History in the United States
Arundinaria gigantea (Walter) Muhl.
Wet pine flatwoods.
Apr–Jul . AI199Not seen in Shaken Creek Preserve (in the relevant habitats) by the senior author. Specimens seen in the vicinity: Sandy Run [Patterson]: Taggart SARU 564 (WNC!). [<RAB; = FNA, Weakley]
Giant cane is a native, warm season, robust, rhizomatous perennial grass. The height is between 4 and 20 feet. The leaf blade is 5 to 12 inches long, at least 1/2 inch wide, and tapers to a sharp point. Generally, it has groups of 3 to 5 blades at end of small branches and a short petiole between the blade and sheath. The leaf sheath is rounded and overlapping. The ligule is a row of short hair. The stem is hollow, woody. The seedhead is an open panicle with 8 to 12 spikelets per seedhead.
Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Cane occurs from southern New York south to central Florida and west to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois [18,58]. Plants Database provides a distributional map of cane and its infrataxa.
Infrataxa: Giant cane has a distribution similar to cane in general, but does not occur in New York. Switch cane has a distribution similar to that of cane throughout the Atlantic and Southern Coastal Plains, but it does not occur in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, or West Virginia .
States or Provinces
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
Distribution and Habitat in the United States
Cane is a native, perennial, evergreen grass that grows to a height of 6.6 to 32.8 feet (2-10 m). The coarse stems are round and hollow, 0.7 to 3 inches (2-7.6 cm) thick, and generally survive for about 10 years. Leaves range from 3.9 to 11.8 inches (10-30 cm) in length and from 0.8 to 1.6 inches (2-4 cm) wide. The flowers are racemes or simple panicles with several spikelets 1.6 to 2.8 inches (4-7 cm) long and 0.3 inch (8 mm) wide. The fruit is a caryopsis, 0.3 inch (8 mm) long and 0.1 inch (3 mm) wide. Cane forms an extensive system of tough, thick rhizomes [18,48,51,64,77]. Rhizomes vary in size but rarely are larger than 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) in diameter .
Description and Biology
- Plant: woody stems varying from about ¼ in. (arrow) to 3-4 in. diameter (common and golden) with hollow centers and solid joints; grow to heights of 7-8 ft. (arrow) to 16-40 ft. (common and golden).
- Leaves: strap-shaped and tapering with pointed tips, tough, somewhat papery or leathery, up to 10 in. long and 1-2 in. across.
- Flowers, fruits and seeds: flowering is infrequent and unpredictable; flowers are grasslike and not especially showy.
- Spreads: by vegetative means through vigorous rhizomatous growth.
- Look-alikes: other bamboos, including native giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea) and some tall grasses.
Catalog Number: US 2808999
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): T. Nuttall
Locality: Philadelphia., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North America
- Type fragment: Ruprecht, F. J. 1839. Mem. Acad. Imp. Sci. Saint-Petersbourg, Ser. 6, Sci. Math., Seconde Pt. Sci. Nat. 3 (1): 112.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Key Plant Community Associations
Extensive monotypic stands of cane known as canebrakes were a dominant landscape
feature in the southeastern United States at the time of European settlement.
Historical accounts indicated that hundreds of thousands of acres were
characterized by this ecosystem. Canebrakes disappeared rapidly following
European settlement because of a combination of overgrazing, altered burning
regimes, and agricultural land clearing [7,73,74,88]. It is estimated that there has been a 98% decline
in canebrakes communities [14,69]. Today cane exists as an important understory
component in a variety of deciduous and evergreen forest and shrub types.
Schafale and Weakley  describe 2
plant communities in the wet pine flatwood forests of North Carolina in which
cane is a codominant: longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)/cane and loblolly
pine (P. taeda)/cane. These communities are similar in composition with a
sparse canopy of pines and a mid-story dominated by cane. The understory is
typically a mixture of shrubs, including inkberry (Ilex glabra), creeping
blueberry (Vaccinium crassifolium), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera),
and blue huckleberry (Gaylussacia frondosa); and grasses, including
pineland threeawn (Aristida stricta), cutover muhly (Muhlenbergia
expansa), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and toothache
grass (Ctenium aromaticum).
A cane shrubland alliance occurs on floodplains and alluvial soils in eastern
Oklahoma . Common associates in this alliance include boxelder (Acer negundo),
river birch (Betula nigra),
smallspike false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica),
jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin),
and eastern poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).
Kologski  describes a longleaf pine/cane community
type in the Green Swamp of the North Carolina coastal plain. This type is
described as a wetter pine savanna community.
In Missouri cane is a component of the swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii)-Shumard's
oak (Q. shumardii)- sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)/cane mesic
floodplain forest alliance .
Switch cane: Glitzenstein and others  describe a "globally rare" woodland association in
South Carolina of longleaf pine-switch cane-sweetgum-bushy bluestem
(Andropogon glomeratus)-hooded pitcher plant (Sarracenia minor).
In this association switch cane and bushy bluestem usually comprise the
majority of the plant cover, and the tree canopy cover is generally less than 10% .
A pond pine (P. serotina)/switchcane forest type occurs in the North
Carolina coastal plain where the pine overstory is typically scattered and
inkberry is an abundant shrub .
