What is Rivercane and Why is it Important?

— Written By
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

Rivercane is a large grass native to the southeastern US and is technically a bamboo.  For centuries, people indigenous to the southeastern US used rivercane for items such as fishing creels, blowguns, baskets, mats, building materials, and more.  When rivercane grows densely enough, it shades out other plants and can become the only species growing in an area. This is called a canebrake.  Unlike non-native bamboos, however, rivercane seldom reaches heights of more than 20 feet and stem diameters of more than one inch.

Rivercane, sometimes called giant cane, is Arundinaria gigantea and one of the three bamboos native to the United States. All three species grow in North Carolina: hillcane (Arundinaria appalachiana) grows on mountain slopes and is deciduous, switchcane (Arundinaria tecta) grows on the coastal plain in wet soils, and rivercane grows in well-drained soils on the banks of rivers and streams in the western part of NC.

Patch of healthy bamboo and alert, white-tailed deer standing in field

The photo above shows a mature patch of rivercane, called a canebrake, in Yancey County, NC along the Cane River.

Rivercane is important not only culturally, but environmentally too.  Canebrakes provide habitat for a wide variety of animals large and small from deer and bears to moles, voles, shrews, mice, raccoons, and birds.  The dense network of underground stems, called rhizomes, stabilize stream banks and reduce erosion during floods.  The plant is also evergreen allowing it to absorb energy from the sun all year.

The Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR) represents the concerted effort by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in preserving natural resources for use by tribal artisans. If you have rivercane on your property and have questions regarding its care or use, please click on my name above for my contact information at the RTCAR office.

Close up of dense culms of rivercane, a native bamboo, both alive and dead

The interior of a canebrake allows little light to hit the floor of the patch making germination of seeds there difficult. Many culms, both alive and dead, pack the field of view no matter which way an explorer turns.

This is the first article in the series focusing on natural resources of significant cultural importance to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  You may be interested in the following articles, which will be linked as they are completed.

How does rivercane benefit the environment?

How can rivercane be transplanted?

How is rivercane made into baskets?

How can I tell rivercane from non-native bamboo?