Non-Invasive Characteristics - The Facts about Arundo Donax

Other than active waterways and the associated flood dispersal, Arundo Donax has shown no examples of unwanted expansion or invasion, primarily due to its non-invasive characteristics including no airborne dispersal due to the lack of viable seed, pollen or spore, slow root expansion and no runner, vine or surface expansion.

Arundo Donax is limited in its dispersal ability.  Unlike some invasive bamboos, Arundo Donax rhizomes have a limited spreading growth habit, with plants forming well defined clumps (Lewandowski et al., 2003).  Most significantly, no fertile seed production has been reported for Arundo Donax in the USA (DiTomaso and Healy, 2007) or Australia.  Williams et al., (2008) found no fertile seeds when 400 seeds per stand were tested from five wild stands in South Australia.  Not only is there no report of viable seeds, but no embryo is formed (Bhanwra et al., 1982) and no pollen produced.


(Balogh, Czako and Marion, unpublished). (C. Williams et al. Arundo Donax in Australia and USA ISHS, 2009)

€œArundo Donax is only likely to be invasive when planted in riparian and floodplain systems, particularly those subject to torrential flooding such as arise from annual snow melts in California.  Away from such aquatic systems, there is limited potential for rhizome and stem fragments to be broken off and spread. 

(C. Williams et al. Arundo Donax in Australia and USA ISHS, 2009)

€‹In an email dated 8/6/09, Lazlo Marton, Ph.D., writes. €œThere is no microspore (from which pollen could develop) and no functional macrospores (development of the embryo sack) therefore no eggs formed.  The caryopsises also cannot form any kind of functional vegetative propagule.  There is zero possibility of seed production. 


(Lazlo Marton, Ph.D., CBS, Professor of Biology, Director of PSMP in Biotechnology Environmental Genetic Engineering Department of Biological Sciences University of South Carolina Columbia)

€œMicroscopic studies indicated no pollen and no embryo development, which resulted in total sterility (no seed).

(C. Williams et al. Arundo Donax in Australia and USA ISHS, 2009)

​A few Conservation and Environmental organizations have flooded the Internet with invasive weed reports pertaining to Arundo Donax as an invasive species. Misinformation persists and the plant is being described with characteristics that are scientifically proven untrue.
Experts have proven that Arundo Donax is sterile, with no viable spore, seed or pollen.  Unlike Bamboo with it's quickly spreading and aggressively  roots system, Arundo Donax roots tend to clump and expand slowly at the rate of l/2 meter per year. Unlike Kudzu, Arundo Donax is not a vine and does not spread by runners establishing new roots, climbing and choking everything in its path.
There are a number of examples of Arundo Donax grown under properly managed agricultural practices with no instances of invasiveness in countries including Greece, Italy, Australia, Honduras, and the United States. There are even photographed and surveyed stands of Arundo Donax, decades old, in multiple locations with no change in area or location, showing no signs of invasiveness.

The European Union, Arundo Donax Productivity Net writes. . . "Giant reed is one of the most cost-effective crops. It is environmentally friendly and presents large potential by selection and improvement to become the champion of biomass crops. "

(FAIR- CT96-2028 E.U. Arundo Donax Productivity Net)
In Australia, a full report has been released establishing the proper management practices under which Arundo Donax will be grown for biofuels programs mitigating any negative issues.  With Arundo Donax showing none of the characteristics of invasive species and with numerous examples of Arundo Donax grown under proper agricultural practices with examples of invasiveness, where, how, why and under what conditions is Arundo Donax considered invasive?
With the dense root clumping and high wind resistance characteristics, Arundo Donax was purposely, albeit, incorrectly planted in the 1850's on active waterways of Southern California and Texas. for erosion control and windbreaks making this issue a "man-made phenomenon". All spreading came about by the root system being moved down stream by floods and or man bulldozing up the roots and those moving down steam.


"In California in the late 1700 's to early 1800 's, giant reed was often planted for erosion control in flood channels and as wind breaks. "

 (J. DiTomas, BioScienceMag)

In Australia. . . "This was probably due to early settlers planting giant reed along river systems."

 €‹(C. Williams, et aI Agricultural Science, 1/2008)

"Because of its thick root system, it was planted along smaller waterways to prevent erosion"

 (California Native Plant Society)

"Brought to California, it was planted along irrigation canals for bank stabilization and as wind breaks to reduce damage to crops "

 (California Native Plant Society)


It was the invasive act of taking an otherwise non-invasive plant, planting it along active waterways, providing a physical method of dispersion and enabling the plant left un-checked to spread and naturalize for many years that is environmentally irresponsible. Any number of non-invasive and beneficial plants introduced in active waterways and then neglected for many years under these circumstances would also be labeled as invasive.

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