Plants By Type
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River Cane - Arundinaria gigantea
River cane is a species of bamboo native to North America, specifically the southeastern and south-central regions of the United States. It is unique in that it is the only species of bamboo native to North America, and not imported from another continent such as Asia. It is perennial, growing all year round. They resemble most other species of bamboo with thick woody stems, and thin sheaths with leaves jutting out at the nodes. It flowers irregularly. The hollow stem can be more than 3 inches in diameter. Although they do not grow as tall as their Asian counterparts, river cane plants have been routinely documented to grow up to 33 feet tall. There are reports dating back to the 1920s of river cane plants growing “as high as a man on horse-back could reach with an umbrella.” They have been documented to have once grown in the Appalachian Mountains, along rivers, and in thickets.
River cane plays an integral part in Cherokee culture. It has been used for basket weaving, making blowguns, furniture, fishing poles, mats, and as a tool for shining clay pots. Once growing plentifully in America, river cane is now considered a critically endangered species of plant. The decline of river cane is commonly attributed to introduction of European livestock, clearing native plant life to build farms, and modified foresting practices. There is little information on where river cane is growing now. They have been spotted in patches along developed wetlands and forests.
In spite of this, there is a very strong movement to preserve river cane. River cane is great for absorbing run off water that can damage streams and rivers. River cane also acts as an obligatory habitat for some native species of birds and butterflies. Some of these birds, such as the Bachman's warbler, are feared to have gone extinct due to the scarcity of river cane canebrakes.