Herbs & Plants

Arundo donax

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

Synonyms: Giant reed

Common Names: Giant cane, Carrizo, Arundo, Spanish cane, Colorado river reed, Wild cane.

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.
It grows in damp soils, either fresh or moderately saline.

Arundo donax is a tall perennial cane grass. It is one of several so-called reed species.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.


Establishment is a critical point of cultivation. Stem and rhizome have a great ability to sprout after removal from mother plant and both can be used for clonal propagation. The use of rhizomes were found to be the better propagation method for this species, achieving better survival rate. In this field study, it was noticed how the lowest density (12 500 rhizomes ha?1) resulted in taller and thicker plants compared to denser plantation (25 000 rhizomes ha?1). Seedbed preparation is conducted in the spring, immediately before planting, by a pass with a double-disk harrowing and a pass with a field cultivator. Giant reed has the possibility of adopting low plant density. The rhizomes were planted at 10–20 centimetres (3.9–7.9 in) of soil depth, with a minimum plant density of 10 000 plants per ha), while mature stems, with two or more nodes, can be planted 10–15 centimetres (3.9–5.9 in) deep. In order to ensure good root stand and adequate contact with the soil, sufficient moisture is needed immediately after planting. Pre-plant fertilizer is distributed according to the initial soil fertility, but usually an application of P at a rate of 80–100 kilograms (180–220 lb) ha?1 is applied.

Medicinal uses:
The root is diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient and galactofuge. An infusion is said to stimulate menstrual discharge and diminish milk flow. A paste of the root is applied to the forehead to treat headaches. Isolated alkaloids have been experimentally shown to raise the blood pressure and contract the intestine and uterus. The rhizome or rootstock is used in the treatment of dropsy. Boiled in wine with honey, the root or rhizome has been used for treating cancer. The plant contains the alkaloid gramine. This is said to be a vasopressor, raising the blood pressure in dogs after small doses, causing a fall in larger doses. The stems have been used as splints for broken limbs.

Other Different Uses:

Energy crop:
Energy crops are plants which are produced with the express purpose of using their biomass energetically [22] 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.

Carbon sequestration:
An increased environmental concern is the health of soil system as one of the main factors affecting quality and productivity of agroecosystems. Around the world, several regions are subjected to a decline of fertility due to an increasing degradation of soils, loss of organic matter and increasing desertification.Recently research was carried out to evaluate, in the same pedological and climatic conditions, the impact of three long-term (14 years) agricultural systems, continuous giant reed, natural grassland, and cropping sequence, on the organic-matter characteristics and microbial biomass size in soil. The study pointed out that a long term Giant reed cropping system, characterized by low tillage intensity, positively affect the amount and quality of soil organic matter. Arundo donax showed greater values than tilled management system for total soil organic carbon, light fraction carbon, dissolved organic carbon, and microbial biomass carbon. Regarding the humification parameters, there were noticed any statistically differences between giant reed and a cropping sequence (cereals-legumes cultivated conventionally).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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