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Bamboo flowering

 

bamboo flowering, bamboo

Bamboo flowers

The phenomena of bamboo flowering is shrouded in myth and misconceptions. After news items about from two different countries about flowering bamboo appeared in the past two months, I decided to research the issue further. Here is what I learned:

Most bamboo does not flower often. There are three different flowering patterns for bamboo: annual, sporadic, and gregarious. Which pattern is followed is determined by the bamboo species.

Annual

Very few species of bamboo flower annually. The seed from annually flowering bamboo is rarely viable.

Sporadic

Sporadic flowering occurs irregularly and is usually confined to a certain geographic area.

Gregarious

Most of the 1,500+ species of bamboo flower gregariously. The timing is regular. Depending on the species, it may be once every 20 to 120 years. All the plants within a particular species across the world will flower, usually within a year. Many of the plants will die.

bamboo flower, bamboo flowering, bambooThe consequences of mass bamboo flowering can be disastrous for local populations of people too. From Wikipedia:

The death of the bamboo plants following their fruiting means the local people lose their building material, and the large increase in bamboo fruit leads to a rapid increase in rodent populations. As the number of rodents increases, they consume all available food, including grain fields and stored food, sometimes leading to famine. These rats can also carry dangerous diseases, such as typhus, typhoid, and bubonic plague, which can reach epidemic proportions as the rodents increase in number.

The reasons so much bamboo dies after gregarious flowering episodes are unknown. There are theories, of course. Two dominate.

  1. The bamboo expends so much energy in the flowering that stress kills the plants.
  2. The parent plant is creating an optimal environment for the seedlings to survive by freeing up light and water resources.

Bamboo culms age prematurely during the flowering process. They become brittle and are not suitable for building or crafting. If you observe an impending flowering event, you might consider harvesting the bamboo beforehand.

Has any of your bamboo flowered?

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