The not so 'Heavenly' Nandina
My personal reasoning.
I have to be completely honest with y'all- I have a personal grudge against Nandinas. I grew up spending hours weeding these guys out of garden beds. The little offshoots were a complete pain to remove, so I vowed to never plant this not-so-Heavenly Bamboo Nandina years ago.
There are however, more reasons to avoid landscaping with Nandinas - besides my personal distaste for the plant. I'll get into their negative ecological impact below, but go talk to most seasoned landscapers, and they would likely admit that all the different varieties of Nandina are way overused in landscapes.
What are they?
Nandina was originally brought to the United States in the early 1800's as an ornamental garden plant. They have since become a southern landscape staple. They are generally carefree and offer lots of color through their foliage year round. They also have simple flowers which turn to berries after they bloom. These create a big impact and can be useful in Christmas decorations.
Here's the bad part though: 'Heavenly Bamboo' or 'Sacred Bamboo' (nandina domestica) is listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) as a Class 1 invasive plant. It's also classified as a noxious weed by the US Department of Agriculture.
Nandina can spread quickly, because birds and other wildlife are attracted to the bright red berries. It's not uncommon to see Nandina take over the whole bed, and then some.
If that wasn't enough, the berries contain cyanide and other alkaloids which produce toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN). This can harm or even kill birds, dogs, and any other wildlife attracted to them. If their native food sources dwindle, robins, waxwings, mocking birds and other birds will turn to these harmful berries to fill their diet, which could lead to their death. There's a well-documented case from 2009 where dozens of waxwings were found dead throughout a localized area in Thomas County, Georgia because they were eating these toxic berries.
How to avoid the issue.
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We started out as the neighborhood lawn boys – a group of high school friends trying to make some pocket change. It soon became more. We realized how much we enjoyed landscaping. Over the years, we've transformed hundreds of properties, beautified countless landscapes, and made many homeowners proud. This has become our passion!