium accompanying plants
          Roots
          Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches stems
          True seeds (inc. grain) seeds
          Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
          Bark
          Leaves
          Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
          Wood

          Impact Summary

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          CategoryImpact
          Animal/plant collections None
          Animal/plant products None
          Biodiversity (generally) Negative
          Crop production None
          Cultural/amenity Positive
          Economic/livelihood Positive
          Environment (generally) Positive and negative
          Fisheries / aquaculture Negative
          Forestry production None
          Human health None
          Livestock production None
          Native fauna Negative
          Native flora Negative
          Rare/protected species None
          Tourism None
          Trade/international relations Negative
          Transport/travel None

          Economic Impact

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          When flooding occurs in areas heavily populated by A. donax, it forces flood waters out of the primary channels and into critical banks, bridges and other physical structures. In addition, its stems and rhizomes break off in the flood currents and flow with the flood. These rhizomes and stems deposit themselves in drainage systems, along small agricultural ditches, under bridges and in other flood control systems where it can quickly re-establish itself in these new locations. This leads to costly clean-up operations to un-block obstructed waterways, and quite possibly structural damage and hazards when trapped behind bridges and other structures. This can put an economic strain on areas inundated with A. donax. Costs of removal vary but can be in excess of US$10,000/ha, and areas are rapidly re-infested if sustained control efforts are not maintained over many years. A. donax stands collect sediments from stream flow. As the sediment surface under the A. donax stands rise, it can force the stream water into new paths which then interact with other infestations downstream or across the stream. The result is accelerated erosion of stream banks, lost property, and expensive repairs to the property.

          Environmental Impact

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          A. donax is an aggressive species with an ability to reproduce quickly, allowing it to out-compete native plant species. It displaces native plants and wildlife as a consequence of the massive stands it forms but the exact mechanism of competition is not yet known. Unlike native riparian plants, A. donax provides little shading to the in-stream habitat, leading to increased water temperatures, lower oxygen and reduced habitat quality for aquatic wildlife (Hoshovsky, 1987; Team Arundo del Norte, 2002). A. donax is also known to interfere with the management of flood defences and wildlife habitat management. A. donax is also thought to alter hydrological regimes and reduce groundwater availability by transpiring large amounts of water from semi-arid aquifers and layers of permeable rock (Iverson, 1994) consuming three times more water than native plants. It also causes substantial alterations to water flow during storm events leading to increased erosion.

          A. donax infestations are threatening native riparian vegetation in California, USA. In the Santa Ana River of Southern California, for example, it is estimated that 68% of the riparian vegetation is comprised of A. donax (Dudley, 2000). A. donax has displaced native vegetation which provides nesting sites for native species such as the Least Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellipusillas), a federally endangered species, the Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillieximos), a federally threatened species, and the Yellow Cuckoo (Bell, 1993). A. donax is also known to be a habitat for the invasive Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) which has caused/contributed to the extinction/range reduction of native mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates through predation and competition. A. donax displaces native riparian vegetation, forming huge monocultures which can cover hundreds of hectares and provide poor habitats for terrestrial insects and wildlife. It crowds out native plants that shade streams, resulting in warmer water that harms aquatic life. Unpalatability of A. donax to native fauna could then impact on wildlife which depend on insects normally supported by the native vegetation. With the invasion of A. donax, what was once a complex food web becomes simplified, leaving fewer species that can survive in its presence.

          Threatened Species

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          Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
          Catostomus santaanae (Santa Ana sucker)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as threatened speciesCaliforniaEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service (2011)

          Social Impact

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          A. donax is an extremely flammable plant even when green. The thick stands ignite quickly and easily, and through their extensive placement, can double the available fuel for wildfires which can spread rapidly through entire riparian systems, often near urbanized areas. Post-fire regeneration of even greater quantities of A. donax can then occur (Scott, 1994).

          Risk and Impact Factors

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          Invasiveness
          • Proved invasive outside its native range
          • Has a broad native range
          • Abundant in its native range
          • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
          • Pioneering in disturbed areas
          • Highly mobile locally
          • Long lived
          • Fast growing
          • Has high reproductive potential
          • Reproduces asexually
          Impact outcomes
          • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
          • Modification of fire regime
          • Modification of hydrology
          • Modification of nutrient regime
          • Modification of successional patterns
          • Monoculture formation
          • Negatively impacts agriculture
          • Negatively impacts cultural/traditional practices
          • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
          • Reduced native biodiversity
          • Threat to/ loss of native species
          Impact mechanisms
          • Allelopathic
          • Competition - monopolizing resources
          • Competition - smothering
          • Rapid growth
          • Rooting
          Likelihood of entry/control
          • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
          • Difficult/costly to control

          Uses

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          This species has been extensively cultivated throughout Asia, southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East for thousands of years and has been planted widely in North and South America and Australasia in the past century (Perdue, 1958; Zohary, 1962). Subsequent plantings have been made for the production of reeds for a variety of musical instruments including bassoons and bagpipes. A. donax is a poly-annual crop, reported in the literature to live for more than 40 years, that can offer good yields of 15-40 t dry matter/ha/yr. It can be used for energy production (Duke, 1983), fibre production (e.g. cellulose for rayon manufacture), paper pulp production, materials for basket-work, living barriers such as garden fences and trellises, crude shelters, building and roofing material, erosion control or bank stabilization, arrows, fishing rods and livestock fodder.

