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Old 07-12-2009, 02:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default A guide to Bamboo

Hi Guys ,
Since joining the forum, I have encountered many questions concerning bamboo. For those interested, I offer this generalized rule-of-thumb guide in the hopes that it will generate an evolving knowlege-base, for enthusiasts, within the body of this thread.

A Beginner's Guide to Growing Bamboo

TAXONOMY
Family : Gramineae / Genus : Bambuseae / Genus : Phyllostachys
Species of Bambusa tend to be tropical, clumping bamboos while the Phyllostachys tend to be temperate, runner types.
(clumpers = sympodial / runners = monopodial)
zB.: A runner-type is said to be a monopodial bamboo.
SOIL PREPARATION
Bamboos do best in a light, sandy, well-draining soil. Additions of peat, compost, and/or manure are also beneficial.
CARE : NEW SHOOTS
I'm listing this first due to the sensitivity of the new shoots. Bamboos typically send up new shoots in the spring but sometimes in the fall, as well.
These shoots are Extremely Sensitive.
The shoots rise from the ground with neither leaf nor limb. The growing leaves & limbs are contained within tan sheaths between the nodes. Hand pressure can seriously damage these new leaves & limbs. Take care that you touch them only very Lightly until the limbs emerge from the sheaths. - The shoots are spear-headed & are the diameter they will remain after rising from the ground. Once they've reached the height they will be, within a week or so the leaves & limbs will unfold, extending now from the nodes. At this point, it will still take days for the leaves to reach thier full size. Once finished, with exception to periodic leaf regeneration, growth stops.
CARE : GENERAL
Bamboos tend to, usually, be quite drought resistant and require very little fertilizing. They are, however, water-lovers and will grow faster & healthier with frequent watering and a feeding every month or two. This is offered as a rule of thumb; there are species that are quite particular as concerns water and feeding. If the leaves are curled along the length of the leaf, the bamboo is thirsty.
WIND
While a potential hazard for some younger bamboos, I've found little need to provide protective structures for those 5 feet or more in stature.
LEAF REGENERATION
Every spring - sometimes fall - most of the leaves will turn yellow & drop off of the culms. Do Not Panic. Bamboo remains active & green year-round. New leaves will be produced to replace the old, worn-out ones.
AESTHETIC CARE : GENERAL
Within about 3-7 years (typical for many), culms will finally die. Wearing protective gloves, simply cut them at least 1/2 inch below ground-level as the stumps are quite firm & easy to trip-up on.
AESTHETIC CARE : PRUNING
With no damage to the plant, whatsoever, bamboos can be 'topped'. Bamboo appears to be made-up of fingers & joints. The 'joints' are called nodes. To control height (for a hedge or bush effect), simply cut at a node at the desired height.
Also, thinning may be desired to ensure good sunlight; Most bamboos, with exception to some mountain types, love lots of sunlight.
CURING TIMBER
Thanx Beth! - Several methods are available. I prefer the time-honoured smoke-house technique: Within a sealed & confined space, create cement trenches in this order - A 4' wide culm trench (the length of & for the bamboo), a 2' wide walkway path, a 2' wide fire-trench (for burning wood, etc, to produce smoke), then repeat this series of trenches for the number of culm trenches required. Keep the unit tightly sealed off & smoke the culms for 2 weeks. To ensure that the culms do not curl along thier lengths, bricks may be lain to either side of the culms. The culms are now ready for building purposes. Also, blowing boric acid through the culms can help to strengthen the wood.
PESTS
Bamboos have no appreciable enemies.
DISEASE
Bamboos are resistant to virtually all known diseases.
RADIOACTIVITY
