Schrad. ex J.C.Wendl.
Bambusa vulgaris forms moderately loose clumps and has no thorns. It has lemon-yellow culms (stems) with green stripes and dark green leaves. Stems are not straight, not easy to split, inflexible, thick-walled, and initially strong. The densely tufted culms grow 10–20 metres (30–70 ft) high and 4–10 centimetres (2–4 in) thick. Culms are basally straight or flexuose (bent alternately in different directions), drooping at the tips. Culm walls are slightly thick. Nodes are slightly inflated. Internodes are 20–45 centimetres (7.9–17.7 in). Several branches develop from mid-culm nodes and above. Culm leaves are deciduous with dense pubescence. Leaf blades are narrowly lanceolate.
Flowering is not common, and there are no seeds. Fruits are rare due to low pollen viability caused by irregular meiosis. At the interval of several decades the whole population of an area bloom at once, and individual stems bear a large number of flowers. Vegetation propagates through clump division, by rhizome, stem and branch cutting, layering and marcotting. The easiest and most practised cultivation method is culm or branch cutting. In the Philippines, the best results were obtained from one-node cuttings from the lower parts of six-month-old culms. When a stem dies, the clump usually survives. A clump can grow out of stem used for poles, fences, props, stakes or posts. Its rhizomes extend up to 80 cm before turning upward to create open fast-spreading clumps. The easy propagation of B. vulgaris explains its seemingly wild occurrence.
The bambusoid taxa have long been considered the most "primitive" grasses, mostly because of the presence of bracteate, indeterminate inflorescences, pseudospikelets (units of the inflorescence in woody bamboos, consisting of one to many flowers and associated glumes, that rebranch to produce successive orders of spikelets), and flowers with three lodicules (minute scales of the florets of grasses, found between the lemma and the sexual organs of the flower), six stamens, and three stigmas. Bamboos are some of the fastest growing plants in the world.
Bambusa vulgaris is a species of the large genus Bambusa of the clumping bamboo tribe Bambuseae, which are found largely in tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, especially in the wet Tropics. The pachymorph (sympodial or superposed in such a way as to imitate a simple axis) rhizome system of clumping bamboos expands horizontally by only a short distance each year. The shoots emerge in a tight or open habit (group), depending on the species; common bamboo has open groups. Regardless of the degree of openness of each species’ clumping habit, none of the clumpers are considered invasive. New culms can only form at the very tip of the rhizome. The Bambuseae are a group of perennial evergreens in subfamily Bambusoideae, characterized by having three stigmas and tree-like behavior, that are in turn of the true grass family Poaceae.
- Plants with green stems
- Golden bamboo (plants with yellow stems): Plants always with yellow stems and often with green stripes of different intensity. Usually the stems have thicker walls than those of the green stem group. This group is often distinguished as Bambusa vulgaris var. Striata.
- Buddha's belly bamboo: Plants with stems up to about 3 metres (9.8 ft) tall, 1–3 centimetres (0.4–1 in) in diameter, green, with 4–10 centimetres (2–4 in) long inflated internodes in the lower part. This group is often distinguished as Bambusa vulgaris var. Wamin.
The more common cultivars are described below:
- Aureovariegata (Bambusa vulgaris var. aureovariegata Beadle): With rich golden yellow culms striped in green, sometimes in very thin lines, it is the most common variety of B. vulgaris.
- Striata (Bambusa vulgaris var. striata (Lodd. ex Lindl.) Gamble): A common variety, smaller in size than other varieties, with bright yellow internodes and random markings with longitudinal stripes in light and deep green.
- Wamin (Bambusa vulgaris f. waminii T.H.Wen): It is smaller in size than other varieties with short and flattened internodes. Likely to have originated in South China, Wamin Bamboo is spread throughout East Asia, South East Asia, and South Asia. Basally inflated internodes give it a unique appearance.
- Vittata (Bambusa vulgaris f. vittata (Rivière & C.Rivière) McClure): A common variety that grows up to 12 metres (39 ft) tall, it has barcode-like striping in green.
- Kimmei: Culms yellow, striped with green.
- Maculata: Green culms mottled with black, turning mostly black with aging.
- Wamin Striata: Grows up to 5 metres (16 ft) tall. Light green striped in dark green, with swollen lower internodes.
Distribution and habitat
Common bamboo is the most widely grown bamboo throughout the tropics and subtropics. Although mostly known only from cultivation, spontaneous (non-domesticated), escaped, and naturalized populations exist throughout the tropics and sub-tropics in and outside Asia. B. vulgaris is widely cultivated in East, Southeast and South Asia, as well as tropical Africa including Madagascar. It is highly concentrated in the Indo-Malayan rainforests. The species is one of the most successful bamboos in Pakistan, Tanzania, and Brazil.
Popular as a hothouse plant by the 1700s, it was one of the earliest bamboo species introduced into Europe. It is believed to have been introduced to Hawaii in the time of Captain James Cook (the late 18th century), and is the most popular ornamental plant there. B. vulgaris is widely cultivated in the USA and Puerto Rico, apparently since introduction by Spaniards in 1840. It may have been the first foreign species introduced into the United States by Europeans.
