Nature

On the Front Line Against the Invasion of River Cane

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The short answer is YES, Texas is being invaded. We in Fredericksburg are on the front lines of a war — on invasive species, being waged by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the City of Fredericksburg, and the Hill Country Alliance. The current target is Arundo donax, aka, giant cane or river cane infesting our creeks and rivers.

This is the battlefield.  

Arundo donax , Giant cane, River cane

Photo: Robert C. Deming

This is a healthy Arundo donax plant in Fredericksburg’s Barons Creek. The plant was brought from Europe, probably Spain, hundreds of years ago. The feathery seed heads are just for show, as this aggressive invader has evolved to reproduce from pieces which are cut off and lodge elsewhere in the creek. This plant grows up to two inches per day, reaching about 30 feet tall, and if unchecked, will fill up the entire river channel and infest the downstream areas with more. Burning the cane doesn’t work — the plant contains so much wax that the fire easily gets out of control, and the plant grows back from the roots. Cutting or digging the cane up doesn’t work, either, and spreads pieces into the creek which may start a new infestation downstream.

These field biologists from Texas Parks and Wildlife are mapping plants to be sprayed.

biologists at work

Photo: Chelsea Pavliska

These TPWD biologists spent much of the past summer in the creeks in Fredericksburg collecting landowner participations, mapping locations of Arundo colonies, and supervising spraying by a contractor.  They are passionate about their job of reducing the impact of invasive species on special places in Texas like the Hill Country, and would rather be in the creek than just about anywhere else.

Is the herbicide used dangerous?

Arundo donax a year after treatment
Photo: Robert C. Deming

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