          A. donax has played an important role in the culture of the western world through its influence on the development of music, which can be traced back 5000 years. A. donax cane was the source of the original Pan pipe or syrix and to this day the A. donax culms remain an unrivalled source of reeds for woodwind instruments (Perdue, 1958). The cultivation of cane for woodwind reeds has largely been limited to a small area in France and also in Texas and California, USA. Even before its musical qualities were appreciated, Egyptians used it to line underground grain storage as early as 5000 BC and its leaves were used to wrap mummies in around 400 AD.

          Medicinally, the rhizomes have been used as a sudorific, a diuretic, a diaphoretic, an emollient, a galactofuge and as an anti-lactant in the treatment of dropsy (Duke and Wain, 1981). Isolated alkaloids have been experimentally shown to raise the blood pressure and contract the intestine and uterus. Boiled in wine with honey, the root or rhizome has been used for treating cancer (Duke, 1983). The plant contains the alkaloid gramine, said to be a vasopressor, raising the blood pressure in dogs in small doses and causing a fall in larger doses. The stems have also been used as splints for broken limbs. Culinary uses include the cooking of the young shoots and leaves, and the rhizome can be dried and ground into a powder to make bread, usually in conjunction with cereal flours or it can also be roasted or boiled.

          However, with the recent upsurge in demand for biofuels that is likely to continue, interest in A. donax as a very fast growing source of biomass is increasing, and further introductions and/or plantations are to be expected. However, the debate as to possible demerits of establishing potential invasive biofuel species will continue (e.g. Raghu et al., 2006; Low and Booth, 2007).

          Uses List

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          Environmental

          • Agroforestry
          • Amenity
          • Boundary, barrier or support
          • Erosion control or dune stabilization
          • Landscape improvement
          • Shade and shelter
          • Soil conservation
          • Windbreak

          Fuels

          • Biofuels
          • Fuelwood
          • Miscellaneous fuels

          General

          • Ornamental

          Materials

          • Fibre
          • Miscellaneous materials

          Ornamental

          • Propagation material

          Wood Products

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          Roundwood

          • Roundwood structures

          Sawn or hewn building timbers

          • Exterior fittings
          • Fences
          • Flooring
          • For light construction

          Woodware

          • Musical instruments

          Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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          A. donax can be confused with the closely related common reed (Phragmites australis or Phragmites communis) and pampas grass (Cortaderia spp.), also with cultivated bamboos, and in its earlier growth stages with some large-stature grasses such as Elymus spp. Common reed (Phragmites spp.) is, however, less than 4 m tall and has panicles with long hairs between the florets.

          Prevention and Control

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          Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

          Control

          Cultural control

          Prescribed burning has been used to control A. donax, with a flame thrower being used as a cheap, alternative spot treatment to heat-girdle the stems at the base of the plant. Larger, mature, infestations can be burnt by broadcast burning with or without a prior pre-spray of herbicides to kill and desiccate the plants. This is generally not recommended as it does not kill the underground rhizomes and probably encourages A. donax germination over native riparian species. Burning presents containment risks and the possibility of damage to beneficial species, resulting from soil disturbances which may result from firebreak construction as well as from difficulties of promoting fire through patchily distributed stands. Cut material is often burnt on site because of the difficulties associated with collection and removal of all the chipping material.

          Prescribed grazing is a managerial control method sometimes employed to control A. donax. Although A. donax is not very palatable to cattle, during the drier seasons they do browse young shoots, followed by upper parts of more mature plants (Wynd et al., 1948). In parts of California, USA, goats have been used quite effectively to control A. donax (Daar, 1983) although they tend to be less selective than sheep and the latter have been shown in feeding experiments to survive for extended periods on a diet of A. donax alone (Frattegglani-Bianchi, 1963). Although sheep may prove a more practical alternative to mowing in some cases, it is important to manage this so as to avoid soil compaction problems in overly damp areas. It has also been suggested that wild geese breeds might contribute to A. donax control efforts given their capacity to consume weed grasses and sedges.

          Since A. donax in its invasive range appears to be unable to regenerate much, if at all, from wind or water-carried seeds or small propagules, its invasiveness could be controlled by not planting within the 50- or 100-year floodplain, and placing barrier screen systems along irrigation canals.

