Arundo donax is a C3 tall, perennial herb of the subfamily Arundinoideae. The stems produced during the first growing period are not branched and are photosynthetic.
In the Mediterranean cane shoots emerge and grow fast from May, June, July and August, producing stems and leaves. From late August, the lower leaves begin to dry out, following the seasonal temperature patterns. Drying accelerates during fall, when flowering occurs from early October to late November. At this phenological stage, the moisture drops significantly; at low winter temperatures the cane stops growing.
The regrowth will resume the following spring.
It has a high photosynthetic capacity, associated with the absence of light saturation. The uptake of carbon dioxide is high compared to other C3 and C4 species, thus the growth of the cane is extraordinary rapidly in the right season.
When a new aerial stem sprouts, it does so with the final diameter, it only grows in length, and in a few weeks, it reaches its final height.
The productivity of the organic substance per hectare is one of the highest.
An apical meristem (cell division area) at the tip of the plant shoot or root causes this shoot or root grow in length creating new (younger) tissue on top of the existing (older) tissue.
The stem is divided into knots and internodes. The leaves are inserted in the knots which is where the secondary branches appear from in the second year. The canes of the first year are not branched and it is from the second spring when single or multiple lateral secondary branches can be formed from the knots.
Once a cane generates secondary branches, these become the main area of new growth; the growth of the main stem is practically non-existent from this point on.
In most areas where cane grows, no viable seeds are produced. Reed sterility is thought to be the result of megaspore stem cell division failure. No major variations in genetic diversity have been found in different genetic studies in the United States and in various parts of the Mediterranean. Molecular data strongly points to a unique genetic clone of A. Donax in the United States, although multiple introductions of this plant have been documented in the United States.
Other studies in the Mediterranean area analysed cane samples from 80 different sites and showed low gene diversity within these sites as well.
The results indicate the appearance of alterations in post-meiotic development of the egg and pollen. Research supports a monophyletic origin of the cane, that was possibly originated in Asia and spread from there to the Mediterranean.