Arundo donax - Blessing or curse?

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Arundo donax - Blessing or curse?

Post by RB » Tue Feb 13, 2007 11:54 pm

I used to love this plant, but have now realised 2 things:

It is not a Mediterranean native;
It is very invasive.

It also happens that up till recently this cane was harvested regularly for the production of cane roller "blinds" (hasira), fish-snares, (nassa tal vopi) and many other uses. There still exist signs in some places where this is still practised, with severe warnings for anyone who would dare to harvest the canes without permission.

However this seems to be a diminishing practice and Arundo is taking over valley bottoms very aggressively. It does not seem to have any natural enemies or suffer from any diseases, and it can also grow (although less vigorously) in drier areas, so the spread is not limited only to the valley bottom.

The problem is that native watercourse tree species such as the willows and poplars, Vitex, etc, have no hope wherever Arundo is present. Once Arundo colonises a patch, the darkness at ground level that it produces completely obliterates all other plant life - and Arundo is there to stay.

So the valley bottoms become a monoculture with a plant that does not seem to contribute much to the ecosystem, apparently apart from ants (maybe) no animal eats its fruit, nor have I seen it's leaves show signs of damage, plus the habitat it creates is hostile to other plant species. It provides cover for some birds, etc but then so would other species of plants that would grow in its' stead.

Close to our house is a small valley, (Wied Blandun, Fgura) which is not in a very good state having suffered massive dumping when roads and habitation were built in the area, plus its location means that there is a lot of human pressure with everyone using it to satisfy their requirements whatever they may be. In short this is everyone's abused playground. In fact it used to be my playground too, although I like to think that the "abuse" was left out of the equation.

Sometime in the 70's (I don't even remember myself) a dam was built across the valley. I always remember there being patches of Arundo, but it was always possible to walk around and about them, and they seemed to be limited to the periphery of the "high water" mark.

I again visited this valley recently - I obtained a number of Salix pedicellata cuttings, and having a small surplus after the longer stems were sectioned, thought of sticking a couple there - considering that public gardens probably now have more biodiversity than Wied Blandun, only good could result. Unfortunately Arundo was everywhere. The extent of it's invasiveness has left only small patches of the dammed-up area clear - areas which are bordered with rock and thus almost nothing grows. In the end I stuck them within a metre of an Arundo clump, as anywhere else Arundo-free would have been totally unsuited for a water loving tree such as Salix are. I hoped that if all went well, they would manage to attain some size before the looming Arundo would creep towards them and engulf them.

Which, as many endings in movies become beginnings, led me to come to the realisation that is set out at the start of this article.

And also to consider that with respect to the unhappy conservation status of indigenous valley bottom/watercourse vegetation, Arundo likely has a lot to answer for.


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SHort and Sweet

Post by MWP admin » Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:04 am

I will read your full post tomorrow RB as now I am very sleepy, but to reply your question, Arundo donax is a PEST and withh all responsibility you can cut as much as you want to make hasira, windbreak a perimeter of a field, etc. It's non native, takes over in few years, no light for underlying vegatation, very tall, millions of wind dispersed seeds, (blocks the way in valley beds.)

Of course there are no protection rules. The problem is that this plant has a very strong, persistant, vigorous rhizomous stock which is the main pain to remove.

Stephen Mifsud

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