Arundo donax L.
Giant reed, Spanish cane
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Stems serve as support for vines and similar climbing plants, and for making
trellises and the like for climbing cultivated plants. They are also used as
measuring rods, walking sticks, fishing poles, musical instruments, baskets and
mats. It makes a good quality of paper, and in Italy the plant is used in the
manufacture of rayon. Variegated and glaucous-leaved varieties are used as
ornamentals. Because of rather high yields from natural stands, cane has been
suggested for biomass for energy. As fodder, only the young leaves are
browsed; the stems are woody, and the grass unpalatable in later stages.
The rhizome or rootstock is used for dropsy. Boiled in wine with honey, the
root or rhizome has been used for cancer. This or other species of Arundo is
also reported to be used for condylomata and indurations of the breast. The
root infusion is regarded as antigalactagogue, depurative, diaphoretic,
diuretic, emollient, hypertensive, hypotensive, and sudorific (Duke and Wain,
Per 100 g, the green roughage is reported to contain on a zero moisture basis,
6.9 g protein, 1.3 g fat, 82.6 g total carbohydrate, 37.5 g fiber, 9.2 g ash,
0.49% Ca, 0.11% P, 2.55% K. Immature forage contains 12.2% CP, while forage in
full bloom contains 6.9%, very mature forage 3.13.9% (Miller, 1958). Calcium
analyses were 0.300.67%, P 0.080.15 g, K 2.043.19%, and Mg 0.200.30%. The
alkaloid gramine is said to be a vasopressor, raising the blood pressure in
dogs after small doses, causing a fall in larger doses. Reed of Chinese origin
contains 50.3% cellulose and 15.7% lignin. It is said to be similar in action
to d-pseudoephedrine. Detailed analyses are summarized by Perdue (1958) with
emphasis on data of significance to the pulp industry. Fresh Chilean grass
(84.6% DM) contains (ZMB): 6.6% CP, 31.8% CF, 13.9% ash, 2.0% EE, 45.7% NFE.
In India, it contains 13.2% CP, 28.5% CF, 15.0% ash, 1.9% EE, 41.4% NFE; Indian
hay contains 8.8% CP, 33.0% CF, 12.4% ash, 1.1% EE, 44.7% NFE (Gohl, 1981).
Alpha-amyrin acetate, bufotenine, bufotenidine, campesterol,
dehydro-bufotenine, N,N-dimethyltryptamine, donaxerin, friedelin, gramine,
gramine methohydroxide, lupeol (anticancer), 5-metlioxy-N-methyl-tryptamine,
sitosterol (antitumor), stigmasterol, triacontane and triacontanol have been
Stout perennial grass, with thick, short, branched rhizomes; culms up to 6 m
tall, arising from large knotty creeping rootstock, terete, 24 cm in diameter,
smooth, hollow, reed-like, many-noded, often with a white scurf; leaves
numerous, blades flat, smooth, 3070 cm long, 27.5 cm broad on main stem,
glaucous-green, drooping, tapering to a fine point; leaf-sheaths tightly
cordate-clasping, hairy tufted at base; ligules truncate, 12 mm long,
short-ciliate; panicle erect, large, contracted, feathery with silky hairs,
light brown or yellowish-brown, 3070 cm long, whitish with purple hue,
slightly lustrous, branches scabrous; spikelets 816 mm long, 27-flowered;
florets all bisexual except the reduced uppermost one; glumes equal, narrowly
lanceolate, acuminate, 3-nerved, slightly longer than florets; lemmas
lanceolate, 710 mm long, 35-veined with shorter veinlets between, 2-toothed
at apex, with long white hairs on back; awn between the teeth at apex, 13 mm
long, slender, erect; callus small, broadly ovate, with short hairs 1.52 mm
long on both sides; palea one-half to two-thirds as long as lemma; anthers
2.53 mm long. Fl. Aug.Nov.
Several cvs are cultivated as ornamentals. In Arundo donax var.
variegate (var. versicolor, var. picta) the leaves are
white-striped; in var. macrophylla, leaves are large and glaucous.
(2n = 40)
Said to be native to the circummediterranean area to the Lower Himalayas from
Kashmir to Nepal and Assams the Nilgiris and Coorg; introduced to many
subtropical and warm temperate regions, where it is grown as an ornamental and
is often found as a stray from cultivation.
Adapted to tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climates of the World.
Often found on sand dunes near seashores. Tolerates some salt. 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 3 to 40 dm (mean of 112 cases = 13.0) annual
temperature of 9 to 28.5°C (mean of 112 cases = 23.6) and pH of 5.0 to 8.7
(mean of 48 cases = 6.9) (Duke, 1975, 1979).
Propagated by divisions of the stout rhizomes, planting these where new plants
are desired. Easily established and requires no care. Often quite aggressive
in cultivated areas and on sand dunes.
Stems are harvested when desirous for use for paper-making, musical reeds, and
other industrial purposes.
Dry cane yields of ca 10, 15, and 20 MT/ha were reported respectively from
infertile, partly fertile and fertile soils in Argentina. Extensively used in
areas of adaptation for purposes listed above under uses. Commonly grown in
Europe, China, Japan and India, because of its usefulness. Industries based on
fishing-poles, paper-making, rayon-making, and musical-reeds are the most
important users of the stemy of this grass.
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b) annual productivity ranges from
10 to 59 MT/ha, the latter figure from Westlake's (1963) estimate of 5759
MT/ha/yr. In addendum, Westlake cites evidence that Arundo donax can
produce 4075 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 byproduct, with leaf protein and potential
pharmaceutical as primary products.
Agriculture Handbook No. 165 lists the following as affecting this species:
Armillaria mellea (root rot), Leptostroma donacis, Papularia
sphaerosperma, Puccinia coronata (crown rust), and Selenophoma
donacis (stem speckle).
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Duke, J.A. 1975. Ethnobotanical observations on the Cuna Indians. Econ. Bot.
- Duke, J.A. 1979. Ecosystematic data on economic plants. Quart. J. Crude Drug
- Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- Gohl, B. 1981. Tropical feeds. Feed information summaries and nutritive values.
FAO Animal Production and Health Series 12. FAO, Rome.
- Miller, D.F. 1958. Composition of cereal grains and forages. National Academy
of Sciences, National Research Council, Washington, DC. Publ. 585.
- Perdue, R.E. 1958. Arundo donaxsource of musical reeds and industrial
cellulose. Econ. Bot. 12:368404.
- Westlake, D.F. 1963. Comparisons of plant productivity. Biol. Rev. 38:385425.
Last update December 29, 1997