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Unknown bamboo seeds: part 2

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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Starting bamboo seeds again

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.

Lottery

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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How not to get scammed when buying seeds online

How not to get scammed when buying seeds online

Buying seeds online

Why I even bother buying seeds online? The main reason is, there are not so many exotic seeds to be found in shops around here. Prices can be much, much lower online and there’s always a chance you find something rare you’d like to start growing. I have bought quite a lot of seeds and I usually got what I ordered. When I tried buying carnivore plant’s seeds online using both Aliexpress and eBay, I almost got scammed. I received seeds of some local weeds from China instead of Venus Flytrap (Dionaea) and Pitcher plants (Nepenthes). Luckily I was able to make a complaint and they resolved in my favor. If I would not know how the real seeds look like, I would be growing weeds for a while, before even noticing. Usually scammers have good rating and you can’t always see negative feedback that would raise an alarm.

Things to avoid

1. If plants look too good to be true, they are usually fake. Avoid at all costs!
2. Rare, hard to get seeds are almost never cheap – even online! Keep away from extremely cheap seeds, they are either fake or way too old to sprout.
3. Large amount of seeds is often an indicator that something isn’t right. Bulk amounts of cheap seeds usually means you’ll get weed seeds.
4. Seeds of sterile plants (hybrids) or plants that can’t be (easily) propagated using seeds (Orchids for example)
5. Sellers that has seeds from any of the above in their shop. Usually the most obvious seeds are not the only seeds that are fake. Try to ignore these sellers.

What you can do before the purchase

Research! Make sure you know how the seeds look like, so you can be sure you got the right seeds when you get them.
Ask seller about the seeds origin or ask if you suspect something is wrong. If the seller ignores your question – avoid.
Think two times before you click ‘Buy’. Checking more than one seller usually helps and you easily see sellers that stand out with strangely low price and obviously fake plants.
Read other buyer’s reviews. Sometimes it’s pain in the rear, because there are usually tons of good reviews of buyers that were ecstatic when they got the seeds.

If you do get scammed …

You’ve been ripped off, now what? If you are sure you received fake seeds, complain to the seller and start the complaint process in the online store. I have been cheated that way several times and usually got the money back, because the seeds were obviously fake.
Try to write an item review and warn other potential buyers about the issue.

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Possible culm coloration on variegated Phyllostachys arcana seedling

Possible culm coloration on variegated Phyllostachys arcana seedling

Pale green colored culms of first variegated seedling.
Pale green colored culms of first variegated seedling.

Three year old seedlings of Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ finally got culms that are up to pencil diameter. Until now, it was impossible to see any culm coloration, except for the rough estimation of culm color. First shoots finally started to show the exposed culms above their culm sheaths and it seems that one of the seedlings got culm variegation that is similar to that expressed on its leaves.

I already wrote about how different the culm color of the seedlings is, so this is an update on that topic.
I also wrote a lot about the leaf variegation, growing these seedlings from seeds and similar. If interested, you can look it up using search option.

Culm color expectations based on last year

Dark green stripes on the exposed culm
Dark green stripes on the exposed culm

After slow start with many setbacks, seedlings started extremely well this spring and took off. I expected culms of three variegated seedlings to have different shades of green, but I never expected culm variegation. The first seedling shows the most leaf variegation and has lime green, almost yellow culm color that eventually fades to light yellow with orange hue. It easily gets sunburn and the color of sun exposed culms is light red. Second most variegated seedling with a bit darker green culms sunburns to dark red color. Third seedling did not manage to push out any shoots this year. Deer devoured it completely last fall and it only managed to push out survival shoots and branches. It has culms that are even darker green than the second seedling, but still less dark than regular non-variegated seedlings.

A bit about sunburn

Sunburn on Seedling #2
Sunburn on Seedling #2

Every seedling of Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ got sunburn when exposed to bright light in a sunny location. Even culms that were not directly exposed to the sun darkened-up.¬† Seedlings got purple color, which combined with regular green culm color and appeared dark brown. Variegated seedlings with less chlorophyll¬† turned bright red with more or less dark tone, depending on the seedling.¬† It will be interesting to see, how long the color of sunburn remains apparent on the colored culms. Non-variegated seedlings got light brown in their second year as the green started to fade into yellow. Variegated parts will most likely have darker sunburn but I don’t think it will easily visible feature because sun tanned color is too dark and intensive. I guess we will see more about it next year.

Dark green stripes on light green culm. Heavily sun tanned on sun exposed internode below.
Dark green stripes on light green culm. Heavily sun tanned on sun exposed internode below.

Culm variegation on seedling #2

Sheaths are falling off. soon we'll see the results.
Sheaths are falling off. soon we’ll see the results.

Second seedling had shown no culm variegation last year, because all the schoots were toothpick diameter or smaller. I pampered variegated seedlings way too long, keeping them inside during the winter – big mistake. This year, when they had a chance to go through winter dormancy, they started growing like a Phyllostachys should grow! When I first saw almost undetectable striping on the freshly exposed culms, I thought it was lack of wax or shade. In the following days it became more and more apparent and it darkened with passing days – same thing happens with leaf variegation. Culms are still pretty small, so it might take a few years before I can get a feeling about how the mature culms will look like, but we’re getting there! It will be interesting to see how the effect of sunburn on the culm striping.

Fresh leaves emerging at last. See how the last leaf is lighter colored than the previous one?
Fresh leaves emerging at last. See how the last leaf is lighter colored than the previous one?

Leaf variegation

Bye-bye old damaged leaves, new leaves are emerging!
Bye-bye old damaged leaves, new leaves are emerging!

Many of you already know about the leaf variegation of all three seedlings I’ve grown from seeds. They start as very pale lime green or even yellow leaf which eventually starts showing darker stripes and it turns darker green. The ‘transformation’ happens in about a week or two. After that, leaf starts maturing and it gets darker green but the variegation remains. Some of the leaves are completely pale and appear yellow even after a few weeks. Usually leaves like that get damaged easily (I suspect bright sun related burn) and partly or completely dry up. Usually these are the first leaves that appear on new shoots, so they end up falling down anyway. As the branches or shoots age, there are usually more and more darker green leaves. I have to admit, I want to know how it would look like on a mature grove during the shooting, soon after and right before winter. It may change color a little bit during the seasons. Hopefully we will see.

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