At Ground Zero, in 1945 Hiroshima Japan, the local bamboos sent new shoots through the irradiated soil a few days after the nuclear detonation. They not only grew, but thrived.
SUBTERRANEAN ACTIVITY
The rhizomes I've encountered are thick (generally 1/4" or more) and covered with a thick, gnarly mat of often hair-thin roots that can be quite sharp. The mat typically extends 2-4" from the rhizome. I always wear leather gloves when dealing with these. While most rhizomes are shallow, they can extend downward as much as 2 1/2' (small bamboos) to nearly 3' (large bamboos) into the ground. Pressures at 3 feet, however, do provide good resistance if natural clay is present at that depth (which is common).
PROPOGATION
To insure an identical species, rhizome propogation is best. In the spring, remove the soil from a rhizome (if necessary, as some rhizomes rise from the soil & snake back into the ground). Look for a bright (light-colored) bud along the upper surface. Once located, cut off a 1.5' section of the rhizome with the bright bud centered along the length. Plant in ground or pot - about an inch or so deep - and a new shoot will emerge within days, though sometimes more.
FLOWERING
Pray That It Does Not. Depending on species, Bamboos flower every 7-120 years. Moso is closer to the 120 mark. Because flowering is genetically encoded (timed) & since all bamboos, of a specific species, are propogated from a single mother plant, Flowering is Gregarious & Global: When a specific species flowers, it flowers all over the world and, within a short given time, dies all over the world.
While the flowers share a similar, visual structure with Bird of Paradise, they are Quite UN-spectacular, have no scent, no appreciable color, & produce no nectar. Pollination is strictly air-borne & by Incidental contact.
HISTORICAL FLOWERING
In the 1960's, Phyllostachys Bambusoides 'Castillonis' flowered. At the same moment, all of that species flowered all over the world. Bamboo enthusiasts in Germany collected seeds in an attempt to preserve the species. Thier efforts were successfull. The species was later re-introduced to the U.S. by the ABS (American Bamboo Society). A beautiful variably-striped bamboo, to this day, it is still somewhat scarce.
CONTAINMENT
While the root-balls of clumping bamboos expand mere inches per year, the rhizomes of runner bamboos can traverse as much as 12 feet & more per year. Since the rhizomes & new shoots can be potentially damaging to sidewalks, driveways, foundations, and other domestic structures, there is a vital need for containment. Some such infractions have actually resulted in legal suits against the enthusiast.
The best protection is by digging (for larger bamboos) a 30" deep trench (in 'circular' formation). Check first to learn where underground phone lines etc are located. The trench is most effective if dug at a very slight angle outward from the containment area. For large bamboos, 30" wide, 6 mil thick, high-density polyurethane is best. Special 2-sided, task-specific tape is typically offered for sealing the ends where they meet. While a simple trench & regular patrolling (with a sharp instrument) is possible, it is much more tasking & erosion can facilitate infractions. Concrete is ineffective due to cracking underground. Posthole diggers can be used for digging the trench. Insert the polyurethane rhizome-barrier in the ground leaving about an inch of the barrier above ground, secure the ends firmly with the 2-sided tape, then fill in the trench with soil. The rhizomes may yet, at times, snake out of the ground & rise over the wall. Simply clip these with a sharp shovel.
FOOD PREPARATION (Takenoko)
While young bamboo shoots are generally edible, ingestion of sufficient quantity of raw shoots can be hazardous. Moso bamboo is somewhat bitter & Must be cooked, prior to ingestion, due to potentially toxic concentrations of cyanogens in the shoots. For additional information on edible shoots, see:
http://agsyst.wsu.edu/bambroc.pdf
See also, Phyllostachys Aurea - the 4th 'Interesting' Bamboo species listed below. Tabeyo!!

