The scientific name is Neyraudia reynaudiana, but is most commonly known as Burma reed, silk reed, cane grass or false reed. It is a large-plumed grass that grows in clumps in sunny upland areas, perennial and native Southeast Asia and Indomalaya (Japan, southern China, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya, Myanmar, Bhutan Nepal and eastern India). It is invasive to South Florida but is found in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Lee and Collier counties as well as the Florida Keys.
First introduced to the United States in 1916 by the United States Department of Agriculture at a test garden in Coconut Grove, Florida for the purpose to investigate it potential as an ornamental plant. While at the test garden escaped and spread. By 1990 it was well established in the wild as far as thirty miles from Coconut Grove. The Burma reed has no known economic value. Bhutan reports that it is poisonous to Buffalo.
Stems (culms), including the flower stalks, are from three to fifteen feet high depending on the moisture conditions. Each stem is approximately half-inch wide around in a cross-section and filled with soft pith. All stems bear multiple nodes that are spaced three to five inches apart. The leave is eight to ten inches long, hairless, except for a single line of horizontal hairs at the juncture of the upper and lower portions of the leaf. Flower plumes can be up to three feet long, are composed of hundreds of tiny flowers with a shimmery, silkily appears. They flower between April and October. Each clump will produce an average of forty stalks and twelve to twenty flowering plants.
Due to the damage, it has caused from crowding and shading out of the understory plant species to the native ecosystem, it has caused extremely hot and destructive wild fires. In Miami-Dade, it is a serious threat to the globally imperiled pine Rocklands community. Their pine canopy was largely destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. With it massive size, it is a highly combustible fuel source from the large feathery flower plumes, and dense, hay-like litter it produces. The flower plumes carry the flames high into the air while the hay-like litter enhances the fire’s movement along the ground. With the aid of winds, their flames can leap over thirty-feet high, threatening nearby tree canopies.
With their roots deep, mechanical removal is extremely labor intensive, costly and causes extensive disturbance to the soil. The most effective management is cutting or prescribed burning, followed by the application of herbicides like glyphosate mixed with acidic surfactant “Roundup Pro®®” for a couple of years.
Photographic credit: Tony Pernas, USDI National Park Service, Bugwood.org