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Arundo donax (Giant reed, Spanish cane)

Spaansriet [Afrikaans]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Poales > Family: Poaceae

Arundo donax (Giant reed, Spanish cane) Arundo donax (Giant reed, Spanish cane)

Arundo donax, Western Cape, South Africa. [photos H.G. Robertson, Iziko ]

This is the 'reed' of the Bible that for 5000 years has been used for pipe instruments. It is native to southern Europe and is the reed used for clarinets and organ-pipes. Evidently the plants in South Africa do not yield reed of the required quality for making clarinet reeds and so these reeds need to be imported from Europe (Werner Eichler pers. comm.). The stems are used for walking sticks, fishing rods and have been used as a source of cellulose in the manufacture of rayon. 

In South Africa, where it is loosely referred to as 'bamboo', it has become naturalised along some water courses and is a declared a Category 1 invasive plant. The variegated form with striped leaves Arundo donax var. versicolor has been grown in gardens but it is now illegal to do so in South Africa.


  • Mabberley, D.J. 1987. The Plant-book. Cambridge Unversity Press, Cambridge. 


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