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 Bambuseae* subsp. var.  Bamboo
Bamboo forest
Habit: bamboo
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun, part-sun
Water: moist, moderate, dry
Features: evergreen, naturalizes, invasive, foliage, drought tolerant
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
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USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones:
Flower features:
Poaceae > Bambuseae* var. ,

Bamboo Template:Audio are a group of perennial evergreen (except for certain temperate species) plants in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. Bamboos are also the fastest growing plants in the world. They are capable of growing up to 60 centimeters (24 in.) or more per day due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. However, this astounding growth rate is highly dependent on local soil and climatic conditions.

There are more than 70 genera divided into about 1,000 species.[1] They are found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. They occur across East Asia, from 50°N latitude in Sakhalin[citation needed] through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas.[2] They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Americas from the Mid-Atlantic United States[3] south to Argentina and Chile, reaching their southernmost point anywhere, at 47°S latitude. Continental Europe is not known to have any native species of bamboo.[4]


Bamboo is the fastest-growing known plant on Earth; it has been measured surging skyward as fast as 121cm in a 24-hour period,[5] and can also reach maximal growth rate exceeding one meter (39 inches) per hour for short periods of time. Many prehistoric bamboos exceeded heights of 85 m. Primarily growing in regions of warmer climates during the Cretaceous period, vast fields existed in what is now Asia.

Unlike trees, all bamboo has the potential to grow to full height and girth in a single growing season of 3–4 months. During this first season, the clump of young shoots grow vertically, with no branching. In the next year, the pulpy wall of each culm slowly dries and hardens. The culm begins to sprout branches and leaves from each node. During the third year, the culm further hardens. The shoot is now considered a fully mature culm. Over the next 2–5 years (depending on species), fungus and mould begin to form on the outside of the culm, which eventually penetrate and overcome the culm. Around 5 – 8 years later (species and climate dependent), the fungal and mold growth cause the culm to collapse and decay. This brief life means culms are ready for harvest and suitable for use in construction within 3 – 7 years.

Mass flowering

Although some bamboos flower every year, most species flower infrequently. In fact, many bamboos only flower at intervals as long as 60 or 120 years. These taxa exhibit mass flowering (or gregarious flowering), with all plants in the population flowering simultaneously. The longest mass flowering interval known is 130 years, and is found for all the species Phyllostachys bambusoides (Sieb. & Zucc.). In this species, all plants of the same stock flower at the same time, regardless of differences in geographic locations or climatic conditions, then the bamboo dies.

Ornamental bamboos

There are two general patterns for the growth of bamboo: "clumping" (sympodial) and "running" (monopodial). Clumping bamboo species tend to spread slowly, as the growth pattern of the rhizomes is to simply expand the root mass gradually, similar to ornamental grasses. "Running" bamboos, on the other hand, need to be taken care of in cultivation because of their potential for aggressive behavior. They spread mainly through their roots and/or rhizomes, which can spread widely underground and send up new culms to break through the surface. Running bamboo species are highly variable in their tendency to spread; this is related to both the species and the soil and climate conditions. Some can send out runners of several meters a year, while others can stay in the same general area for long periods. If neglected, over time they can cause problems by moving into adjacent areas.

Bamboo foliage with black stems (probably Phyllostachys nigra)

Bamboos seldom and unpredictably flower, and the frequency of flowering varies greatly from species to species. Once flowering takes place, a plant will decline and often die entirely. Although there are always a few species of bamboo in flower at any given time, collectors desiring to grow specific bamboo typically obtain their plants as divisions of already-growing plants, rather than waiting for seeds to be produced.

Regular maintenance will indicate major growth directions and locations. Once the rhizomes are cut, they are typically removed; however, rhizomes take a number of months to mature and an immature, severed rhizome will usually cease growing if left in-ground. If any bamboo shoots come up outside of the bamboo area afterwards, their presence indicates the precise location of the missed rhizome. The fibrous roots that radiate from the rhizomes do not grow up to be more bamboo so if they stay in the ground, that's not a problem.

