Unknown bamboo seeds: part 2

Growing bamboo seedlings again

I already started a post about growing bamboo seeds again this winter. Among many seeds I ordered online from a Chinese vendor on Aliexpress, I decided to try their bamboo seeds as well. Later I found that most of the received seeds were fake. Instead of stuff I ordered, I received all kind of weeds – perhaps I’ll write about growing those one day as well.

Spectabilis seedling on the left, Moso on the right

Bamboo seeds were true Phyllostachys seeds, the puzzle remains, though, their true ID. I ordered Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ and Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ seeds. First one is readily available all the time, so it’s most likely correct, but the second one doesn’t flower at the moment which means it’s most likely fake. I assume that both seed packs had Moso seeds in them.

LED grow lights

Like all my latest seedlings, I’ve used full spectrum LED grow lights which proved to work very well, especially with Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings. In the beginning, seedlings were slow to start and I expected that to happen with Moso seedlings. None of Moso seedlings I’ve tried growing could compete with other bamboo seedlings, they seem to be delicate and resent everything.

Darker green leaves of Moso seedlings. Newest leaves show nutrient deficiency

Later I noticed that grow lights don’t work as efficient as my previous LED chips. Other plants were also less vigorous, Drosera carnivores didn’t color-up as much as they could. Bamboo seedlings have a bit longer internodes than I remember which could be result of lower light intensity.

Yellow-ish colored seedlings

Some of the seedlings came out with some pigmentation issues. Affected seedlings were not completely albinic, yet, they were yellow or very pale green. Their leaves were delicate and didn’t stay alive long, they just shriveled and dried out. Lack of proper pigmentation resulted in extremely slow growth and much slower shooting cycle. To delay leaf loss of yellow leaved seedlings, I placed the seedlings further away from the light source and shaded them behind other plants.

The strange thing is, the seeds from both packs had different numbers of yellow seedlings. Moso pack hardly had any, while most of the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ wannabe seeds were sickly and yellow. Perhaps the seeds are not the same after all!

Small and pale seedlings. Larger darker green seedlings look crappy due to low light levels

Too early to ID

Seedlings are much larger now and they do well, especially considering they were neglected so far. Shoots of seedlings from both seed packs look like the Moso seedlings I’ve grown in the past. So far, they were not properly fed to show the nicely colored purple oral setae, I’ll see if they do color-up when I plant them separately. With a lot of imagination, tiny culms do seed to be a bit fuzzy, but it’s way too early to tell.

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Variegated Phyllostachys arcana seedlings 2020 update

Not a typical year

This year started normally, first shoots appeared in March as they always do. Then strange things started to happen. One of the seedlings (the most variegated one) stopped and refused to shoot until late May or early June, and even then, it only managed to produce a couple of thin shoots. Since it’s not overly shaded, the cause has to be somewhere else. I’ll try to get them into their final position as soon as possible! Other seedlings were acting normally. Compared to other Phyllostachys bamboos I have that also failed to shoot normally. Phyllostachys edulis ‘Moso’ for example shot small shoots when the first wave was completed, Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ shot twice with one month pause between the shootings. Phyllostachys aurea waited until late June to even start shooting, which is way later than ever.

Regular green seedling on the left and variegated seedling on the right.

Upsize? – yes and no

I expected upsize this season, because bamboos are still in fairly juvenile state. One of the seedlings did grow thicker culms, but other bamboos remained roughly the same size. They did, however, produce quite a lot of new growth. With the exception of one that I mentioned earlier which took a year off.

Culm coloration

Culm diameter is now large enough to check how the culm variegation looks like. This time, it’s much more evident that there’s a fancy kind of striping all around the culm surface. Variegation of culms is similar to leaf variegation. At first it’s not as evident, but with time in a month or two, the color difference grows bigger and I expect the striping eventually to become even more pronounced. with larger number of shoots, there are more and more variations of the coloration. At first there were no culms with large, thicker striping, now they start appearing. They are far easier to spot than thin striped variegation which visually blends into a less dark green color, especially from afar.

Leaf variegation

New leaves on old growth (seedling #1)

Leaf variegation remained the same. First two seedlings are far more yellow and progressively receive more and more chlorophyll with each additional leaf. By he end of the autumn, some of the new leaves can appear completely dark green. The third seedling is a mix of similarly progressive variegation and part of it seems to have regular white striping on the dark green foliage. I’ll try separating these two visually distinct parts and check if they stabilize. Perhaps the seedling is chimeric.

New growth on one year old culms. Seedling #2

Leaves that start growing on last year’s growth have much more green from the beginning. They are not thinly striped like those on new shoots but have way thicker and well defined stripes. These leaves are usually less likely to show sun related damage.

Bamboo for a shaded location

Damage is not as severe as last year

As expected from last year’s experience, the dramatically variegated seedlings are prone to sunburn. Parts which are exposed to sun most of the day get damaged pretty quickly. The more protected leaves (shaded inside) and the western side of the clump show much less sunburn damage. The first leaves that appear are the most delicate as they are usually completely yellow. Luckily they fall off as soon as bamboo leafs out completely.

