Native to: China and Japan
Nandina, or heavenly bamboo, was introduced to the United States in 1804 for use as an ornamental plant. Considered a versatile and desirable plant for its evergreen appearance and attractive leaves and flowers, it is widely planted in both home and business landscapes. However, with its ability to grow quickly and reproduce by both seed and root fragments it can become a major nuisance for gardeners and it invades woodlands and floodplains. There are two current cultivars that are considered to be safe options by the UF IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Nandina domestica cv Harbour Dwarf and Nandina domestica cv Firepower. Another cultivar, Nandina domestica cv Gulf Stream, ranked as having high invasive potential in the assessment.
Habit: evergreen many-stemmed shrub.
Leaves: large, alternate leaves, twice to thrice-divided giving them a lacy appearance. Each dark green leaflet is ovate to lanceolate with long, tapering tips. Leaflets are 2-6 cm long. The leaves turn reddish in cold weather, and some cultivars have leaves with a reddish color.
Flowers: large clusters of flowers forms at the uppermost leaf axil. Flower clusters can be 30 cm long. The panicles' stems are purplish and hold many tiny pinkish-white flowers each with 6 petals and yellow anthers.
Fruit and seeds: clusters, each fruit is a round berry containing 2 seeds. Fruits mature to bright red and are often held on the plants through the winter.
Distribution in Florida: primarily reported from the panhandle and northeastern peninsula.
Nandina is spread by wildlife that consumes the berries as well as vegetatively via suckers and rhizomes. It can form dense thickets that displace native vegetation. Research shows that it can reduce light levels in hardwood forests by up to 40% which impacts native plant regeneration. The fruits contain cyanide and have been implicated in the deaths of cedar waxwings who consumed large amounts.
Do not plant and inform others to refrain from purchasing, propagating, or planting Nandina domestica and Nandina domestica cv Gulf Stream due to its ability to escape cultivation.
Plant native or non-invasive alternatives. Hand pull small infestations, being careful to remove all fragments of root to prevent reinfestation. Remove and dispose of berries.
Frequent mowing can be effective, but the plant may continue to spread via underground runners.
There are no known biological control agents for nandina.
Basal bark: 15% Garlon 4. Consult your local IFAS Extension office for assistance in developing a treatment plan.
View records and images from University of Florida Herbarium