The second way to control growth is by surrounding the plant or grove with a physical barrier. This method is very detrimental to ornamental bamboo as the bamboo within quickly becomes rootbound—showing all the signs of any unhealthy containerized plant. Symptoms include rhizomes escaping over the top, down underneath, and bursting the barrier. The bamboo within generally deteriorates in quality as fewer and fewer culms grow each year, culms live shorter periods, new culm diameter decreases, fewer leaves grow on the culms, and leaves turn yellow as the unnaturally contained rootmass quickly depletes the soil of nutrients, and curling leaves as the condensed roots cannot collect the water they need to sustain the foliage. Concrete and specially-rolled HDPE plastic are the usual materials used. This is placed in a 60–90cm deep ditch around the planting, and angled out at the top to direct the rhizomes to the surface. (This is only possible if the barrier is installed in a straight line.) Strong rhizomes and tools can penetrate plastic barriers with relative ease, so great care must be taken. Barriers usually fail sooner or later, or the bamboo within suffers greatly. Casual observation of many failed barriers has shown bursting of 60 mil HDPE in 5–6 years, and rhizomes diving underneath in as few as 3 years post install. In small areas regular maintenance is the only perfect method of controlling the spreading bamboos. Bamboo in barriers is much more difficult to remove than free-spreading bamboo. Barriers and edging are unnecessary for clump-forming bamboos. Clump-forming bamboos may eventually need to have portions removed if they get too large.

The ornamental plant sold in containers and marketed as "lucky bamboo" is actually an entirely unrelated plant, Dracaena sanderiana. It is a resilient member of the lily family that grows in the dark, tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia and Africa. Lucky Bamboo has long been associated with the Eastern practice of Feng Shui. On a similar note, Japanese knotweed is also sometimes mistaken for a bamboo but it grows wild and is considered an invasive species.



Pests and diseases


For the most popular garden bamboo plants, see the List of bamboo plants. Otherwise, there are six subtribes of bamboo listed below. Within those there are around 92 genera and 5,000 species The divisions of the family are complex. For more information, see the full article Taxonomy of the Bambuseae.


Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Bamboo. Various perennial ornamental grasses embracing the genera and species of the tribe Bambuseae, order Gramineae, cultivated for the surpassing beauty of their foliage and habit; some of them are hardy even in parts of the northern states, but they are warm-country plants.

Usually large, sometimes tree-like; woody, rarely herbaceous or climbing plants, of wide geographical range. The species are irregularly distributed throughout the tropical zone, a few occurring in subtropical and temperate zones, attaining their maximum development in the monsoon regions of Asia.—About twenty- three genera, only two being common to both hemispheres. Something more than 200 species are recognized, of which upwards of 160 occur in Asia, about seventy in America, and five in Africa. They extend from sea-level to altitudes of more than 10,000 feet in the Himalayas and 15,000 feet in the Andes, and under the most favorable conditions some species may attain a height of 100 to 120 feet, with a diameter of culm of 8 to 12 inches.

An attempt to enumerate the numerous and varied economic uses of the giant-grasses would greatly overreach the field of this article; but as objects of grace and beauty in the garden, conservatory, and under special conditions of landscape, bamboos are matchless. Not only are they adapted to sections favored with a gentle climate, but it is possible to grow certain species where the cold of winter may reach zero Fahrenheit, or even occasional depressions of greater severity. Bamboos delight in a deep, rich loam, and generously respond to good treatment. A warm, slightly shady nook, protected from the prevailing cold winds of winter, and in which moist but well-drained soil is plentiful, is an ideal location. A top-dressing of manure and leaves is not only beneficial in winter, by preventing the frost from penetrating the ground too deeply, but it also preserves the moisture that is so essential to the welfare of the plants during the growing season. Some species, produce rampant subterranean stems, and spread rapidly when once established. These should not be planted for ornamental purposes, but only those forming tufts or clumps. It is best to plant each group of but a single species, and to restrict the wide-spreading sorts to isolated positions. The most effective results to be obtained by planting bamboos are secured on gentle banks above clear water, and against a background of the deepest green. In such situations the graceful stems and dainty branches, bending with their wealth of soft green leaves, and the careless lines of symmetry of each individual, lend a bold contrast of the richest beauty. Ordinarily it will require two or three years thoroughly to establish a clump of bamboos in the open air, and, until this is accomplished, the vigor, hardiness and beauty that characterize some noble kinds will be lacking. During the first few years, a new plantation should receive generous protection in localities in which the winters are trying, and even with this precaution it is likely the plants will suffer to some extent in cold weather. Planted out in conservatories or confined in tubs or large pots, the bamboos present many admirable qualities, and, as decorative plants, several species offer many inducements to their cultivation, especially as they may be grown and used out-of-doors in the summer and cheaply wintered in a coolhouse.