SOME INTERESTING BAMBOO SPECIES

DREPANOSTACHYUM KHASIANUM BAMBOO
Aka, Khasia bamboo, Aka, Blue Hawaiian bamboo.
This is a Mountain bamboo of the genus Bambusa. A beautiful blue bamboo with purple bands above the white nodes and rainbow-like blue, horizontal colorations. Hates southwest & lower southern states... but I Luv a challenge! Origins are the lower elevations of the Himalayas in Nepal, Sikkim, & Bhutan. Hardy to 20 degrees F. Recommended for USDA zones 8b-9. Hates high-heat & humidity. Grows to 20' tall with a 1-1.5" culm. Performs best in a shady location.
PHYLLOSTACHYS HETEROCYCLA PUBESCENS
Aka, Moso Timber bamboo, Aka, Big Timber bamboo. A runner-type & very slow grower. The largest of the temperate timber bamboos. Has thin, short, satin-like leaves. Grows from 75-90' tall with up-to 7" diameter green culms. Hardy to -5 degrees F. Young shoots are edible. The timber is used in China for construction & bridge building.
Vital : Refer to "Food Preparation", above, concerning edible shoots.
PHYLLOSTACHYS VIRIDIS
Aka, Robert Young. Named after the man who first introduced it into the U.S.. A runner type. Culms start out green then turn yellow or old-gold. Though a fast grower, it tends to send up few new shoots (per year) compared to others and is, therefore, sometimes difficult to find for purchase. Culms often exhibit green vertical striping. Grows to 40' tall with 2.5-3" diameter culms. Has broad, shiney, 3-5" leaves. Hardy to -5 degrees F. Prized in Japan for fine-furniture making. Also, especially combined with Henon, the boiled shoots are quite tastey.
PHYLLOSTACHYS AUREA
Aka, Golden bamboo, Aka, Yellow Groove bamboo. Thanx for the reminder, Sandy! Common to shady woodlands of east Asia & southeast China. Canes are about 15mm diameter & about 18' tall. Hardy in Zone-6. In a reported event (Sandy), the rhizomes survived a brief period at -25 degrees F. While the canes died back, it sent up new shoots the following spring. Flowering occurs every few years. As the flowers (of this species) are hermaphroditic & since bamboo pollination is an air-borne process, covering the tops during flowering should suffice to insure seed of the identical species. Prefers a shady location. Unlike many bamboos, this one is Not drought-resistant; keep soil consistently moist. Reputed to produce the best tasting shoots of any bamboo of this genus. In the spring, harvest shoots that are 8 cm (in height) above ground-level. Cut these shoots about 5 cm below ground-level. Then grab a good recipee book! For other great Cuisine, Sweet Shoot bamboo (Phyllostachys Dulcis) is an absolute fave due to the sugary-sweet taste & because it requires much less cooking time to eliminate the inherent bitterness of bamboo.

Thanx to Bob, Lorax, & Sandy0225 for inputs & for the inspiration!

Last edited by Eric : 09-16-2009 at 05:46 PM. Reason: Updates
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Old 07-12-2009, 02:28 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

Nicely done Jim!

Is the Blue Hawaiian a clumper or runner?
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Old 07-12-2009, 02:36 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

Thanx Momoese !
The Blue Hawaiian is a clumping variety and one of the most Beautiful bamboos I've ever seen - and I've seen hundreds!
There's an excellent close-up shot at:
Bamboo color - red bamboo, black bamboo, blue bamboo
Just click on the 1st entry (in red-lettering) under "blue & white bamboos".
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Old 07-12-2009, 03:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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That color is amazing! Too bad it doesn't last.
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Old 07-12-2009, 03:15 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

Are you familiar with Mexican Weeping Bamboo? I see quite a bit around town and really like the look.
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Old 07-12-2009, 03:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

Quote:
Originally Posted by momoese View Post
Are you familiar with Mexican Weeping Bamboo? I see quite a bit around town and really like the look.
Wow! Now that's a new one on me (especially since I grew up in Oklahoma and grow Mexican sunflowers). I'll check that out. BTW, if ya like hummingbirds, Mexican sunflowers attract them in droves .
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Old 07-12-2009, 03:25 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

My favorite bamboo.
Saw it in Costa Rica last fall at the Wilson Botanical Gardens in the middle of nowhere.


