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Nandina domestica BotGardBln1105Leaves.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Nandina
N. domestica
Binomial name
Nandina domestica

Nandina domestica (/nænˈdnə/ nan-DEE-nə)[1][2][3] commonly known as nandina, heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo, is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to eastern Asia from the Himalayas to Japan. It is the only member of the monotypic genus Nandina.


Despite the common name, it is not a bamboo but an erect evergreen shrub up to 2 m (7 ft) tall by 1.5 m (5 ft) wide, with numerous, usually unbranched stems growing from ground level. The glossy leaves are sometimes deciduous in colder areas, 50–100 cm (20–39 in) long, bi- to tri-pinnately compound, with the individual leaflets 4–11 cm (2–4 in) long and 1.5–3 cm broad. The young leaves in spring are brightly coloured pink to red before turning green; old leaves turn red or purple again before falling. The flowers are white, borne in early summer in conical clusters held well above the foliage. The fruit is a bright red berry 5–10 mm diameter, ripening in late autumn and often persisting through the winter.


Berries of the sacred bamboo

All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing compounds that decompose[4][5] to produce hydrogen cyanide, and could be fatal if ingested. The plant is placed in Toxicity Category 4[clarification needed], the category "generally considered non-toxic to humans",[6] but the berries are considered toxic to cats and grazing animals.[7] Excessive consumption of the berries will kill birds such as cedar waxwings,[8] because they are subject to cyanide toxicosis, resulting in death to multiple individuals at one time.[9] The berries also contain alkaloids such as nantenine, which is used in scientific research as an antidote to MDMA (ecstasy).[10][11]

Status as an invasive species[edit]

Nandina domestica seedling, with two green cotyledons, and a first red-green leaf.

Nandina is considered invasive in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.[12] It was placed on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's invasive list as a Category I species, the highest listing. It has been observed in the wild in Florida in Gadsden, Leon, Jackson, Alachua and Citrus counties, in conservation areas, woodlands and floodplains.[13] In general, the purchase or continued cultivation of non-sterile varieties in the southeastern United States is discouraged.

Nandina is also becoming invasive in wild areas farther north, and in May 2017 was added to the Maryland invasive plant list with a tier 2 status.[14]

Although grown extensively in Texas because of its tolerance for dry conditions, fruiting varieties of Nandina are considered invasive there.[15][16] This is primarily due to birds spreading seeds into natural areas where Nandina proliferates and crowds out native species, both through seeding and by the growth of rhizomatous underground stems.

Garden history and cultivation[edit]

N. domestica, grown in Chinese and Japanese gardens for centuries, was brought to Western gardens by William Kerr, who sent it to London in his first consignment from Canton, in 1804.[17] The English, unsure of its hardiness, kept it in greenhouses at first. The scientific name given to it by Carl Peter Thunberg is a Latinized version of a Japanese name for the plant, nan-ten.[18] Nandina is widely grown in gardens as an ornamental plant. Over 65 cultivars have been named in Japan, where the species is particularly popular and a national Nandina society exists. In Shanghai berried sprays of nandina are sold in the streets at New Year, for the decoration of house altars and temples.[18]

Nandina does not berry profusely in Great Britain, but it can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 6–10 with some cultivars hardy into zone 5. Nandina can take heat and cold, from −10 to 110 °F (−23 to 43 °C). It generally needs no pruning, but can spread via underground runners and can be difficult to remove. Despite Nandina toxicity, the berries can be left on the plants for birds to harvest in late winter.[dubious ] Spent berry stalks can easily be snapped off by hand in spring. Due to the naturally occurring phytochemicals (see above) this plant is commonly used in rabbit, deer, and javelina resistant landscape plantings.


Nandina is derived from the Japanese vernacular name, ナンテン, pronounced ‘nanten’.[19]

Domestica means ‘domesticated’, or ‘of the household’.[19]



  1. ^ (or nan-DEE-nuh) Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ "nandina". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ The unexpected pronunciation /iː/ approximates the Japanese nanten.
  4. ^ Abrol, Y. P.; Conn, E. E.; Stoker, J. R. (1966) “Studies on the identification, biosynthesis and metabolism of a cyanogenic glucoside in Nandina domestica Thunb.”. Phytochemistry 5(5):1021-1027 doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)82800-9
  5. ^ Olechno, J. D.; Poulton, J. E.; Conn, E. E. “Nandinin: An acylated free cyanohydrin from Nandina domestica”. (1984) Phytochemistry 23(8):1784-1785 doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)83491-3
  6. ^ "University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service Toxic Plants". Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  7. ^ "North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service Poisonous Plants of North Carolina". Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  8. ^ Moges Woldemeskel & Eloise L. Styer. "Feeding Behavior-Related Toxicity due to Nandina domestica in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum)". PMC 3005831. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  9. ^
  10. ^ Fantegrossi WE, Kiessel CL, Leach PT, Van Martin C, Karabenick RL, Chen X, Ohizumi Y, Ullrich T, Rice KC, Woods JH (May 2004). "Nantenine: an antagonist of the behavioral and physiological effects of MDMA in mice" (PDF). Psychopharmacology. 173 (3–4): 270–7. doi:10.1007/s00213-003-1741-2. PMID 14740148.
  11. ^ Chaudhary S, Pecic S, Legendre O, Navarro HA, Harding WW (May 2009). "(+/-)-Nantenine analogs as antagonists at human 5-HT(2A) receptors: C1 and flexible congeners". Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters. 19 (9): 2530–2. doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2009.03.048. PMC 2677726. PMID 19328689.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Nandina". Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
  14. ^ "Maryland Invasive Plants Prevention and Control". Maryland Department of Agriculture, Maryland Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories (1964) 1992, s.v. "Nandina".
  18. ^ a b Coats (1964) 1992.
  19. ^ a b Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 145, 268


External links[edit]