From its names to its appearance, here are all the noteworthy giant reed facts you need to know.
Giant reed facts 1: Name
Its most common names are bamboo reed, giant cane, Spanish reed, carrizo, Colorado river reed, giant reed, giant reed grass and wild cane. Its binominal name is Arundo donax L.
Giant reed facts 2: Family
The giant reed belongs to the Poaceae (also known as Gramineae) family, which includes the cereal grasses, bamboos and the grasses of the natural grassland.
Giant reed facts 3: Origins
Arundo donax is native to the Mediterranean Basin and Middle East, and probably also parts of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula.
Giant reed facts 4: Appearance
Height: 6 metres (20 ft) – 10 metres (33 ft) Stems: hollow, 2 to 3 centimetres (0.79 to 1.18 in) in diameter Leaves: grey-green, sword-like leaves from 30 to 60 centimetres (12 to 24 in) long and 2 to 6 centimetres (0.79 to 2.36 in) wide with hairy tuft at the base Flowers: upright, feathery plumes between 40-60 centimetres (16 to 24 in) long that are usually seedless Rhizomes: tough, fibrous underground rhizomes that form knotty, spreading mats which penetrate deep into the soil, up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) deep)
Giant reed facts 5: Habitat
Arundo donax is adapted to a wide variety of conditions, but is generally associated with riparian and wetland systems. The giant reed has been widely planted and naturalised in the mild temperate, subtropical and tropical regions, especially in the Mediterranean, California, the western Pacific and the Caribbean.
Giant reed facts 6: Invasiveness
The most common misbelief about Arundo donax is connected to its invasiveness. This misinterpretation comes from bad management and human incompetence. To name a biological fact why Arundo is NOT invasive is that it has no viable seeds. When the giant reed is grown using properly managed agricultural practices, it shows no signs of invasiveness in countries including Spain, Greece, Italy, Australia, Hungary, Mauritius, Honduras, and the United States. To add to the list, we have had successful plantations in Brazil, China, Sudan, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Philippines, and Madagascar – no one has ever declared Arundo donax invasive.
Giant reed facts 7: Soil preference
Plants can grow in a variety of soils, from heavy clays to loose sands and gravelly soils, but they mostly prefer wet drained soils. Giant reed was found to grow rapidly in soil contaminated with arsenic, cadmium and lead; limited metal translocation from roots to shoots accounted for its strong tolerance to heavy metals.
Giant reed fact 8: Yield
Clearly, it depends on climate and applied agricultural technology, but the yield of this revolutionary energy cane is between 50-80 dry tonnes per hectare, an income that is measured annually from the first year.
Giant reed fact 9: Harvest time
The dates between August and September are found the ideal timing for a single harvest, however, for a higher yielding double harvest, the most ideal dates would be first in June and then again in October or in July and October, as double harvest increases the methane yield per hectare by 20–35%.
Giant reed fact 10: Uses
As for its uses, the giant reed is incredibly versatile. As an energy crop, the plant can be used to produce biomass, biogas, pellets and briquettes, bioethanol, furniture, paper and even forage feedstock. Other uses include phytoremediation and carbon sequestration. Musical instruments are also often made of the cane.