Common names in areas of abundance
B. vulgaris is also known as Bambu Ampel (Indonesian), Buloh Aur, Buloh Pau, Buloh Minyak, Aur Beting (Malay), Mai-Luang, Phai-Luang (Thai), Daisan-Chiku (Japanese), Murangi (Gikuyu), Gemeiner Bambus (German), Bambou de Chine (French), Bambu Vulgar (Portuguese), and Mwanzi (Swahili). B. vulgaris var. Striata is also known as Buloh Gadling, Aur Gadling, Buloh Kuning (Malay), Bambu Kuning (Indonesian), Kinshi-Chiku (Japanese) or Golden Common Bamboo. B. vulgaris f. Waminii is also known as Wa-Min (Burmese), Bambu Blenduk (Indonesian) or Wamin Bamboo. Kimmei is also known as Kimmei-Daisan-Chiku in Japanese.
B. vulgaris grows mostly on river banks, road sides, wastelands, and open ground, generally in the low altitudes. It is a preferred species for erosion control. It grows best under humid conditions, but can tolerate unfavorable conditions like low temperatures and drought. Though adoptable to a wide range of soils, the common bamboo grows more vigorously on moist soils. It can tolerate frost up to −3 °C (27 °F), and can grow on ground up to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), though in higher altitudes stems grow shorter and thinner. In extreme droughts it may defoliate completely.
There are two major threats to the species. Small Bamboo Borers (Dinoderus minutus) as adults bore stems in India, China, Philippines, Australia and Japan. Bamboo Weevils (Cyrtotrachelus longimanus) destroy shoots during their larval stage in South China. Other threats include leaf blight (Cercospora), basal culm rot (Fusarium), culm sheath rot (Glomerella cingulata), leaf rust (Kweilingia divina), and leaf spots (Dactylaria). In Bangladesh, bamboo blight caused by Sarocladium oryzae is a serious disease.
Bambusa vulgaris has a wide variety of uses, including the stems used as fuel and the leaves used as fodder, though a large amount of ingestion of leaves is known to cause neurological disorder among horses. The worldwide production and trade of B. vulgaris is considerable, though no statistics is available. It also has some disadvantages. Working and machining properties of the stems are poor, as they are not straight, not easy to split, and not flexible. But, they are thick walled and initially strong. Because of high carbohydrate content stems are susceptible to attacks from fungi and insects like powderpost beetle. Protection from biological threats is essential for long time use.
B. vulgaris var. Striata is used as ornamental solitary or as border hedge. Its shoots boiled in water is sometimes used for medicinal qualities. Cultivated around the world it is generally found in East, South East and South Asia. B. vulgaris f. Waminii is cultivated in the USA and Europe in addition to cultivation in Asia. B. vulgaris f. Vittata is the most popular variety as an ornamental plant, also considered to be very beautiful. Kimmei is mostly cultivated in Japan.
The stems or culms of B. vulgaris are used for fencing and construction, especially of small temporary shelters, including flooring, roof tiles, panelling, and walls made wither with culms or split stems. The culm is used to make many parts of boats including masts, rudders, outriggers, boating poles. It also is used to make furniture, basketry, wind-breakers, flutes, fishing rods, tool handles, stakes, weapons, bows for fishing nets, smoking pipes, irrigation pipes, distillation pipes, and more.
It is used as raw material for paper pulp, especially in India. Studies have shown that paper made from B. vulgaris has exceptional tear strength, comparable to paper made of softwood. It can also be used to make particle boards and flexible packaging grade paper.
Young shoots of the plant, cooked or pickled, are edible and eaten throughout Asia. Yellow shoots remain buttercup yellow after cooking. A decoction of the growing tips is mixed with Job's Tears (Coix lacryma-jobi) to make a refreshing drink in Mauritius. The shoots are tender and whitish pink[clarification needed], and have a fair canning quality.
100 grams (3.5 oz) of young shoots of green stem cultivars have 90 grams of water, 2.6 grams of protein, 4.1 grams of fat, 0.4 grams of digestable carbohydrates, 1.1 grams of insoluble fibre, 22.8 micrograms of calcium, 37 micrograms of phosphorus, 1.1 micrograms of iron, and 3.1 micrograms of ascorbic acid. 100 grams (3.5 oz) of young shoots of yellow stem cultivars have 88 grams of water, 1.8 grams of protein, 7.2 grams of fat, 0.0 grams of digestible carbohydrates, 1.2 grams of insoluble fibre, 28.6 micrograms of calcium, 27.5 micrograms of phosphorus, and 1.4 micrograms of iron.
Golden bamboo is considered in many traditions across Asia to have medicinal value. There are many uses found in herbal medicine, though the effects are not clinically proven. In Java, water stored in golden bamboo tubes is used as a cure of various diseases. In the Congo, its leaves are used as part of a treatment against measles; in Nigeria, an infusion of macerated leaves is taken against sexually transmitted diseases and as an abortifacient - the latter has been shown to work in rabbits.
Though not suited for small yards as it grows in large clumps, young plants of Golden Bamboo can be grown in large containers. Golden bamboo grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. Protection is important as animals often graze on young shoots. In Tanzania, management of B. vulgaris cultivation entails clearing of the ground around clumps.
Among all bamboos only shoots of B. vulgaris contains taxiphyllin (a cyanogenic glycoside) that functions as an enzyme inhibitor in the human body when released, but degrades readily in boiling water. It is highly toxic, and the lethal dose for humans is about 50–60 mg. A dose of 25 mg cyanogenic glycoside fed to rats (100-120 g body weight) caused clinical signs of toxicity, including apnoea, ataxia and paresis. Horses in Pará, Brazil were diagnosed with clinical signs of somnolence and severe ataxia after ingesting B. vulgaris. Farmers in Africa sometimes prefer to buy it rather than planting it, as they believe it harms the soil.
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