Herbs & Plants

Arundo donax

Botanical Name: Arundo donax
Family: Poaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Poales
Genus: Arundo
Species: A. donax

Common Names: Giant cane, Carrizo, Arundo, Spanish cane, Colorado river reed, Wild cane, and Giant reed, Nal-ghana,Bina

Habitat : Arundo donax is native to the Mediterranean Basin and Middle East, and probably also parts of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. It has been widely planted and naturalised in the mild temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of both hemispheres (Herrera & Dudley 2003), especially in the Mediterranean, California, the western Pacific and the Caribbean. It forms dense stands on disturbed sites, sand dunes, in wetlands and riparian habitats.
The grass grows in damp soils, either fresh or moderately saline.

Arundo donax is a tall perennial cane grass. It generally grows to 6 metres (20 ft) in height, or in ideal conditions can exceed 10 metres (33 ft). The hollow stems are 2 to 3 centimetres (0.79 to 1.18 in) in diameter. The grey-green swordlike leaves are alternate, 30 to 60 centimetres (12 to 24 in) long and 2 to 6 centimetres (0.79 to 2.36 in) wide with a tapered tip, and have a hairy tuft at the base. Overall, the plant resembles an outsize common reed (Phragmites australis) or a bamboo (subfamily Bambusoideae).

Arundo donax flowers in late summer, bearing upright, feathery plumes 40 to 60 centimetres (16 to 24 in) long, that are usually seedless or with seeds that are rarely fertile. Instead, it mostly reproduces vegetatively by tough, fibrous underground rhizomes that form knotty, spreading mats which penetrate deep into the soil, up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) deep (Alden et al., 1998; Mackenzie, 2004). Stem and rhizome pieces less than 5 centimetres (2.0 in) long and containing a single node could sprout readily under a variety of conditions (Boose and Holt, 1999). This vegetative propagation appears well adapted to floods, which may break up individual A. donax clumps, spreading the pieces, which may sprout and colonise downstream (Mackenzie 2004).


Medicinal Uses: Aqueous decoction of fresh root (ca. 10 ml) with 7 long pepper (Piper longum) paste is given to women at early morning in
empty stomach to cure menolipsis. The drug is given for successive 3 days just after completion of menstrual cycle by the Lodhas.
Aqueous decoction of fresh root with adequate salt is given to cattle to cure dysentery by the Mundas.

Other Uses:
Arundo donax is an energy crop. Energy crops are plants which are produced with the express purpose of using their biomass energetically and at the same time reduce carbon dioxide emission. Biofuels derived from lignocellulosic plant material represent an important renewable energy alternative to transportation fossil fuels. Perennial rhizomatous grasses display several positive attributes as energy crops because of their high productivity, low (no) demand for nutrient inputs consequent to the recycling of nutrients by their rhizomes, exceptional soil carbon sequestration – 4X switchgrass, multiple products, adaptation to saline soils and saline water, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses.

Giant reed is one of the most promising crops for energy production in the Mediterranean climate of Europe and Africa, where it has shown advantages as an indigenous crop (already adapted to the environment), durable yields, and resistant to long drought periods. Several field studies have highlighted the beneficial effect of giant reed crop on the environment due to its minimal soil tillage, fertilizer and pesticide needs. Furthermore, it offers protection against soil erosion, one of the most important land degradation processes in Mediterranean and US environments. A. donax bioenergy feedstock has an impressive potential for several conversion processes. Dried biomass has a direct combustion high heating value of 3,400 kJ/kg (8,000 BTU/lb). In Italy, Arundo donax was used in one instance from 1937 to 1962 on a large-scale industrial basis for paper and dissolving pulp. This interest was stimulated primarily by the desire of the dictatorship, just before World War II, to be independent of foreign sources of textile fibres and the desire for an export product. According to historical records made by Snia Viscosa, giant reed was established on 6 300 ha in Torviscosa (Udine), reaching the average annual production of 35 t ha?1. Today several screening studies on energy crops have been carried out by several Universities in the US as well as in EU to evaluate and identify best management practices for maximizing biomass yields and assess environmental impacts.

Arundo donax is a strong candidate for use as a renewable biofuel source because of its fast growth rate and its ability to grow in different soil types and climatic conditions. A. donax will produce an average of three kilograms of biomass per square metre (25 tons per acre) once established. The energy density of the biomass produced is 17 MJ/Kg regardless of fertilizer usage. Outside its native range, this needs to be balanced against its major invasive potential.

Studies in the European Union have identified A. donax as the most productive and lowest impact of all energy biomass crops (see FAIR REPORT E.U. 2004).

Arundo donax’s ability to grow for 20 to 25 years without replanting is also significant.

In the UK it is considered suitable for planting in and around water areas.

Arundo donax grown in Australia was demonstrated as potential feedstock for producing advanced biofuels through hydrothermal liquefaction.[33]

Studies have found this plant to be rich in active tryptamine compounds, but there are more indications of the plants in India having these compounds than in the United States. Toxins such as bufotenidine and gramine have also been found.

The dried rhizome with the stem removed has been found to contain 0.0057% DMT, 0.026% bufotenine, 0.0023% 5-MeO-MMT. The flowers are also known to have DMT and the 5-methoxylated N-demethylated analogue, also 5-MeO-NMT. The quite toxic quaternary methylated salt of DMT, bufotenidine, has been found in the flowers, and the cyclic dehydrobufotenidine has been found in the roots. A. donax is also known to release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mainly isoprene.

Arundo donax has been cultivated throughout Asia, southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians wrapped their dead in the leaves. The canes contain silica, perhaps the reason for their durability, and have been used to make fishing rods, and walking sticks. Its stiff stems are also used as support for climbing plants or for vines.

This plant may have been used in combination with harmal (Peganum harmala) to create a brew similar to the South American ayahuasca, and may trace its roots to the Soma of lore.

Mature reeds are used in construction as raw material, given their excellent properties and tubular shape. Its resemblance to bamboo permits their combination in buildings, though Arundo is more flexible.

In rural regions of Spain, for centuries there has existed a technique named cañizo, consisting of rectangles of approximately 2 by 1 meters of woven reeds to which clay or plaster could be added. A properly insulated cañizo in a roof could keep its mechanical properties for over 60 years. Its high silicon content allows the cane to keep its qualities through time. Its low weight, flexibility, good adherence of the cañizo fabric and low price of the raw material have been the main reasons that made this technique possible to our days. However, in the last decades, the rural migration from the countryside to urban centres and the extensive exploitation of land has substituted traditional crops. This has threatened very seriously its continuity.

Recently, initiatives are being taken to recover the use of this material, combining ancient techniques from southern Iraq mudhif (reed houses) with new materials.

Diverse associations and collectives, such as CanyaViva, are pioneering in the research in combination with Spanish universities.

Musical instruments:
Ancient Greeks used cane (called Kalamos: A. donax) to make flutes, known as kalamavlos; this is a compound word, from kalamos (cane) + avlos (flute). At the time, the best cane for flutes came from the banks of river Kephissos, in Attica, Greece. Several kalamavlos tuned differently and tied together, made a syrinx or Panpipes. A. donax is still the principal source material of reed makers for clarinets, saxophones, oboes, bassoons, bagpipes, and other woodwind instruments. The Var country in southern France contains the best-known supply of instrument reeds.

Additionally, giant reed has been used to make flutes for over 5,000 years. The pan pipes consist of ten or more pipes made from the cane. Also, the ancient end-blown flute ney (a) is made from the same reeds.

When young, A. donax is readily browsed by ruminants, but it becomes unpalatable when maturing. A. donax has also been used in constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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