My wife for scale.



Afterall...doesn't everyone want a bigger bamboo!


Then a look up:
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Old 07-12-2009, 03:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Outstanding job!
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Old 07-12-2009, 04:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

Did you know that bamboo can grow through a person in just a few days laying down on the ground? It was used as torture years ago.
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Old 07-12-2009, 04:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

Thanx Bob!

Thanx for the awesome pics, Simply Bananaboos! Sorry... but that's some sweeeeeet bamboo!!!!!! Wish I could grow that here!
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Old 07-12-2009, 04:25 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Did you know that bamboo can grow through a person in just a few days laying down on the ground? It was used as torture years ago.
Anyone who believes it's no longer a method of torture, hasn't seen me & my little brother going at it .

BTW, Has anyone seen some of the incredible pressed-board lumber being made from bamboo fibers, lately ?

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Old 07-12-2009, 06:01 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Good job Jim! Great thread. I was looking someting like this sometime ago.
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Old 07-12-2009, 06:32 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Thanx Ante!
Over the past more than 5 years, I found bamboo info to be very scattered & hard to locate; kind of figured it could use a little quick clarity .
Hope to see my thread attract a lot of great new info on the subject!
Give it about 4 or 5 more weeks & I'll be up dancing around like that !
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Old 07-12-2009, 07:13 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

Great Thread! I think this will be good for those who want to start growing bamboo. Im growing Buddha Belly from seed its only 8 inches tall but ina year or two they should be big enough to plant in ground.
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Old 07-12-2009, 07:20 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Great Thread! I think this will be good for those who want to start growing bamboo. Im growing Buddha Belly from seed its only 8 inches tall but ina year or two they should be big enough to plant in ground.
Thanx !
Luv Buddah Belly!! Hope ya post some pics! Also, will luv hearing how that project comes along. When did ya start the seeds?

Last edited by Eric : 07-12-2009 at 07:21 PM. Reason: Incomplete
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Old 07-12-2009, 07:43 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: A guide to Bamboo

We have Moso, Oldhamii, and multiplex riversrun yellow and green variegated. Oldham struggles, but the rest kicks.
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Old 07-12-2009, 07:51 PM   #17 (permalink)
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We have Moso, Oldhamii, and multiplex riversrun yellow and green variegated. Oldham struggles, but the rest kicks.
Awesome !! I'll be watching !
Also, I would like to invite members to set up 'reply' boxes, in this thread, to record thier work & progress with the various species . I think this would be very beneficial & rewarding - especially since edits can be added to record progressively recent progress.
This thread could not only be Fun but a Very Useful Resource!!
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Old 07-12-2009, 08:17 PM   #18 (permalink)
 
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Thanx Ante!
Over the past more than 5 years, I found bamboo info to be very scattered & hard to locate; kind of figured it could use a little quick clarity .
Hope to see my thread attract a lot of great new info on the subject!
Give it about 4 or 5 more weeks & I'll be up dancing around like that !

This is a good source: ttp://www.bambooweb.info/
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Old 07-12-2009, 08:19 PM   #19 (permalink)
 
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Great Thread! I think this will be good for those who want to start growing bamboo. Im growing Buddha Belly from seed its only 8 inches tall but ina year or two they should be big enough to plant in ground.
Are you growing (giant) Bambusa tuldoides 'Ventricosa' or (dwarf) Bambusa vulgaris 'Wamin' ?
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Old 07-12-2009, 08:26 PM   #20 (permalink)
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This is a good source: ttp://www.bambooweb.info/
Really appreciate the link, Adrift! However, I keep getting 'address not found' when I click on it. Might need to double check the address.
Think I see the problem. Maybe:
BambooWeb - Bamboo Information and Photos

All right !! This one works !!
Still VERY Interested in hearing about MEMBER'S own special projects !

Last edited by Eric : 07-12-2009 at 09:00 PM. Reason: Solving link
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