In addition to the plant communities discussed above, where cane is a dominant or codominant,
there are a variety of other communities in which cane occurs in
various levels of importance. Publications that discuss plant communities in which
cane and switch may occur are listed below. The list is neither restrictive nor all inclusive.
Cane―shortleaf pine (P. echinata)-hardwoods,
southern red oak (Q. falcata)-mixed oak, chestnut oak (Q. prinus), loblolly
pine-upland hardwoods, loblolly pine-lowland hardwoods, sweetgum-yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera),
and swamp tupelo (Nyssa biflora)-sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana)
forest types in the Clay Hills Region of the Hilly Coastal Plain Province 
bogs in the blackgum (N. sylvatica)-yellow-poplar-azalea
(Rhododendron canescens) community type in broad swales that are
often bisected by ephemeral streams
scarlet oak (Q. coccinea)-flowering
dogwood (Cornus florida)-sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora)
community type on upland sites and along perennial stream sites
mesic slash pine (P. elliottii)-longleaf pine-deerberry (V. stamineum)
vegetation type in the southern loam hills 
sweetgum-water oak (Q. nigra)-red maple (Acer
rubrum) stream bottom community type
white oak (Q. alba) mesic upland community type 
hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)-American beech
(Fagus grandifolia) community type in the Warrior River basin 
Cane―hydric hammocks in a wetland forest type composed of live oak (Q. virginiana),
laurel oak (Q. laurifolia), cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto),
southern red-cedar (Juniperus silicicola), sweetgum, hornbeam (Carpinus
caroliniana), loblolly pine, Florida elm (Ulmus americana var. floridana), and red maple 
cane often grows in association with the endangered
conifer, Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia), in the oak-gum-cypress
(Taxodium spp.) or oak-pine types in the Apalachicola River basin in northern Florida 
Cane―the following communities in the Okefenokee Swamp:
island hammocks in association with water oak, willow oak (Q. phellos),
and hairytwig huckleberry (G. tomentosa); and moist
pine barrens in association with pond pine, longleaf pine, slash pine,
sweetbay, maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina), and shiny blueberry (V. myrsinites) 
Cane―in the Cat Island Swamp in the Mississippi River
floodplain, cane occurs in the transition zone between swamp and mesic
forest in a community that is a combination of the maple/yellow-poplar/oak
complex and the hackberry (Celtis spp.)/elm/ash (Fraxinus
spp.) community 
Cane―the following sites in the Mississippi River
alluvial plain: thick loess sites dominated by sweetgum, basswood (Tilia
spp.), water oak, yellow-poplar, cherrybark oak (Q. pagoda), elm, and
bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis); and thin loess sites dominated
by American beech, blackgum, black oak (Q. velutina), sourwood (Oxydendrum
arboreum), and sweetgum 
cane and dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) are
primary species of the shrub layer in an old-growth forest in west-central
Mississippi dominated by sweetgum and box elder 
pitcher plant (Sarracenia alata) bogs in southern Mississippi 
Cane―wet and mesic pine savannas in the Green Swamp; wet
pine savannas have occasional individuals of pond pine, pond cypress
(Taxodium distichum var. nutans), and swamp tupelo and mesic savannas have a tree canopy cover
of longleaf pine that rarely exceeds 40% [60,89,104]
pocosin or bayland xeric shrub bog community of
inkberry-southern bayberry (Morella carolinensis) and wax
myrtle-swamp titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)
toothache grass-panicgrass (Dichanthelium
spp.) association, a xeric grass-sedge bog community
meso-xeric pine association typified by
scattered longleaf and loblolly pines and an understory dominated by
inkberry and wax myrtle 
honeycup (Zenobia pulverulenta) association in shrub bogs 
mesic mixed hardwood forests on moist upland soils
dominated by American beech, yellow-poplar, southern sugar maple (A. barbatum), white oak, and sweetgum
rocky bar and shore habitats adjacent to rivers and
streams with a sparse shrub and herb layer; typical shrubs include hazel
alder (Alnus serrulata), common buttonbush (Cephalanthus
occidentalis), and yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima); silky
willow (Salix sericea), black willow (S. nigra) and
sedges (Carex spp.) dominate the herb layer
coastal plain levee forests on natural levee and
point bar ridge deposits dominated by a mixture of bottomland hardwoods
including American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), sugarberry (Celtis
laevigata), river birch, box elder, water hickory (Carya aquatica), and sweetgum
coastal plain hardwood forests on abandoned or
natural levee deposits and point bar ridges dominated by laurel oak (Q. laurifolia),
overcup oak (Q. lyrata), willow oak, water oak, red maple,
loblolly pine, Atlantic white-cedar, and sweetgum
high pocosins typified by a dense shrub layer of
fetterbush lyonia (L. lucida), swamp titi, inkberry, and laurel greenbriar (Smilax
pond pine woodlands, also called conifer-hardwood
pocosin, where pond pine and loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus) are
codominants in a open to nearly closed canopy 
Switch cane―the following communities in a tidewater swamp ecosystem
on the Chewan River: the swamp tupelo-baldcypress (T. distichum)
community, and the water tupelo (N. aquatica)-baldcypress-swamp tupelo community 
Cane―sugar maple (Acer saccharum)-white oak-mockernut
hickory (Carya alba) forest association on floodplains and mesic slopes