Propagation is best effected by careful division of the clumps before the annual growth has started. The difficulty of procuring seeds in some instances is very great; indeed, the fruiting of a number of species has never been observed. Some species flower annually, but the majority reach this stage only at intervals of indefinite and frequently widely separated periods. In some species the flowers appear on leafy branches; in others the leaves fall from the culms before the flowers appear, or the inflorescence is produced on leafless, radical stems. Fructification does not exhaust the vitality of some species; but others, on the other hand, perish even to the portions underground, leaving their places to be filled by their seedling offspring. Owing largely to the difficulty in obtaining flowering specimens, the systematic arrangement or nomenclature of the bamboos is in a sad plight. As it is sometimes even impossible to determine accurately the genus without flowers, the correct positions of some forms are not known.

Four sub-tribes of Bambuseae are accepted by Hackel, namely: Arundinarieae.—Stamens 3: palea 2-keeled: fr. with the seed grown fast to the seed-wall. To this belong Arundinaria and Phyllostachys. Eubambuseae.— Stamens 6: fr. with the seed fused to a delicate seed- wall. Bambusa is the only garden genus. Dendrocalameae.—Stamens 6 (rarely more): palea 2-keeled: fr. a nut or berry. Here belongs Dendrocalamus. Melocanneae.—Characters of the last, but palea not keeled. Melocanna is an example, an extra-tropical genus, probably not in cult, in the U. S.

The genera Arundinaria, Phyllostachys, Bambusa and Dendrocalamus contain the most important species in cultivation. Roughly, the species of Arundinaria may be separated from Phyllostachys by the persistent sheaths and cylindrical stems. In Phyllostachys the sheaths are early deciduous, and the internodes, at least those above the base, are flattened on one side. Generally, Arundinaria and Bambusa cannot be separated by horticultural characters, and Dendrocalamus is hardly separable except by its great size. It is probable that many of the forms now classed as species of Bambusa will eventually be found to belong to other genera, especially to Arundinaria. Extended information regarding the Bambuseae may be found in the following publications: Munro's Monograph, in Transactions of the Linnaean Society, Vol. XXVI (1868); Hackel, in Die Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien, Vol. II, part 2, p. 89 (1887), English Translation by Lamson Scribner & Southworth, as The True Grasses, New York, 1890; papers by Bean in Gardeners' Chronicle 111,15:167, et seq. (1894); Freeman-Mitford, The Bamboo Garden, 1896, New York, The Macmillan Company, pp. 224; A. & C. Riviere, Les Bambous, Paris, 1879; Gamble, The Bambuseae of British India, Calcutta and London, 1896; Houzeau, Le Bambou, Mons., 1906; Fairchild, Japanese Bamboos, 1903; Franceschi, Bamboos in California, Santa Barbara, 1908. Among the hardiest of the bamboos are the following: Phyllostachys Henonis, P. nigra, P. viridi-glaucescens; Arundinaria macrosperma, A. japonica, A. nitida; Bambusa palmata, B. tessellata and B. pygmaea.

The list of descriptions contains the important kinds of bamboos in cultivation in America, and following the classified descriptions will be found a list of species, showing those that are more or less rare in gardens, but procurable from time to time through horticultural catalogues or prominent growers. An attempt has been made to separate the hardier forms of bamboos from the tenderer kinds by the character of the venation of the leaves, a distinction that has been enthusiastically entertained by Freeman-Mitford in his most estimable work, a book that has done much to create a popular appreciation of bamboos, and also to clear up the complete confusion into which the trade names have fallen.

Bamboos have slowly but persistently increased in popular esteem, especially in the southern and Pacific states, where they have proved their great beauty and usefulness as garden ornamentals. A new impetus has been given the cultivation of these plants by the dissemination of suitable species and varieties, and by the introduction of new and desirable kinds by commercial horticulturists and the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

In the following taxonomy, A. - Arundinaria; B.- Bambusa; D. - Dendrocalamus; P. - Phyllostachys; T. -Thamnocalamus, which is here considered a sub- genus of Arundinaria. No Japanese native names are indicated, although bamboos are sometimes offered under such names. The prevailing tendency is to discard vernacular names, when unassociated with the Latin binomials, as they breed hopeless confusion.

