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Nandina Has Become An Invasive Species Newsletter

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Nandina Has Become An Invasive Species


Have to admit that I've designed many nandinas into projects and have some in my own gardens. I primarily used the dwarf version but it has the berries just like the regular form. We now need to admit that this plant has become a seriously invasive species and we need to reduce or eliminate it's use. Here's some good basic information about the problem:



Nandina Nandina domestica Thunb


COMMON NAMES: Nandina, sacred bamboo, heavenly bamboo


NATIVE ORIGIN: China, Japan, India; introduced to the United States and widely planted as an ornamental; now escaping and spreading from original plantings


DESCRIPTION: Evergreen erect shrub in the barberry family (Berberidaceae) that grows to a height of 6-10 feet and width of 3 to 5 feet (Other cultivars including dwarf nandina are shorter in height). The plant has multiple bushy cane-like stems that resemble bamboo. The alternate leaves are bi-pinnately compound dividing into many 1 to 2-inch, pointed, oval leaflets. Young foliage is often pinkish, and then turns to soft light green. The foliage can be tinged red in winter. Early summer terminal clusters of tiny white-to-pink flowers. Each flower is ¼ to ½ inch across, appearing in loose, erect, 6 to 12 inch clusters at the end of the branches. If plants are grouped, shiny red spherical berries, 1 /3 inch in diameter, follow the flowers in fall and winter. Single plants seldom fruit heavily. It spreads both vegetatively through underground sprouts from roots and by seeds.



HABITAT: It grows in full sun to shade and prefers reasonably rich soil but does not thrive in sand. It occurs under forest canopies and near forest edges. Distribution: This species is reported from states shaded on Plants Database map. The second map shows potential areas for spread. Arkansas is an epicenter for nandina in forests. It has escaped intended plantings and found along roadsides and vacant lots in Kentucky and Ohio. It is reported to be invasive by the National Park Service in FL, GA, NC, and TN.



ECOLOGICAL IMPACTS: Nandina has naturalized and invaded habitats. It colonizes by spreading underground root sprouts and by animal-dispersed seeds. It can persist as a seedling for several years before maturing. It can displace native species and disrupt plant communities.


TOXICITY: Berries can be toxic to cats and some grazing animals.



  • Manual - It is difficult to remove manually because even the smallest piece of root will re-sprout.
  • Herbicides - It can be controlled using natural organic herbicides. For tall plants, cut stems then apply. Collect and destroy fruit. Repeat applications may be necessary to reduce densities. Follow label instructions. You should evaluate the specific circumstances of each infestation and seek professional advice and guidance if necessary.
  • Natural Pests - Plants are bothered by scale and mites. Leaf spot diseases often cause the lower leaves to drop from the plant in the humid regions. The disease appears to be most severe on plants grown in partial shade where the foliage can remain wet.

Produced by the USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Staff, Newtown Square, PA.


Heavenly Bamboo on Federal invasive plant list 



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Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett





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