sugar maple-boxelder forest association in stream
margins and riparian corridors
river birch-American sycamore/hazel alder forest
association in riparian corridors
American sycamore-boxelder forest association on wet
to moist soils in floodplains
loblolly pine-sweetgum forest association in floodplains 
Cane―floodplain hardwood forest along the eastern edge of
the Savannah River; overstory includes southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak,
overcup oak, white oak, willow oak, laurel oak, sweetgum, red maple, and
elms; understory includes dwarf palmetto 
Cane―It is 1 of the most commonly occurring
herbaceous species in the headwater bottoms of the inner coastal plain. The
tree layer is typically composed of red maple, sweetgum, ash, and elm. Other herbaceous associates include asplenium ladyfern (Athyrium filix-femina var. asplenioides),
netted chainfern (Woodwardia areolata), and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) 
wetter longleaf pine flatwood sites where pond pine
becomes more dominant 
Cane―in the mid-Atlantic flatwoods, cane may form dense
thickets on wetter sites in the oak-hickory-pine association 
cabbage palmetto-slash pine type
Atlantic white cedar type
pond cypress type 
longleaf pine savannas 
old-growth bottomland hardwood forests dominated by
sweetgum and water oak 
the following associations in coastal plain alluvial
floodplains and "high elevation" floodplains of natural levees, flats and
higher terraces: water oak-swamp chestnut-spruce pine (Pinus glabra)
and swamp chestnut oak-southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)-American
holly (Ilex opaca) 
longleaf pine-slash pine-bluestem (Schizachyrium
spp. and Andropogon spp.) type 
a bottomland oak association with a loblolly
pine-dominant overstory; overstory associates include Florida maple, red
maple, water oak, white oak, yellow-poplar, green ash (F. pennsylvanica),
and American sycamore 
the evergreen shrub swamp community of
inkberry-swamp titi-honeycup 
the evergreen bay forest type of loblolly bay-pine-sweetbay-redbay (Persea borbonia) 
cane―the pocosin woodland series type
of pond pine-loblolly bay-redbay 
Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):
More info for the terms: cover, hardwood
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
809 Mixed hardwood and pine
812 North Florida flatwoods
813 Cutthroat seeps
814 Cabbage palm flatwoods
815 Upland hardwood hammocks
816 Cabbage palm hammocks
817 Oak hammocks
821 Pitcher plant bogs
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the terms: cover, swamp
SAF COVER TYPES :
23 Eastern hemlock
26 Sugar maple-basswood
27 Sugar maple
53 White oak
59 Yellow-poplar-white oak-northern red oak
60 Beech-sugar maple
61 River birch-sycamore
70 Longleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine-scrub oak
72 Southern scrub oak
74 Cabbage palmetto
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine-oak
80 Loblolly pine-shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine-hardwood
83 Longleaf pine-slash pine
84 Slash pine
85 Slash pine-hardwood
88 Willow oak-water oak-diamondleaf (laurel) oak
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak-cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum-willow oak
93 Sugarberry-American elm-green ash
94 Sycamore-sweetgum-American elm
96 Overcup oak-water hickory
97 Atlantic white-cedar
98 Pond pine
103 Water tupelo-swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay-swamp tupelo-redbay
110 Black oak
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
KUCHLER  PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K079 Palmetto prairie
K089 Black Belt
K090 Live oak-sea oats
K099 Maple-basswood forest
K100 Oak-hickory forest
K101 Elm-ash forest
K102 Beech-maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES41 Wet grasslands
Giant cane produces green leaves and stems all year. It grows vigorously from rhizomes and from auxiliary buds at basal nodes. It also grows in small colonies, thickets, and large canebrakes as well as makes vigorous growth under a dense stand of trees. It is adapted to moist soils along riverbanks and in bottomlands and similar sites. It does best on soils of high fertility.
Fire Management Considerations
Prescribed fire can be used to renovate decadent cane stands. Hughes  recommends prescribed fire at 10-year-intervals to increase cane density. Leithead and others  caution that burns should not be conducted any more often than every 3 to 4 years. Low-severity fires limited to surface litter are adequate to stimulate new sprout growth, but aerial vegetation that was killed, but not consumed, by fire presents an increased fire hazard, and reburning may be warranted for fire hazard reduction. In 1 study in a North Carolina canebrake, a prescribed fire reduced fire hazard for the first 2 to 3 years, and fuels reached a peak of 5 to 7 tons/acre after 3 or 4 years of fire protection. Therefore, if a reduction of fire hazard is desired, a short burning cycle is preferable .
Prescribed fire may not help to promote the rapid spread of cane into adjacent areas. If soils are compacted, lateral penetration of roots and rhizomes is slow .
Grazing reduces the fire hazard in cane stands. In the pocosins of North Carolina, grazing reduced the total combustible material per acre by 43%. Three different fires were noticeably slowed down and/or stopped once they entered the grazed area. Although burning may be beneficial in some respects, burned cane range is particularly susceptible to grazing damage, and over-use of fresh burns must be avoided to maintain grazing values .Hilmon and Hughes  cautioned that control of wild cane fires may be "difficult or impossible" because of their speed and intensity .
