We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Arundo donax - L.

Common Name Giant Reed, Giant Reed Grass
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 6-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Ditches, riversides and marshland[7, 200].
Range S. Europe
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Full sun
Arundo donax Giant Reed, Giant Reed Grass

Arundo donax Giant Reed, Giant Reed Grass


Translate this page:


Arundo donax is a tall, perennial grass species with edible, medicinal and other uses. It is one of the most promising crops for energy production in the Mediterranean climate of Europe and Africa. Bloom Color: Green, Purple. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Late fall, Mid fall. Form: Upright or erect. Common Names: bamboo reed; giant cane; spanish reed; wild cane. Spanish: caña común; caña de Castilla; carizo; carrizo. French: canne de Provence; grand roseau. Arabic: ghab; qalam. Chinese: lu zhu. Portuguese: cana palustre; canno de reino. Australia: bamboo; Danubian reed; e-grass; elephant grass; giant Danube grass; oboe reed. Brazil: cana do brejo; cana do reino; cana-brava; canno do reino; capim plumoso; taquara-do-reino. Chile: cañamo. Colombia: caña brava. Costa Rica: caña hueca. Cuba: caña de Castilla; caña de río; caña hueca; cañita de la india. Dominican Republic: cañita. Fiji: ngasau ni vavalangi. Germany: Pfahlrohr. Haiti: herbe roseau; roseau. India: nal. Italy: canna commune; canna comune; canna di Provenza. Netherlands: Pijlriet. Puerto Rico: caña gigante; guajana. Samoa: fiso palagi. South Africa: Spaanse-riet. Spain: falso bamboo; gallipato alcublano; junco gigante. Tonga: kaho; kaho folalahi. Uruguay: caña musical.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Arundo donax is a PERENNIAL growing to 6 m (19ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6. It is in flower in September, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist or wet soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


A. maxima.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Hedge; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Root
Edible Uses:

Rhizome - raw or cooked[84]. The rhizome can be dried and ground into a powder to make bread, usually in conjunction with cereal flours[7, K]. It can also be roasted or boiled[84]. Leaves - cooked as a potherb[84]. They are very bitter[177]. The young shoots are used[177].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Emollient  Galactofuge  Hypotensive

The root is diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient and galactofuge[7]. An infusion is said to stimulate menstrual discharge and diminish milk flow[240, 272]. A paste of the root is applied to the forehead to treat headaches[272]. Isolated alkaloids have been experimentally shown to raise the blood pressure and contract the intestine and uterus[240]. 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[269]. 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[269]. The stems have been used as splints for broken limbs[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Basketry  Biomass  Broom  Dye  Fodder  Hedge  Hedge  Musical  Paper  Pipes  Plant support  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization  Thatching  Weaving

Brooms are made from the terminal panicles[7]. Plants are grown alongside irrigation canals to check soil erosion[169]. The plant can be grown as a windbreak screen[1, 169]. If cut down, the culms branch and in this form the plants can be used as a hedge[236]. The leaves can be woven into mats etc, whilst the split and flattened stems are used to make screens, walls of houses etc[46, 50, 61, 84]. A yellow dye is obtained from the pollen[257]. The stems of the plant have a multitude of applications. They are used as plant supports for vines and other climbing plants[7, 169, 269] and to make clarinets, bag-pipes etc[46, 61, 103]. They are also used as pipe stems[84], for roofing[46], to make screens, walking sticks and in basketry[100, 195]. They are used to make the reeds of clarinets and organ pipes[236]. The stems can be harvested as desired at any time of the year[269]. The fibre from the stems can be used to make a good quality paper[269]. This plant is currently (1995) under investigation at Rosewarne in Cornwall as a potential commercial paper crop for small-scale industries in SW. England[K]. Because of rather high yields from natural stands, the plant has been suggested as a source of biomass for energy production[7, 269]. Dry cane yields of ca 10, 15, and 20 tonnes per hectare were reported respectively from infertile, partly fertile and fertile soils[269]. According to the phytomass files annual productivity ranges from 10 to 59 tonnes per hectare, the latter figure from Westlake's (1963) estimate of 57 - 59 tonnes[269]. In addendum, Westlake cites evidence that Arundo donax can produce 40–75 MT/ha/yr. in warm temperate and tropical regions. Early vegetative growth has ME (metabolizable energy) of 2.22 megacalories/kg DM, while hay has an ME of only 1.37 (Gohl, 1981). Such annual productivity, if sustainable, makes this a notable energy candidate, especially when one considers the energy as a by-product, with leaf protein and potential pharmaceutical as primary products[269]. A particular type of cellulose is obtained from the plant[7]. In Italy, the plant is used in the manufacture of rayon[269]. Bio-fuel crop.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Hedge  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Hay  Minor Global Crop