B. agrestis, Poir. India, Cochin China. Adv. by Yokohoma Nurs. Co.—B. Alphonse Kurri, Hort. A variegated form of B. nana, Roxbg. Young sts. striped with white and pink, older sts. yellow with broad green stripes. Tender.— A. anceps, Mitford. Similar to A. nitida, but mature sta. yellow-green or brown, and lf.-sheaths fringed with white hairs. Native of the Himalayas, at elevations between 9,000- 10,000 ft.—"B. argentea. Grows 2o-35 ft. high; the dense masses of beautiful green foliage, glaucous underneath, and the hundreds of slender culms growing close together, the exterior ones bending over to all sides, combine to make this bamboo indescribably beautiful." H. Nehrung, Fla.—“B. argentea var. vittata, the variegated bamboo or the blue bamboo of gardens, the taiho-chiku of the Japanese, who have grown this from time immemorial in pots, is one of the most satisfactory in Fla. ; it attains the size of B. argentea, but its Lvs. are still more blue on the under side and altogether smaller and more delicate; they are striped and edged with white." Nehrling.—A. aristata. Gamble. Sts. 5 ft., purplish brown: Lvs. 4 in. long. ½ in. or less wide, narrowed to an acute apex, venation tessellate. Himalayas, where it thrives at elevations of 11,000 ft.—B. aureo-striata, Regel. Japan.—P. Boryana, Hort. By some authorities considered to be a form of P. nigra, but the culms are of a dull yellow color when mature, splashed here and there with purple- brown blotches, and the branches are much longer in proportion to the culms. China and Japan.—P. flexuosa, A. & C. Riviere. Culms 6-10 ft., dull greenish yellow when mature: Lvs. similar to those of P. viridi-glaucescens: ligules of the culm-sheaths without auricles. A comparatively small and compact ornamental. China.— A. foliis-variegatis. Hort., is presumably A. Fortunei, the commonest low- growing, variegated arundinaria.—"B. gracilis. This most beautiful small species used to be grown in gardens under the .name of A. falcata: the Lvs. are very small, arranged in a distichous way on both sides of the twigs; they have a fine emerald-green color: sts. thin and slender, the whole plant not growing taller than 10-12 ft." Nehrling.—P. heterocycla, Carr. A curious plant, the lower internodes of which are obliquely and alternately arranged like the scales of a tortoise, and for this reason called the "tortoise-shell bamboo." At about 1-3 ft. from the ground the nodes lose this peculiar character, and assume a regularity as in other species. In other respects this interesting bamboo does not differ much from P. mitis, or P. aurea. Japan.—A. Khasiana, Munro. A Himalayan species with black sts., allied to A. falcata. The name, however, has been misapplied to A. nitida and A. nobilis, and the true species is probably not in cult, in the U. S.—B. Laydekeri, Hort. Height 3-8 ft.: sts. green with a tinge of purple, verticillately branched above, the branches relatively long: Lvs. 4-6 in. long, ⅓ in. or less wide, dark green, somewhat mottled in appearance. China and Japan.—"B. macroculmis. Received about 15 years ago directly from Japan under the name of taisan-chiku. It is a veritable giant, growing 50- 75 ft. high with large dark green Lvs. and thick culms, first green, then black; old culms have a gray color: in stature this is one of the noblest of all the bamboos, and it is perfectly hardy; the sts. spring straight out of the soil like spears and when they have fully developed they bend over to all sides at their tops, so that the entire plant from a distance looks like a gigantic sheaf." Nehrling.—P. marliacea, Mitford. Wrinkled Bamboo. Similar to P. Quilioi, but the internodes at the base are very close together, not more than 1-2 in. apart, much wrinkled. Japan.—P. nigro-punctata, Hort. Probably a variety of P. nigra. under which it appears in the classified descriptions above.—"B. nutans. A moat exquisite bamboo grown for many years under the name of Dendrocalamus strictus, which is a very different plant; grows 35-40 ft. high with a very dense growth of -mill green lvs, the green having a shade of blue in it; the sts. hangover to all aides, forming beautiful arches; tender; a most exquisite plant to grow on lawns or on the edge of lakes, or in the foreground of deep green magnolias." Nehrling.—H. orientalis, Nees. Adv. by Franceschi, Santa Barbara, Calif., who regards it as a form of B. arundinacea, with Lvs. larger and velvety to the touch. It forms clumps quickly. E. India.—A. racemosa, Munro. A native of the Himalayas, growing at high altitudes: height upto 15 ft., the culms brown, very thick in proportion to height; the long and narrow lvs. Are conspicuously tessellated.-“B.scriptoria. A small species not growing over 6-8 ft. high, forming fine dense clumps: Lvs. small, green, underneath glaucous; particularly valuable for small gardens." Nehrling.—A. spathiflora, Trin. Height 10-20 ft., the culms yellowish or nearly brown, slender and much branched: Lvs. tessellated, 2-3 in. long, about ¼ in. wide, acutely pointed, thin in texture. Himalayas, at altitudes of 7,000-10,000 ft. —B. striata, Lodd. Height 4-5 ft.: sts. striped yellow and green, ad thick as the thumb; internodes 4-6 in. long: Lvs. 6-8 in. long, ¾-1 in. broad. China. B.M. 6079, which shows a flowering specimen with conspicuous anthers, red-purple at first, and fading to lilac. Not described by Mitford. Formerly sold by Yokohoma Nurs. Co.—B. striatifolia var. aurea, Hort., an abandoned trade name never recognized by botanists.—B. stricta, Hort., an old trade name probably not B. stricta, Roxbg.—P. sulphurea, A. & C. Riviere. Height 10- 15 ft., seemingly intermediate between P. mitis and P. aurea. It is less tall than the former, and the sts. are more brightly colored than in the latter species. Japan.—B. Thouarsii, Kunth. A doubtful species, considered by some botanists to be only a form of the widespread B. vulgaris; but, according to Franceschi, at least horticulturally distinct. Height 50-60 ft., with a diam. of culm of 4-5 in. Intermediate in outline between the erect-growing D. latiflorus, and the spreading or horizontally inclined B. vulgaris. Intro, into Calif. some 25 years ago, and in recent years reintro. by the U. S. Dept. of Agric. from S. France, where it had come from Algiers 40-45 years ago.—B. Tulda, Roxbg. Height up to 70 ft., the culms 4-5 in. diam., and of a remarkable gray-green color: Lvs. very glaucous on the lower surface. Recently intro. by the U. S. Dept. of Agric. Bengal and Burma. Gamble. Bamb. Brit. Ind. 30, t. 29.—B. variegata, Sieb.-A. Fortunei.—B. verticillata, Hort., Franceschi. Height 15-20 ft.: sta. orange-yellow: Lvs. in whorls, striped white.

