Bamboos belong to the grass family. Bamboos have perennial, woody stems and, almost always, evergreen leaves.
Like large cane, switch cane’s young shoots are edible, and the seeds, when produced, are very attractive to wildlife. It is said that switch cane stands will produce seeds about every 3 or 4 years, whereas 40 or 50 years may elapse between flowering episodes of large cane. Switch cane is most obviously distinguished from large cane by its smaller stature. Switch cane also differs from large cane in being tolerant of poorly drained soil, and probably in having greater shade tolerance. Switch cane can form an attractive ground cover about 2′ tall in forest understory conditions. Switch cane furnishes valuable wildlife food and habitat, and its dense root system and tolerance of wet soil makes it especially useful for controlling erosion along streams.