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
Cane stands tend to remain even-aged for 2 to 3 years following fire with many
sprouts emerging within the 1st year, and few new shoots in the 2nd and 3rd
years. Thereafter, new sprouts again start to appear, and the stands become uneven-aged .
Cane may not respond to burning if overall stand vigor is extremely poor. If
cane stands of low vigor are burned, other plant species may regenerate more
quickly, and the cane may never recover .
A spring prescribed burn promoted cane in a pond pine/cane community in the
North Carolina coastal plain. On sites without tree cover, cane stem numbers
increased 88% in the first year following the burn. On sites with pond pine
tree cover, cane stem numbers increased 40% in the first year .
Fire favored switch cane in longleaf and loblolly pine communities in the South
Carolina coastal plain. Prescribed burns were carried out in the winter over a
12-year period at intervals of 1, 2, 3, and 4 years. Prior to burning, the
understory was predominantly shrubs, with a minor to moderate component of
switch cane. Burning resulted in a general conversion of the understory from
shrubs to grasses, primarily switch cane .
In the absence of fire, cane stands lose vigor, culms die, and succession by
other plant species exceeds the rate of cane regeneration. In 1 study in a
pond pine/cane forest in the coastal plain of North Carolina, cane stem density
started to decline 10 years after a spring wildfire. From 10 to 13 years
after fire, cane stem numbers declined 50%, and by year 14, there was a 65%
reduction in density .
Repeated annual or semi-annual fires are detrimental to cane stands because the
continuous removal of the stems and leaves depletes food reserves in the rhizomes,
and new sprouts cannot be produced [7,56,106].
Plant Response to Fire
Fire stimulates cane sprouting . Cane will start to sprout soon following a spring burn, and stem density may return to prefire levels by mid-summer of the same season . Following a winter fire in North Carolina, cane stems grew as much as 1.5 inches in 24 hours in the following spring .>
Immediate Effect of Fire
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Surface rhizome/chamaephytic root crown in organic mantle or on soil surface
FIRE REGIMES: Canebrakes are fire-dependent ecosystems [34,40]. Prior to European settlement, fire was the primary factor that maintained monotypic canebrakes on hundreds of thousands of acres across the mid-Atlantic and southeastern U.S. It is estimated that the historical fire frequency of canebrakes in the southeastern U.S. ranged from 2 to 8 years . The dense growth creates heavy fuel loads and makes canebrakes highly flammable [55,91]. Canebrakes on peatlands historically experienced landscape-scale fires that burned for weeks or months, creeping through swamps, smoldering in peat, and flaring up when flammable vegetation was reached or when conditions of humidity and wind reached critical thresholds . In canebrakes of bottomland hardwood ecosystems, fire intensity in the cane stands was much higher than in the adjacent hardwood forest, although the fire severity was low except during drought. Large fires only occurred after an extended drought, usually a dry fall followed by a dry spring .
FIRE REGIMES in the various woodland and shrubland communities where cane may occur can be variable. The southern pine forests and pine savannas typically have fire return intervals of less than 10 years [68,103]. In the southeastern U.S., adiabatic thunderstorms can occur almost daily during the summer, and this region has 1 of the highest annual lightning frequencies in the world [68,75]. Although the number of lightning fires is highest from June to August, the majority of acreage burns in May and June in Florida and south Georgia, when the time between thunderstorms is longer. In the late summer, thunderstorms and associated rainfall are more frequent and humidities are higher. Historically, fires associated with dry frontal systems probably were quite large and may have burned for weeks or months, particularly in organic/peaty soil. Such fires likely spread into adjacent upland communities. The historic high fire frequency resulted in a frequent low-severity fire regime. Exceptions occurred when catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, tornados, and severe drought, were precursors to fires of much higher intensity and severity [75,103].
Pond pine pocosins burn on a 20- to 50-year cycle, but on highly productive sites, fire-return intervals of 3 to 10 years can be common. The shorter interval fires may produce a pine savanna with a grass understory. Mesic sites have a shrub layer comprised of many ericaceous evergreen shrubs that tend to burn intensely, resulting in the top-kill or death of all vegetation except pond pine. Pond pine has the ability to sprout from its base as well as along its stem and branches; thus, its aboveground stem survives higher severity fires than stems of most other pine species. This trait allows the species to dominate wet areas such as pocosins. Summer fires during severe droughts can eliminate pond pine and cane, because the underlying organic soil burns, destroying root systems .
Cane grows in hardwood communities with a wide range of fire frequencies, from the short return interval of 3 to 8 years for chestnut oak, to the moderate-return intervals of 35 years for yellow-poplar and oak-hickory communities, and the 1000+ years possible for some maple, beech, and birch communities. On bottomland hardwood sites, low-severity fires are the norm because fuel loads are generally light due to rapid decomposition on these moist, humid sites. Insect- and disease-related mortality and windthrow can result in heavy loadings of large woody fuels which, in times of drought, will support stand-replacement fires .
