The Mysteries of Hill Cane

Hill cnaeHill Cane (Arundinaria appalachiana) is a species that was split from switchcane (Arundinaria tecta) in 2006. Native to the Appalachian Mountains, little is known about its biology or morphology. Culms with a set of fan-shaped leaves emerge from underground rhizomes.


Thomas Walters (C’15) set up an experiment test how the growth and culm production of hill cane is affected by fire. He selected areas on the Domain with cane populations and placed plots in stream drainages and uphill, with the hypothesis that cane may be less fit to live further from streams. He also burned half of the plots to determine the effect of fire on culm production. He found that fire increased culm production.

Thomas Walters

Thomas stands among dead hill cane culms

The other part of Thomas’s study involved digging up rhizomes to learn about their morphology and growth patterns. From this research, we have learned that hill cane forms vast integrated clones throughout the landscape, and that all hill cane on Sewanee may have been connected at one point. In Sewanee, hill cane appears to be declining, but we observed a healthy population at Franklin State Forest that was much denser and taller than the population on the Domain. It is important to continue to monitor these populations over time in order to quantitatively assess whether they are in decline.

Katie Kull

Katie takes data on the height and number of leaves on living culms

This semester, Katie Kull (C’17) and I returned to Thomas’s experimental plots in order to take data on the living culms. Already, we have found signs of mass decline. We are unaware if this has been a long-term trend, or if cane experiences fluxes in the number of culms associated with a particular part of the rhizome. We hope our research will help understand the processes of this vastly under-described species.


About Callie Oldfield

I was a Post-Baccalaureate Fellow for the Sewanee Herbarium from Winter 2015-Summer 2016. I am currently a PhD student studying Plant Biology at the University of Georgia.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Greenhouses, Gardens, and Graduate Schools | Sewanee Herbarium

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