Cane (Arundo donax)

It is used, although it is losing tradition, for roofs, baskets,…and nowadays it is still very useful in the vegetable garden, as plant guides (tomato plants, beans,…).as for medicine, the rhizomes of reeds have diuretic and lactiferous properties (it makes milk production cease). They are always in very humid places, usually on the banks of rivers and streams. In Villamesías we can locate numerous reeds in the Búrdalo river and in some streams.


One of the most common plants that has always existed is now considered an invasive plant. It is the common reed. Its scientific name is
Arundo donax
. As you probably know, it is a plant that has been widely used to make baskets, musical instruments, as a support for fruit trees, as tutors for some plants such as climbing plants, etc. It has been cultivated not for ornamental purposes but for some purpose. It is linked to the environment since many species of birds nest or roost in the reed beds.

In this article we are going to tell you everything you need to know about Arundo donax and why it is considered an invasive plant.

Main features

The common reed also has an interesting use for energy purposes. It is used to be burned as fuel in biomass boilers. Currently, Arundo donax has been cultivated in our region and is now naturalized. It can be found in many temperate and cooler areas, as well as in subtropical and tropical areas in both hemispheres. Its most abundant area is in all the Mediterranean arc and California.

It is known by many common names such as cañavera, bardiza, carda, caña gigante, caña grande de huertas, caña silvestre, canaveira, canabela, canaberra, garritza, caña vera, cañavana, etc. It is native to East and South Asia. It belongs to the Gramineae family. It has a powerful rhizome of woody, thick and long bearing. Hence, it serves as a good fuel in the use of biomass boilers.

It has a great vigor that, depending on the growing conditions, can grow from 2 to 6 meters in height. They usually persist for more than one year and branch laterally the following year. The stems are called canes and are completely hollow and formed by nodes every 10 to 30 cm long. It is the knots that give it the stability it needs. Otherwise, they would not be able to grow at altitude.

The rhizome has a fleshy appearance and is used to store carbohydrates. It normally develops at a depth of between 5 and 15 cm. They are capable of penetrating the soil for more than one meter. The rhizomes expand horizontally and branch out to colonize parts of the substrate of competing plants. For this reason it is known today as an invasive plant.


Being able to thrive well in the conditions we have in the Mediterranean and its high capacity for natural expansion, it is pushing back other native species. Arundo donax flowers from September to December. Small flowers are formed and we can see them grouped in groups of three. This is how they form some spikelets that generate dense panicles. The color of the flowers can be whitish or purplish.

The flowers produce seeds that are mostly not fertile. This plant divides mainly by asexual methods. Once it has become established in an area and naturalized, it is very difficult to eradicate. Therefore, it is considered an invasive plant. They have many organs that have a large reserve capacity and cause the canes to resprout vigorously and quickly.

Its multiplication is not done by seeds since most of those produced are sterile. Because of this, the most commonly used method for multiplying the common reed is the asexual way. It can be done in several ways:

  • Rooting of lignified stems. In this type, we root the canes themselves by lying down and coming into contact with the soil. The plants that are born will root and sprout from the nodes that the canes already have.
  • Rhizome growth. This method is somewhat slower. However, it is possible to expand the reed bed with just one cane. The rhizomes expand a few centimeters above the ground and it is from there that the new canes emerge.
  • New rhizome fragments. It allows the colonization of new areas since the rhizome fragments have the capacity to sprout again.