Evergreen bay forests of loblolly bay, sweetbay, and redbay are characterized by a stand replacement fire regime. This type now burns on about a 20- to 100-year cycle, but the historic fire frequency is not well documented . Shrub bogs are bay forests that burn every 2 to 5 decades. More frequent burning, at least once a decade, removes the shrub layer, resulting in an herb bog. If the underlying organic soils are completely consumed, both pocosins and bays will revert to marsh .
Before European settlers harvested Atlantic white-cedar, it was generally perpetuated by major disturbances, probably stand-replacing crown fires that occurred at 25 to 300 year intervals .
Embedded within pine and floodplain hardwood ecosystems are numerous other ecosystems such as depressional wetlands, including bays, lime sinks, cypress ponds and savannas, gum ponds, bay swamps, pitcher plant bogs, shrub bogs, and spring seeps. Fires in these wetland communities are typically stand-replacing. Fire return intervals can be variable: 3 to 9 years in herb bogs and shrub bogs; 20 to 30 years in gum ponds and bog swamps; 20 to 50 years in titi shrub bogs, and 20 to 150 years in many cypress ponds and bay swamps .
Wet grassland ecosystems are characterized by a presettlement fire frequency of 1 to 3 years. These ecosystems typically contain large quantities of herbaceous vegetation and are considered highly flammable. The coastal grassland landscapes are often quite extensive, a factor that aids in the propagation of an individual fire. Depending on fuel and wind speeds, fire may either bridge small to moderate-sized natural breaks, such as stream channels, or be stopped by them . Lightning-strike fires are common in coastal wetlands, and often fire from adjacent uplands can spread into the wetlands .
The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where cane is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|maple-beech||Acer-Fagus spp.||684-1,385 [15,103]|
|sugar maple||Acer saccharum||>1,000|
|sugar maple-basswood||Acer saccharum-Tilia americana||>1,000|
|sugarberry-America elm-green ash||Celtis laevigata-Ulmus americana-Fraxinus pennsylvanica||<35 to 200|
|Atlantic white-cedar||Chamaecyparis thyoides||35 to >200|
|beech-sugar maple||Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum||>1,000 |
|green ash||Fraxinus pennsylvanica||<35 to >300 [28,103]|
|shortleaf pine||Pinus echinata||2-15|
|shortleaf pine-oak||Pinus echinata-Quercus spp.||<10|
|slash pine||Pinus elliottii||3-8|
|slash pine-hardwood||Pinus elliottii-variable||<35 |
|longleaf-slash pine||Pinus palustris-P. elliottii||1-4 [68,103]|
|longleaf pine-scrub oak||Pinus palustris-Quercus spp.||6-10|
|pond pine||Pinus serotina||3-8|
|loblolly pine||Pinus taeda||3-8|
|loblolly-shortleaf pine||Pinus taeda-P. echinata||10 to <35|
|sycamore-sweetgum-American elm||Platanus occidentalis-Liquidambar styraciflua-Ulmus americana||<35 to 200|
|oak-hickory||Quercus-Carya spp.||<35 |
|oak-gum-cypress||Quercus-Nyssa-spp.-Taxodium distichum||35 to >200 |
|southeastern oak-pine||Quercus-Pinus spp.||<10|
|white oak-black oak-northern red oak||Quercus alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra||<35|
|chestnut oak||Quercus prinus||3-8|
|black oak||Quercus velutina||<35|
|live oak||Quercus virginiana||10 to <100 |
|cabbage palmetto-slash pine||Sabal palmetto-Pinus elliottii||<10 [68,103]|
|baldcypress||Taxodium distichum var. distichum||100 to >300|
|pondcypress||Taxodium distichum var. nutans||<35 |
More info for the terms: bog, cover, hardwood, mesic, sere, shrub, shrubs, succession, swamp, tree, xeric
Cane inhabits low-lying, moist to wet sites, including low woodlands of various mixtures, woodlands on mesic and sub-mesic slopes and uplands, river and stream banks, floodplains, levees, shrub-tree bogs and bays, swamplands, sloughs, bayous and pocosins, and mesic to wet savannahs [18,41,42,84,104,109]. Cane will grow on xeric and sub-xeric sites, but it thrives best on wetter sites that are typically seasonally flooded or saturated . The water level often remains at or near the soil surface for extended periods during the wet season but falls well below the soil surface later in the growing season [84,91,102].
Although cane thrives best on well-drained loams or silt loams [43,90], it grows in a variety of soil types ranging from clay to sand and has a wide tolerance of soil nutrient conditions . Soils are often poorly drained, highly acidic, and organic, peaty, or mucky [84,92,105]. On some sites, sandy surface soils overlie loamy or clayey subsoils. The heavier subsoil tends to retain moisture and nutrients during dry periods [6,40]. Cane has been observed growing on sandy soils with a mildly alkaline pH of 7.8 .
Cane is found at elevations ranging from sea level in southern floodplains to 2,000 feet (610 m) in the Appalachian Mountains. It has a broad climate tolerance and can withstand temperatures ranging from -9.4 to 106 Â°F (-23 to 41 Â°C) .
