Fact Sheet

Sacred Bamboo, Nandina

November 28, 2007

Sacred bamboo or nandina (Nandina domestica) is an evergreen erect shrub to 8 feet in height, with multiple bushy stems resembling bamboo, glossy pinnately to bipinnately compound green or reddish leaves. Early summer terminal clusters of tiny white-to-pinkish flowers yield dangling clusters of red berries in fall and winter.

Ecology. Occurs under forest canopies and near forest edges. Shade tolerant. Seedlings frequent in vicinity of old plantings. Varying leaf colors in the various cultivars, some of which do not produce viable seeds. Colonizes by root sprouts and spreads by animal-dispersed seeds.

History and use. Introduced from eastern Asia and India in the early 1800s. Widely planted as an ornamental, now escaped and spreading from around old homes.

Stem. Large compound leaves resembling leafy branches, woody leafstalk bases persisting as stubby branches, and overlapping sheaths encasing the main stem. The overlapping sheaths on the main stem give the appearance of bamboo, thus, the common name. Stem fleshy and greenish gray near terminal, becoming woody barked and tan to brown with fissures towards the base. Wood bright yellow.

Leaves. Alternately whorled, bipinnately compound on 1.5 to 3 feet slender leafstalks, often reddish tinged with joints distinctly segmented. Leafstalk bases clasping stems with a V-notch on the opposite side of attachment. Nine to eighty-one nearly sessile leaflets, lanceolate to diamond-shaped, 0.5 to 4 inches long and 0.4 to 1.2 inches wide. Glossy light green to dark green sometimes red tinged or burgundy

Flowers. May to July. Terminal (or axillary) panicles of several hundred flowers, 4 to 10 inches long. Pink in bud, opening to three (two to four) lanceolate deciduous petals, white to cream, with yellow anthers 0.2 to 0.3 inch long. Fragrant.

Fruit and seeds. September to April. Dense terminal and axillary clusters of fleshy, spherical berries 0.2 to 0.3 inch. Light green ripening to bright red. Two hemispherical seeds.

Recommended control procedures:

  • Thoroughly wet all leaves with glyphosate herbicide as a 1-percent solution in water (4 ounces per 3-gallon mix) with a surfactant (August to October). Or, apply Garlon 4 as a 20-percent solution in commercially available basal oil, diesel fuel, or kerosene (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix) with a penetrant (check with herbicide distributor) to young bark as a basal spray.
  • For stems too tall for foliar sprays, cut large stems and immediately treat the stumps with one of the following herbicides in water with a surfactant: Arsenal AC* as a 10-percent solution (1 quart per 3-gallon mix) or a glyphosate herbicide as a 20-percent solution (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix).
  • Collect and destroy fruit

* Nontarget plants may be killed or injured by root uptake.

From: Miller, James H. 2003. Nonnative invasive plants of southern forests: a field guide for identification and control. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS–62. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 93 p.