Sacred Bamboo, Nandina (Nandina domestica)

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N. domestica
Scientific Name
Nandina domestica
Common Names
sacred bamboo, heavenly bamboo, nanten

Miller, J.H., E.B, Chambliss, N.J. Loewenstein. 2010. A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests. General Technical Report SRS-119. Asheville, NC. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 126 p.


Evergreen erect shrub to 8 feet (2.5 m) in height, with multiple bushy stems that resemble bamboo, glossy bipinnately compound green (or reddish) leaves, white to pinkish flowers in terminal clusters, and bright-red berries in fall and winter.


Large compound leaves resembling leafy branches with overlapping sheaths clasping the main stem, woody leafstalk bases persisting as stubby branches. Stubby branches whorled alternately up the stem and tightly stacked near terminals for a given year’s growth. 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.


Alternate spiraled, at branch tips, bipinnately compound on 1.5 to 3 feet (0.5 to 1 m) long slender, often reddish tinged leafstalks, with joints distinctly segmented. Leafstalk bases clasping stems with a V-notch on the opposite side of attachment. Nine to 81 nearly sessile leaflets, lanceolate to diamond shaped, 0.5 to 4 inches (1.2 to 10 cm) long and 0.4 to 1.2 inches (1 to 3 cm) wide. Glossy light green to dark green sometimes red tinged or burgundy.


May to July. Terminal (or axillary) panicles of several hundred flowers, 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) long. Pink in bud, opening to 3 (2 to 4) lanceolate deciduous petals, white to cream, with yellow anthers 0.2 to 0.3 inch (6 to 8 mm) long. Fragrant.

Fruit and seeds

September to April. Dense terminal and axillary clusters of fleshy, spherical berries 0.2 to 0.3 inch (6 to 8 mm). Light green ripening to bright red in winter. Two hemispherical seeds.


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 animaldispersed 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 and recent landscape plantings. Sterile-seeded, reddish cultivars available.


Found throughout the region with dense infestations in TN and LA. Mostly occurs in the north and west portions of the region and spreading southeast.

Management strategies

  • Do not plant. Remove prior plantings, and control sprouts and seedlings. Bag and dispose of fruit in a dumpster or burn.
  • Treat when new plants are young to prevent seed formation.
  • Manually pull new seedlings and tree wrench saplings when soil is moist, ensuring removal of all roots.
  • With ornamental plantings, collect and destroy fruit.

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 a basal spray of Garlon 4 as a 20-percent solution (5 pints per 3-gallon mix) in a labeled basal oil product, vegetable oil or mineral oil with a penetrant, or fuel oil or diesel fuel (where permitted); or apply undiluted Pathfinder II.
  • Cut large stems and immediately treat the stump tops 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 when safety to surrounding vegetation is desired, a glyphosate herbicide as a 20-percent solution (5 pints per 3-gallon mix). ORTHO Brush-B-Gon, Enforcer Brush Killer, and Vine-X are effective undiluted for treating cut-stumps and available in retail garden stores (safe to surrounding plants).

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



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