New leaves are really bright yellow

Despite evident leaf damage, they don’t suffer and rhizomes start crawling in all directions as soon as new shoots grow their foliage. It grows much slower than green version of the seedling, but still -they are quite aggressive. I have had some escapees already and I planted one into a container – unlike last year, it survived. Previously, it ran out of resources as its leaves were yellow and it couldn’t regain strength in time.

What now?

Leaf color contrast

Seedings reached the point where they started growing one into another into one mixed grove. I’ll have a hard time separating them, despite their distinctive features (I’ll have to separate all the roots thoroughly) when I plant them into their new location. At that point, they will have much more space and growth potential to further develop into mature bamboo plants. Hopefully I’ll manage to plant them this year.

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Chestnut nut grafting experiment

Nut grafting

Small graft inserted into the nut

Beside regular grafting of scion to an established rootstock, there’s also a set of grafting techniques of germinating chestnut nuts like epicotyle grafting, inverted radicle grafting or grafting the nut directly. In this experiment, I’ve tried grafting chestnuts and red oak’s acorns. Chestnuts and oaks are related and some are claiming they can be successfully grafted together. Roots of an oak are much less prone to diseases and grow better, which makes such combination worth trying.

Seems so easy…

Small bud poking out of the sphagnum cover.

To successfully graft the nut, they first need to start germinating. Chestnuts start sprouting when their dormancy is broken after a period of cold stratification. When the sprout appear, all you need is to cut off the tip of the nut from which the sprout is growing and insert a small graft into the exposed round sprout inside the nut. It can be a bit delicate, but not too hard.

Preventing infections

Waiting for the grafts to take

To avoid contamination with molds or rot, best thing to use is sterilized moist peat moss or sphagnum moss. I used peat in the bottom of the containers and living sphagnum (which I grow myself) on top. Live sphagnum keeps the moisture well, has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It’s not a bad idea to disinfect the tools and nuts too in the process.

Waiting for results

First roots!

I covered all the grafted nuts to preserve the moisture and expected them to take quite some time before I notice anything. Well, it didn’t take long, before they started callusing in just a day or two. In just a week or so, first roots appeared from the callus.
I did not expect the process to be that fast. It’s way faster than regular grafting, the only down-side I can think of is the fact that you get a plant that is only slightly better established than a seedling. Like with other grafting techniques, you can make a flowering plant if the scion holds the flower buds. That way, you can get pollen or female catkins to produce hybrids much faster and since the flowering plants are still small, they can easily be transported around.

Grafting chestnut to acorns

Acorn grafting

Red oak acorns have very hard shell, which makes it almost impossible to cut the tip off the way it can be done with chestnuts. I removed the shell and tried the same process, but I’ve learned that nuts didn’t hold the scion in place long enough and the growing sprout just pushed it out. Acorn grafting I tried needs some tweaking and I’m in a process of acquiring new acorns and experiment further.

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Starting bamboo seeds again

After a several years, I’ve felt an urge to start bamboo seeds again. This time, I purchased cheap bamboo seeds from Aliexpress.

Buying fakes

Sprouting bamboo grain.

I’ve ordered a bunch of different seeds and among them two bamboos – Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ and Phyllostachys aureosulcata. Since I know that Phyllostachys aureosulcata is not flowering at the moment and the seeds are named falsely, I decided to try growing the seeds and see what I can get. My initial assumption is that all the seeds are regular Moso seeds which are readily available every year.
As I received the seeds, I found out (I suspected that when placing an order) that more than half if not all the seeds were fake – they were physically completely different. At least bamboo seeds were bamboo seeds, not some kind of turf grass.


Based on my previous experience with growing bamboo seeds, I’ve had very low expectations. Bamboo seeds lose viability quite fast and when the seeds are not properly stored, germination rate drops heavily. It happened twice with Moso seeds I’ve ordered in the past. Out of hundred of old Moso seeds, I couldn’t even get one seedling.
I thought growing ‘fake’ seeds could be a project, not only because of high uncertainty regarding the bamboo variety the seeds came from, but also the fact that the seeds might have problems with germination. I expected nothing.

It’s alive!

First of the Phyllostachys pubescens seeds sprouted

After two weeks of uncertainty, I noticed that one of the seeds started sprouting. The first one that germinated was labeled as Phyllostachys aureosulcata and it’s very pale at the moment. When compared to the seedlings I’ve grown in the past, these seem to grow somewhat slower. It’s still a bit early to draw any conclusions though. At the moment, there are 2 seedlings from each bag I recieved and I expect more to sprout in the following weeks.

Proper ID…?

A couple of days old bamboo seedling.

If (when) they grow into larger seedlings, the characteristics of bamboo should start showing up. In their second or third year, the fuzzy culms will most likely point out that all the seedlings are from Moso bamboo seeds. It is highly unlikely, but the seeds could be from another Phyllostachys. If that’s the case, the difference should be evident in 6 month or so. Let’s see how it goes.

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