River Cane Description
Before the Europeans settled the United States, River cane as canebrakes or areas of land covered with a dense growth of rods, dominated the southeastern landscape, easily found along floodplains and stream bottoms. River cane is still around today and is a type of bamboo with evergreen foliage rising from rhizomes in the top portion of soil. It grows best in neutral to moderately acidic lands where it's limited to natural levees, see-pages, and stream terraces. It requires moist soil with adequate drainage, sandy soils being ideal. It's often confused with other bamboos, and like them, it flowers sporadically and can spread quickly over a large area.
Canebrakes can provide an environment to several species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. They can provide food for Whitetail deer and grazing livestock who eat the shoots in the spring. River cane can improve water quality by filtering groundwater.
River cane has been a wonderfully useful bamboo for the self-reliant and to this day is considered valuable by the Cherokee Nation. Historically, it was used to make arrow shafts for weapons, darts for game hunting, and even crafted into crude knives for skinning game. It could also be used for small spits and fishing traps.
Today, while it's not as easy to find, river cane can be used to craft baskets, woven mats for wall and floor coverings, and sheaths for various small weapons. For gardeners, it can be used for tomato stakes. This versatile species can also be used to craft paint brushes, pipes, and blow tubes. Bundles of hollow cells can even be lashed together to create a crude pontoon boat.
Music lovers will appreciate the fact that river cane can be made into delicate flutes and useful survival whistles. Given all of its many positive uses, river cane is one flexible, fantastic plant species.