How does your garden grow?
By Eric Danell,
Back from the dead?
The flowers of this bamboo are neatly arranged
in dense flowering heads. Photo: Jussi Suominen.
In previous columns I have marveled at the ability of
many plants to resurrect. As to bamboos it is a widespread truth that when a
bamboo flowers it will afterwards die. Fortunately for home gardeners, but
unfortunately for biologists, many bamboos rarely bloom. Reportedly bamboo
blossom is also quite exact within a clone, all specimens flowering at the
At Dokmai Garden we have a native yellow bamboo Schizostachyum brachycladum
(Poaceae) or ‘pai lueang’ in Central Thai. When it flowered I was of course
intrigued, but would we lose it?
Surprisingly, our two specimens which grew almost next to each other, did
not flower the same year. The first specimen bloomed in February 2011. After
its apparent death I dug up the root system because the dead stumps of the
culms looked ugly. The second specimen flowered the following year in 2012.
This time I waited a long time to observe the development of the flowering
culms. They eventually looked dead or so untidy I cut them down, but somehow
I never got around to dig up the root system.
When I returned from Sweden in late August 2013 the root system had sprouted
again! The new shoots did not come from the dead culm stumps, but from the
roots. They were not a result of seeds because in that case there would be
As it turns out, this bamboo species does not follow the general saying.
That might be true for other bamboos such as the famous giants within the
Dendrocalamus genus. The ‘pai lueang’ frequently flowers, sometimes
annually, but old flowering culms look terribly untidy and to reset it a
cosmetic pruning might be necessary.
The advice to the tropical home gardener on how to handle flowering bamboo
is first to collect the bamboo seeds which are a treasure. Sow these as soon
as possible since they deteriorate quickly. Immediately after seed harvest
cut down the untidy culms and wait patiently for the next rainy season. To
compensate for the nutrient losses during the reproductive phase provide a
generous donation of cow manure.
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