Landscape Uses:Container, Screen, Specimen, Winter interest. Prefers a moist fertile soil in a sunny sheltered position, preferably by water[1, 134, 200]. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.5 to 8.3. Plants can be grown as a specimen in lawns etc, succeeding in quite coarse grass[233]. Plants are succeeding in a site that is very exposed to maritime winds at Rosewarne in Cornwall[K]. Adapted to tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climates of the World, Giant reed is often found on sand dunes near seashores. It tolerates some salt. It grows best along river banks and in other wet places, and is best developed in poor sandy soil and in sunny situations. Said to tolerate all types of soils, from heavy clays to loose sands and gravelly soils. Ranging from Cool Temperate Wet through Tropical Dry to Wet Forest Life Zones, giant reed is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 30 to 400cm, an average annual temperature range of 9 to 28.5°C and a pH in the range of 5.0 to 8.7[269]. One report says that this plant is only hardy in the milder areas of Britain[1] whilst another report says that it is hardy to between -5 and -10°c[200]. This contradicts with the hardiness zone rating of 6 which would make the plant hardy in most areas of Britain[200]. Plants thrive outdoors at Oxford Botanical Gardens[233] as well as at Hilliers Arboretum in Hampshire and the RHS Gardens in Surrey[K]. Extensively cultivated in S. Europe for basket making etc[50]. Plants rarely if ever flower in British gardens233]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]. Special Features: Attracts birds, Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Naturalizing, Wetlands plant, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms.

Carbon Farming

  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Hay  Cut to the ground and harvested annually. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - surface sow in a greenhouse in February to April. Stand the pots in about 3cm of water to keep the soil moist until the seed germinates. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15°c[134]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Once they are 20cm or more tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division in spring[1]. Whilst large divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, we have found that it is best to pot the divisions up and keep them in light shade in a greenhouse until they are rooting away well. Stem cuttings, placed in water, root easily[1].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive. Listed as one of the 100 world’s worst invasive alien species. Primary threats to native riparian habitats. Highly invasive plant in southwestern North American rivers. In New Zealand it is listed under the National Pest Plant Accord as an unwanted organism.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Arundo donax (Giant Reed) Status: Least Concern.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

   Fri Mar 19 08:03:01 2004

Link: Arundo donax: Source of Musical Reeds and Industrial Cellulose Mostly about the importance of the plant for woodwind reed instruments.

R. Brake   Tue Sep 7 01:42:44 2004

Arundo donax is an incredibly invasive non native plant that is threatening watersheds throughout the western and southern United States. It should never, ever be planted as a garden plant, as it escapes easily into ditches, streams, and other wet areas. If left alone, Arundo will completely take over, ending in single species communities that represent huge fire hazards. This site should be issuing a warning against it, not claiming it as a potential garden participant.

   Sat May 7 19:44:29 2005

Use the plant, then it will be maintained.

   Mon Sep 25 2006

hardier than zone 6 - I live in zone 11 and there it is.

