p1010589

p1010591

Arundinaria gigantea
Monocot, Shrub, Perennial
Native, L 48 (23 states)
Blooming: rare, but March to May in Florida
Rhizomatous and reproduces primarily from rhizomes (roots)

Air canals in the roots enables the plants to deal with flooding and continuously moist sites. However, it thrives best under open or light tree cover. In Florida it may be an undercover for loblolly pine, slash pine, sweet gum, willow oak, live or laurel oak, Pond or Bald cypress, tupelo, sweet bay, cabbage palm, Florida Red Maple and hornbeam. These trees can be found in the forests around Womack Creek.

At time of exploration and settlement by Europeans, cane brake was a common shrub in Southeastern U.S. Only about 2% of this area is now covered in cane brake. The National Biological Service considers canebrake ecosystems “critically endangered”.

It provides year round forage for cattle, horses, swine and sheep and was a major forage crop in southeast US. It also supports white-tailed deer, bison and wild turkeys. The thickness of growth provides good dens for bears. Cottonmouths, copperheads and pygymy rattlesnakes are often found in cane brakes because of its population of rodents and other small prey.

Native Americans used the plant to make spears, arrows, blowguns, pipes, flutes, fishing poles and fish traps. Baskets and mats were made from this plant. Probably the young shoots were eaten as a potherb. Since cane propagates better under a managed burn situation, Native Americans were known to burn these areas every 7-10 years.

The following species of butterflies can be seen in switch cane in watery areas: creole pearly eye, southern pearly eye, southern swamp skipper, cobweb little skipper, cane little skipper and yellow little skipper. Of these only the southern pearly eye is listed in Daniels, Butterflies of Florida.

Sources of information: Taylor, Jane E., Fire Effects Information System http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/, USDA Plant Fact Sheet and Atlas of Florida Plants.

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