The canebrake community is fire dependent [34,40]. Historically, fire probably maintained canebrakes in a secondary successional sere . Cane sprouts so prolifically following fire that it quickly achieves dominance after a burn, and the dense thickets suppress the growth of other vegetation for many years . In the Southeast, canebrakes can form an ecotone transitional between savannas and wetlands such as pocosin, bay-gall, bay forest, or swamp forest. With different fire frequencies, canebrakes may alternate with these types over time. In the pine pocosins and shrub bogs of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, fire maintains cane dominance over evergreen shrubs such as inkberry, swamp titi, sweetbay, and redbay. Frequent fire can eliminate cane and favor a transition to a grass-sedge bog community. In the absence of fire, cane is gradually replaced by shrubs and trees [21,33,60,74,89,105,106]. Canebrakes succeed to multistoried wooded communities such as bottomland hardwood, pocosin, pond pine forest, red maple forest, and bay forest .
Cane is fairly shade tolerant. It thrives best in the open or under light tree cover, but can persist under dense canopies of up to 80% cover [27,54,62]. The ability of cane to survive under tree cover allows it to expand readily if the trees are removed . For example, a cane stand expanded "readily" following logging of the tree overstory in blackgum and Atlantic white-cedar swamps in the Great Dismal Swamp, North Carolina .
Cane does not spread rapidly into either early or late successional forest types. It is hypothesized that cane was formerly concentrated in ecotones, between frequently disturbed areas and less disturbed forests of sugar maples, hickories, ashes, and oaks. The ecotonal vegetation may have been relatively stable, being maintained by small-scale oscillations of forest boundaries rather than long-term directional succession .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
More info for the terms: geophyte, phanerophyte
RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Life History and Behavior
Foliage production occurs from April to early July, and green foliage is held well into winter and even until the following spring on protected sites . Flowering in cane is rare, but it may occur from March to May in Florida [16,48] and from April to July in the northern extent of its range [77,110]. The flowering period may continue for a year . Seeds mature about 1 month following flowering, and seed germination may occur within a few days of the seed reaching the ground [53,55]. Aerial stems, and the rhizomes attached to them, die after flowering [42,53,64,77]. New stems arise from rhizomes from spring to mid-summer, and have been observed to elongate as much as 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in 24 hours . Stands usually decline in 3 to 4 years because of gradual mortality and replacement .
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.
More than 98% of all large canebrakes in the U.S. have been lost since the
time of European settlement, and canebrakes are considered "critically
endangered" ecosystems as defined by the National Biological Service. Large
canebrakes historically performed a valuable role in protecting water quality by
their ability to mediate sedimentation and nutrient pollution. They also
provided a level of flood control in low-lying areas . The loss of
canebrakes has left many areas more vulnerable to damage from sedimentation,
nutrient pollution, and flood damage, and the loss of cane habitat has been
strongly tied to declines in several associated wildlife species [69,88]. In
recent years there has been significant interest in the restoration of
canebrakes through the use of prescribed fire and artificial propagation, and
continued efforts are needed to assure the survival of this ecosystem .
Prevention and Control
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
Please contact your local NRCS Field Office.
Overgrazing and uncontrolled burning easily kills this grass. For maximum production, no more than 50 percent of current year's growth by weight should be grazed off at any season. Controlled burning should be done under ideal humidity, soil moisture, and wind conditions no more than every 3 to 4 years. Deferred grazing for at least 90 days during summer every 2 to 3 years improves plant vigor. Overgrazed stands require complete protection from grazing and fire during the growing season to allow plants to regain vigor.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
High culm density, rapid lateral spread, and rapid height growth make cane a good choice for riparian buffer zones. Cane's compact network of rhizomes provides streambank stabilization, sediment retention, and bioaccumulation of nutrients and toxins . Without the mediation effects of cane, there is an increased potential for damage to the riparian system. Research has shown that cane can significantly reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in surface runoff and nitrogen and phosphorus in groundwater. In 1 study around row-crop fields in southern Illinois, cane was effective in reducing ground water nitrate levels by 90%, and dissolved reactive phosphorus concentrations by 28% [5,87].
Cirtain and others  conducted greenhouse studies on the germination and growth of cane seedlings. Seedlings were able to survive both flooding and drought, but grew better under well-drained conditions. Although cane can be propagated by seed, seed is sporadically produced and has low viability. Therefore, artificial propagation is best achieved by vegetative means including rhizome cuttings and clump division . Transplanting stem clumps is often more successful than using individual stems . The survival of transplanted cane varies widely, and slow growth is a common problem. Care should be taken to keep transplant stock from drying out. Amendments of hardwood mulch and composted manure may help increase the success of transplantings . Because propagation of cane by digging and transplanting culms is labor intensive, cumbersome, and costly, research is being carried out to develop procedures for producing machine-plantable rhizome stock for use in canebrake restoration .
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Cane provides high quality forage for cattle, horses, swine, and domestic sheep . Because it is evergreen, cane is good for grazing year-round . Cane was once widely utilized as a forage plant for cattle and domestic sheep across much of the southeastern U.S. In Mississippi cane was once commonly called "mutton grass" because of its value as domestic sheep forage . Because of the dramatic reduction in cane habitat, it is generally no longer considered a valuable range forage plant .