Among the recent introductions of bamboos in the United States Department of Agriculture, representing the genera of much interest and rarity to the United States, are the following:

Chusquea. A genus belonging to the subtribe Arundinarieae, of tall, shrubby or climbing plants with the flowering branches in clusters at the joints, and comparatively small Lvs. and spikelets. W. Indies and 8. Amer., chiefly in the Andes. — -C. bambusoides, Hack. A large species with small panicles exceeded by the crowded blades, 1 in. wide and about 6 in. long. Native of Brazil. — C. quita, Kunth. A freely branching arborescent species with numerous open panicles and distant Lvs. scarcely ½ in. wide. Native of Chile. — C. valdivensis. Desv., of Chile, is a slender climbing species with naked sts. and numerous fascicled leafy flowering branches, the Lvs. 3-4 in. long, — C. abietifolia, Griseb. A climbing species with dense tufts of abort branches with Lvs. less than 2 in. long and about ⅓ in. wide. Native of the W. Indies.

Oxytenanthera. A genus of the subtribe Eubambuseae, of tall, shrubby plants from the E. Indies and Afr., characterized by long, cylindrical or conical spikelets in compact fascicles; the anthers ending in a bristle.- O.abyssinica, Munro (Bambusa abyssinica, Rich.). Infl. Capitates, large and spiny: lvs. About 6 in. long, 6-8 lines broad. Native of Trop. Afr.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


  1. Growth pattern and photosynthetic activity of different bamboo species growing in the Botanical Garden of Rome (Flora, volume 203)
  4. New RHS Dictionary of Gardening
  5. The Book of Bamboo, 1984 ISBN 087156825X

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