Douglas Laing   Wed Aug 22 2007

I am very interested in the possible use of Arundo donax as a fiber source in prefabricated building material such as plaques or panels .If anyone has had experience with this species they could contact me at [email protected]

rose ramirez   Tue Jul 29 2008

I also believe that your site needs to put in an extreme caution. arunda has caused not only severe damage to our waterways, our tax dollars are going to fight it by cutting it down and spraying with chemicals in our waterways. only to see that it is the only plant to return in abundance. currently many products are showing up as made from a renewable resource, made with bamboo. i think this is same plant. often the product will be from china and say that it is panda safe. so we are buying products made from this plant that are shipped to us from its native land, china, possibly with mal effects to the local environment, while we have thousands of acres here infecting our waterways and no one will find a way to harvest it here until it is not a hazard and make the same products here. crazy. do not plant, don't ever plant. it does not provide any habitat for our birds or insects or anything else native and destroys the habitat that the same needs.

Bjarne Mahler Schou   Tue Jan 5 2010

Hi I'm looking for a european source for A. donax root cuttings (100) for science purposes. I can be contacted by [email protected] Sincerely yours Bjarne Mahler Schou

   Nov 28 2011 12:00AM

http://www.geocities.ws/nowhitelist/faq.pdf Q: But aren't alien invasive species a real threat? What about Eucalyptus, Star Thistle, Scotch Broom and wild boars? Don't they destroy native ecosystems? A: No! This is herbicide industry propaganda. These species are symptoms of man's destructive abuse of the land, not the cause, expanding into heavily disturbed, overgrazed, polluted areas, often helping heal the land, and filling niches in the ecosystem opened by man's destruction of natives. Star thistle & Scotch Broom are heavily used by native herbivores and pollinators including wild native bees & butterflies, mice, deer, etc. They protect and rebuild soils damaged by decades of overgrazing. Eucalyptus is the preferred habitat for native monarch butterfly overwintering congregations, and wild boar rooting increases plant diversity and fulfills the soil-stirring function formerly performed by grizzlies before they were hunted to extinction in California. In every case, without exception, "invasive" species are the direct result of human disturbance of the landscape, or a secondary ripple effect from other disturbance. They are a symptom of our abuses of the land, not the cause. Invasive alien hysteria is based on faulty, antiquated ecology - the idea of stable, coevolved ecosystems is now entirely discredited by modern ecosystem studies and paleobiology. http://www.geocities.com/nowhitelist/faq.html "...herbicide manufactures and "life patent" corporations have funded tremendous propaganda in recent years hyping a spurious "invasive species" threat to natural ecosystems in order to sell more herbicides. The USDA, when faced with large budget cuts in the mid 1990s, and needing new justification for its regulatory bureaucracy (protecting the nation from "foreign invaders"), joined in this propaganda effort. Other bureaucracies have joined and the National Invasive Species Council has been created. Park managers nationwide have found "weed extermination" projects a fertile source of funding (The Natural Areas Association for park and preserve managers had a Monsanto employee on its board of directors for some time), and academic biologists likewise have found that promoting the "invasive species threat" useful in their search for grant funding. Unfortunately, this industry-backed media sensationalism has been effective, and many otherwise fine environmental organizations have been misled into support of this "nature cleansing". Monsanto has also been instrumental in the formation of the Exotic Pest Plant Councils - pseudo-environmental front-groups promoting weed hysteria. A Monsanto employee was instrumental in the founding of The California Exotic Pest Plant Council, and was on its board of directors for years. CalEPPC has received major funding from them and other herbicide manufacturers..." Important video on Invasion Biology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT4Zczx_bik David Theodoropoules speaks about Invasion Biology at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene OR, March 5th 2011. David I. Theodoropoulos directs the Las Sombras Biological Preserve in La Honda, CA and is the author of "Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience, the first comprehensive refutation of invasion biology." His talk was titled "Invasion Biology -- Science or Pseudoscience?, a brief overview of invasion biology's scientific failings, and current scientific perspectives on invasive species."

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Arundo donax  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.