Cane is easily damaged by grazing and the rooting of swine, and stands may take years to recover from damage [20,51,91]. Overgrazing is considered 1 of the major factors involved in the decrease of cane habitat in the U.S. following European settlement . Plants are most susceptible to grazing damage in the spring and summer . Continuous summer grazing can cause a decline in cane stem density and a reduction in stem height . According to a 1971 handbook, no more than 50% of the current year's growth should be grazed off in any season. It is also recommended that summer grazing be deferred for at least 90 days every 2 to 3 years. Controlled burns every 3 to 4 years can be used to maintain cane fields and improve forage value. Burned fields must be protected from grazing for the first growing season to allow the cane to recover .
Palatability/nutritional value: Where it occurs, cane is 1 of the most palatable and preferred forages by cattle, and it can comprise the bulk of the animal's diet when abundant . The crude protein, calcium, and phosphorus content of cane average higher than other native southern grasses . Digestible nutrients in cane foliage are highest in May and June and decline rapidly during the remainder of the summer and fall .
Cover value: Cane provides good cover for nesting birds, small mammals, and reptiles [5,74]. Canebrakes are critical nesting habitat for the Swainson's warbler [7,44,99]. In the South Carolina coastal plain, hooded warblers have a high nesting success rate in dense patches of cane, possibly because the nests are well protected from snake predation . Bachman's warbler historically required extensive canebrakes for nesting, and the possible extinction of this bird is probably related to the disappearance of large canebrakes [72,81]. The white-eyed vireo and Kentucky warbler are also strongly associated with cane . Cane growing in creek valleys provides desirable cover for northern bobwhite .
Canebrakes formerly supported high population densities of white-tailed deer, bison, and wild turkeys in the southeastern U.S., and provided good denning cover and escape corridors for black bear and mountain lion . Swamp rabbits utilize canebrakes for cover and browse the foliage and shoots. The rabbits appear to be restricted to canebrakes in southern Indiana and southeastern Missouri [74,98]. The disappearance of large canebrakes has been cited as a causal factor in population declines of bison, black bear, and swamp rabbit in the Southeast [7,74]. White-tailed deer forage switch cane stems only in the spring of the first year following a burn. Thereafter, the stems become too coarse and are no longer palatable . Switch cane is an important summer food of black bears in the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina [22,49]. Meadow voles, southern bog lemmings, and several species of shrew are frequently associated with cane in the Great Dismal Swamp . Golden mice incorporate cane foliage into aboveground nests that are frequently supported by cane stems. American beaver consume living stems and foliage, particularly during late winter when other herbaceous vegetation is unavailable .
The southern subspecies of the timber rattlesnake is commonly referred to as the "canebrake rattlesnake" because of its affinity for cane habitats. Cottonmouths, copperheads, and pygmy rattlesnakes are also commonly found in canebrakes, presumably because of the abundance of birds and small rodents that are their prey. In a radio-telemetry study in Virginia, it was found that copperheads spent more time in small canebrakes than the adjacent lowland swamps .
At least 6 species of butterfly are considered obligate cane specialists: creole pearly eye, southern pearly eye, southern swamp skipper, cobweb little skipper, cane little skipper, and the yellow little skipper .
Other uses and values
Giant cane provides high quality forage for cattle, horses, hogs, and sheep. It is valued for summer grazing in northern part of range and for winter grazing in states along the gulf coast. Stems of this grass are also used for fishing poles, pipe stems, baskets, and mats.
Ecological Threat in the United States
Arundinaria gigantea is a species of bamboo known by the common names giant cane (not to be confused with Arundo donax) and river cane. It is native to the United States, where it occurs in the south-central and southeastern states as far west as Texas and as far north as New York. This species is divided into two subspecies. The subspecies tecta is sometimes treated as a species in its own right, Arundinaria tecta, and is the taxon generally called switch cane. It is very similar to ssp. gigantea, but is often smaller and tends to grow in wetter habitat types, such as swamps.
This bamboo, which is a species of cane, is a perennial grass with a rounded, hollow stem which can exceed 7 centimetres (2.8 inches) in diameter and grow to a height of 10 metres (33 feet). It grows from a large network of thick rhizomes. The lance-shaped leaves are up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) long and 4 cm (1.6 in) wide. The inflorescence is a raceme or panicle of spikelets measuring 4 to 7 cm (1.6 to 2.8 in) in length. An individual cane has a lifespan of about 10 years. Most reproduction is vegetative as the bamboo sprouts new stems from its rhizome. It rarely produces seeds and it flowers irregularly. Sometimes it flowers gregariously. It and other species of Arundinaria may grow in large monotypic colonies called canebrakes. Canebrakes were once a common feature of the landscape in the southeastern United States, but today it is an endangered ecosystem.
