Introduced in the early 1800’s as an ornamental and still commonly planted in today’s landscapes, this evergreen shrub has escaped cultivation and is now a problematic invader in forests throughout the state but concentrated in the Mountains and southern Piedmont.
The shade-tolerant shrub grows to 8' and produces multiple bushy stems that can resemble young bamboo. The bright yellow inner bark is a distinguishing trait and one that is common among members of the Barberry Family. Its bipinnately-compound glossy leaves are arranged in an alternating fashion along the leaf stem and can range from deep green to reddish in color; between 10 - 100 lance to diamond-shaped leaflets (0.5 – 4.0" in length) comprise the leaves. Flowering stems, terminal panicles, each with several hundred, creamy white, fragrant blooms, are borne between May and July, giving way to dense clusters of light green berries that ripen to bright red in the Fall and Winter. Each berry contains two hemispherical seeds that can germinate the following Fall. The berries also contain cyanide, and a recent study from Georgia has linked overconsumption of the berries by Cedar Waxwings to their death via cyanide toxicity – the birds had gorged themselves on the only fruits available in the landscape. Their digestive systems had never encountered these non-native berries, and the birds did not know to avoid them.
Fact Sheet: Sacred Bamboo
Feeding Behavior-Related Toxicity due to Nandina domestica in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Moges Woldemeskel and Eloise L. Styer
James H. Miller; Invasive Plants in Southern Forests