          Mechanical control

          Smaller infestations can be eradicated by manual methods, especially where there is a risk of damage to sensitive native plants and wildlife by other methods. This is successful with young plants less than 2 m in height, but care must be taken to remove all the rhizome material, and as such may be more effective in loose soils and after periods of rain when the substrate is more workable. Plants can also be removed using hand tools such as pick-axes and shovels, particularly in combination with the cutting of stems near the base with pruning shears or a chainsaw. Stems and roots should be removed or burned on site to avoid re-rooting and a chipper can be used to reduce the volume of cut material. For larger infestations on accessible terrain, heavier tools such as rotary brush-cutters, chainsaws and tractor mounted mowers may facilitate biomass reduction and should be followed either by rhizome removal or chemical treatment. These methods may be of limited use on inaccessible or sloping terrain, and may interfere with the re-establishment of native plants and animals (Hoshovsky, 1987). Mechanical control tends to be very difficult as even rhizomes buried 1-3 m deep readily resprout (Else, 1996) and removal of all such material is not practical, especially in sensitive sites where soil disturbance is disruptive or where soils are susceptible to compaction or erosion or when they are saturated.

          Chemical control

          In many situations, this may be necessary and is usually carried out in combination with mechanical control. Glyphosate is most commonly used against A. donax, which is approved for use in wetlands. As a broad-spectrum herbicide, care should be taken to avoid application or drift onto desirable vegetation. This can be achieved by treating the culms directly, also reducing herbicide costs, with fair results being achieved year round with best kill in autumn (Else, 1996). Concentrated glyphosate solution is applied to the stems, cut at a height of 5-10 cm, by painting with a sponge or spraying with a hand mister. Adding a dye to the solution can help identify the treated material. The solution must be applied immediately after cutting, as translocation ceases within minutes of cutting. As new growth is sensitive to herbicides, so a common alternative is to cut or mow a patch and allow regeneration, returning 3 weeks to 3 months later to treat the new growth. With all chemical methods, follow-up treatment and assessment are necessary. The optimal application period is post-flowering and pre-dormancy, usually in late July to early October when plants are translocating nutrients into roots and rhizomes. Foliar uptake and kill are best achieved by spraying during the active growing periods from late Spring to early Autumn and small patches can be treated from the ground using backpack or towed sprayers, and major infestations have been aerially sprayed using helicopters in the USA (Zembal and Hoffman, 2000).

          Biological control

          Pest surveys and assessments have been initiated for the biological control of A. donax, but no biological control agents have yet been released. A number of invertebrates is known to feed on the grass in Eurasia and Africa (El-Enany, 1985; Hoshovsky, 1987). Caterpillars of Phothedes dulcis have been reported feeding on A. donax in France (Dufay, 1979); Zyginidia guyumi in Pakistan (Ahmed et al., 1977) and the moth borer, Diatraea saccharalis in Barbados (Tucker, 1940) have also been reported. A review of the CABI Bioscience herbarium suggests that there are obligate biotrophic fungi associated with A. donax in China, but not India or Pakistan, lending weight to the theory that China may in fact be a truer centre of origin for the species. As with invertebrates, a number of pathogens are also associated with A. donax in its naturalized range. Given the commercial value of A. donax, the use of insects and/or pathogens would undoubtedly engender conflicts of interest. Biological control is thought to offer one of the best options for long-term, affordable and environmentally friendly management of A. donax. The ARS European Biological Control Laboratory (Montpellier, France) in cooperation with a USDA-ARS laboratory initiated a foreign exploration programme in 1999 which has already located potential agents in the Mediterranean Basin, India and Sri Lanka (Kirk et al., 2003). A. donax stems and leaves contain a wide array of noxious chemicals, including silica (Jackson and Nunez, 1964), tri-terpines and sterols (Chandhuri and Ghosal, 1970), cardiac glycosides, curare-mimicking indoles (Ghosal et al., 1972), hydroxamic acid (Zuñiga et al., 1983), and numerous other alkaloids which, however, probably protect it from most native insects and other grazers (Zuñiga et al., 1983; Miles et al., 1993).

          Integrated Control

          A suite of methods is needed to control A. donax depending upon the presence or absence of native plants, the size of the stand, the amount of biomass which must be dealt with, the terrain and the season. Several technical approaches can be successful, with the best one for a particular site dependent on available labour resources, the size of the infestion, degree of intermixing with desirable native riparian vegetation, site accessibility and other factors. Follow-up treatments are usually necessary for one to five years after the initial control. Often the lower, frequently flooded stream banks will re-vegetate spontaneously, and upper, drier banks may need re-planting with native species. Where A. donax is the only vegetation on stream banks, post-eradication revegetation efforts may be critical for bank stabilization. Team Arundo del Norte (2002), comprising a number of organizations and agencies dedicated to tackling this problem weed, is producing a brochure for the general public, a handbook for landowners who are becoming interested in A. donax removal, a guide for organizations who want to start an A. donax removal programme, and a public-education video.

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          Contributors

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          22/04/14 Updated by:

          Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

          Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

          26/10/2007 Updated by:

          Nick Pasiecznik, Consultant, France

          Distribution Maps

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          • CABI Summary Records
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