Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Giant Cane - Arundinaria gigantea   (Walter) Muhlenberg
Members of Poaceae:
Members of Arundinaria with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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Author(Walter) Muhlenberg
DistributionThis is a species of rich soils along brownwater rivers (contra A. tecta of blackwater systems and peatlands) and contra A. appalachiana of moist-mesic slopes. Due to excessive lumping in past manuals, the actual distribution of A. gigantea, sensu stricto, has not been determined until Clark et al. did so for FNA in 2007 and revised by Sorrie in 2015. The map below is incomplete in the Piedmont and low Mountains -- though it is assumed to occur in all Piedmont counties, most mountain counties, and many Coastal Plain counties but essentially there only along brownwater rivers. The record for Hyde County is from Lake Mattamuskeet.

WV and southern OH to southern MO, south to northwestern FL, eastern OK, and eastern TX.
AbundanceWhere found, populations usually are large. Forms large patches or thickets (canebrakes) but these are much diminished in size and extent from pre-settlement days.
HabitatThis species occurs in nutrient-rich, brownwater floodplains and bottomlands. In Hyde County, it is found at Lake Mattamuskeet; the ID should be confirmed with updated collection.
See also Habitat Account for General Cane Thickets
PhenologyThis species seldom flowers or fruits, mainly just before death, which might be after several decades. Many biologists have likely never seen this species in flower or fruit. Weakley (2018) gives an average of fruiting every 40-50 years, which gives an idea that this is indeed a shrub, and long-lived at that.
IdentificationThis is the tallest of the three Arundinaria species that occur in NC, growing to 15-20' high, though usually much lower (head high to 10' high). It is somewhat evergreen, as well. Thus, it should not be confused with A. appalachiana, which grows only in uplands, is shorter, and is deciduous, often not becoming leafy until later in April. In some spots in the Coastal Plain it likely comes close to A. tecta, which typically grows only 3-6’ tall and which occupies blackwater systems, streamheads, and pocosins. As some references have mentioned, stems of this species are often strong enough to use for fishing poles; stems of the others are too weak and thin for fishing poles! See also the account for the alien Pseudosasa japonica.
Taxonomic CommentsThe recognition of A. gigantea and A. tecta as separate species has many advocates, but some authors prefer to treat the latter as a variety or subspecies of A. gigantea.

The 3 species of Arundinaria are the only native bamboos in NC. Like bamboos globally, they typically flower/fruit only sporadically and plants usually die following reproduction. Roadside, backyard, and waste lot colonies of very tall, yellow-stemmed bamboos are aliens from eastern Asia.
Other Common Name(s)River Cane (used mainly in the mountains to distinguish it from Hill Cane)
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieSame place. Culms up to 2" wide. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorriePiedmont, rich floodplain of McLendon Creek, May 2015. Culms 10+ feet tall. MoorePhoto_natural

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