Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Heavenly Bamboo

N. domestica leaves- Wikimedia
Invasive plants from "heaven" now comes in two plant species.  The more familiar species is Ailanthus altissima or "Tree of Heaven," a small tree that spreads like kudzu of the north and even grows in the cracks of buildings.  Now we have another species popping up around Springfield, Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina domestica.  It came down to us not from heaven but from Asia.

Heavenly Bamboo berries - Wikimedia
Not actually a bamboo but an evergreen shrub, it tends to grow around 7 feet tall and spread out to 5 feet wide.  Introduced as an ornamental in the 1800s, it can seduce gardeners with its young pink leaves in early spring, white flowers in early summer and bright red berries in the fall and winter.  Oh, and evergreen leaves that may be tinged with red in winter..... beginning to sound like invasive bush honeysuckle?  It should, as it spreads covering the same habitat.

There are clues to look for when planting exotic (think non-native) plants.  "Needs no care," "grows in sun and shade,"  "grows in any soil," should all be a warning that escape is likely.  "Heavenly" grows readily up to 6-8 feet although there is a dwarf variety of 3-4 feet.  It spreads out by rhizomes, seeking to grow beyond the gardener's plan, and can cover the ground quickly like bush honeysuckle.  Nandina can take heat and cold, from −10 to 110 °F.  It grows in sun or under forest canopies and near forest edges like bush honeysuckle and Arkansas is an epicenter for Nandina in forests.

All parts of the plant are poisonous, producing hydrogen cyanide.  They are listed as Toxicity Category 4, the category "generally considered non-toxic to humans," but the berries are considered toxic to cats and grazing animals.  They generally do not affect birds except when consumed in large numbers by voracious frugavores like cedar waxwings.  I recall sampling honeysuckle berries and neighborhood kids mashing them for "tea."  These berries potentially could sicken small children who sample them in excess.

Leaves -
They were planted in the Master Gardener's Xeriscape Garden on National Avenue in Springfield.  And a confession, we have had some planted in our yard for 20 years, although Barb suspected they might be a problem and has picked the berries off each year before they ripen.  For some time they have been classed as invasive in the southern states including  Florida, Georgia and Texas.  Now it looks like Missouri's turn has come.

Fayetteville has just banned planting 18 invasive species in major developments as described here.
Detailed information of Heavenly Bamboo control is at this Forest Service link.


  1. Beautiful captures, just love nature shots. =0)

  2. On a gut instinct, Nandina was benched years ago for not playing fairly in the landscape. Now I understand why.

  3. When I buy a new vehicle, I suddenly start seeing that model all over the roads. Like that, now we are seeing Heavenly Bamboo all around our neighborhood.

  4. Yikes! Your parts of the country have warmed up enough to be the new range for it! :/