This native plant is a member of several plant communities today, generally occurring as a component of the understory or midstory. It grows in pine forests dominated by loblolly, slash, longleaf, and shortleaf pine, and stands of oaks, cypress, ash, and cottonwood. Other plants in the understory include inkberry (Ilex glabra), creeping blueberry (Vaccinium crassifolium), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), blue huckleberry (Gaylussacia frondosa), pineland threeawn (Aristida stricta), cutover muhly (Muhlenbergia expansa), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and toothache grass (Ctenium aromaticum). Cane communities occur on floodplains, bogs, riparian woods, pine barrens and savannas, and pocosins. It grows easily in flooded and saturated soils. It tolerates wildfire, and canebrakes are maintained by a normal fire regime. Some types of non-native bamboos are easily confused with this native cane.
Canebrakes declined after European settlement of the American southeast. Factors involved in the decline include the introduction of livestock such as cattle, which eagerly graze on the leaves. The cane was considered a good forage for the animals until overgrazing began to eliminate canebrake habitat. Other reasons for the decline include the conversion of the land for agriculture, and fire suppression.
This cane is the food plant for the Southern Pearly Eye, a butterfly. Canebrake is an important habitat for the Swainson's, Hooded, and Kentucky Warblers, and the White-eyed Vireo. The disappearance of the canebrake ecosystem may have contributed to the rarity and possible extinction of the Bachman's Warbler, which was dependent upon it for nesting sites.
There are many human uses for the cane. The Cherokee, particularly the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, used and still use this species in basketry. The Cherokee historically maintained canebrakes with cutting and periodic burning, a practice which stopped with the European settlement of the land. The elimination of cane habitat has nearly resulted in the loss of the art of basketmaking,  which is important for the economy of the Cherokee today. The cane was also used by groups such as the Cherokee, Seminole, and Choctaw to make medicine, blowguns, bows and arrows, knives, spears, flutes, candles, walls for dwellings, fish traps, sleeping mats, and tobacco pipes.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Arundinaria gigantea.|
- Taylor, Jane E. (2006). Arundinaria gigantea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Retrieved 12-12-2011.
- Arundinaria gigantea. USDA Plants Profile. Retrieved 12-12-2011.
- Arundinaria gigantea and A. tecta. Grass Manual Treatment. Retrieved 12-12-2011.
- Platt, S. G., et al. (2004). Observations of flowering cane (Arundinacea gigantea) in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Proc Louisiana Acad Sci 66 17-25. Retrieved 12-13-2011.
- Arundinaria gigantea. University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Retrieved 12-13-2011.
- Dattilo, A. J. and C. C. Rhoades. (2005). Establishment of the woody grass Arundinaria gigantea for riparian restoration. Restoration Ecology 13(4) 616-22.
- Bugden, J. L., et al. (2011). Mapping existing and potential river cane (Arundinaria gigantea) habitat in western North Carolina. (Report). Southeastern Geographer. Retrieved 12-13-2011.
- Bachman's Warbler. BirdLife International Species Profile. Retrieved 12-13-2011.
- Valigra, L. In Cherokee country, reviving a tree's deep roots. National Geographic News (November 7, 2005). Retrieved 12-13-2011.
- Arundinaria gigantea. University of Michigan Ethnobotany. Retrieved 12-13-2011.
- WCU helps Cherokee artists harvest natural materials. Western Carolina University Office of Public Relations. (November 6, 2008). Retrieved 12-13-2011.
- Preserving the past: A guide for North Carolina landowners. North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Retrieved 12-13-2011.
Names and Taxonomy
The scientific name of cane is Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl. (Poaceae).
Some systematists recognize 2 subspecies of cane [58,64,114]:
A. gigantea subsp. gigantea (Walt.) Muhl., giant cane
A. gigantea subsp. tecta (Walt.) McClure, switch cane
The taxonomy of Arundinaria species in the United States has been
confusing and poorly understood. Switchcane and giant cane are sometimes considered
distinct species [8,18,38,39,46,48,51]. Plant height and the height,
position of the seed heads, and rhizome structure (air canals) are
sometimes used to differentiate the infrataxa of cane in the United States.
However, plants often exhibit wide ranges in height growth on different sites,
and flower and seed production tends to be sporadic or rare. The presence or
absence of air canals in the rhizomes is another primary factor used to differentiate between subspecies; however, this
criterion is also somewhat inconclusive [8,46,64]. Hughes  commented on the
difficulty of cane taxonomy by saying, "it seems that the criteria used to
differentiate A. gigantea from A. tecta are of
questionable validity". Gilly  was 1 of the early taxonomists to suggest
that only 1 species of Arundinaria was native to North America. In much
of the literature, both A. gigantea and A. gigantea subsp. gigantea
are called "giant cane", and A. gigantea subsp. tecta
is usually referred to as "switch cane". For this review, the
species in general is called cane,
A. gigantea subsp. gigantea is called giant cane, and
A. gigantea subsp. tecta is called switch cane.
Arundinaria macrosperma (Michx.) [8,18,38,39,113]
Arundo gigantea Walter [18,64]
= Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl. [38,39,48,58,64,97,110,114]
A. tecta (Walt.) Muhl. [38,39,48,51,77,114]
Arundo tecta Walt. [18,58,64,101]
= Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl. subsp.
tecta (Walt.) McClure [16,42,58,114]
A. gigantea (Walt.) Muhl ssp. macrosperma (Michx.) McClure [16,42,64]
= A. gigantea (Walt.) Muhl. subsp. gigantea [58,64,114]
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