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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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Culm color of variegated Luteosulcata seedling (1)

Culm color of variegated Luteosulcata seedling (1)

Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ & yellow sulcus

The seedling has suffered a lot and is still in early stage of growth
The seedling has suffered a lot and is still in early stage of growth

There was a debate recently on bambooweb forum regarding seeds sold as ‘Yellow groove’ seeds. It’s known that Phyllostachys aureosulcata (and other bamboos from that gang) flower from time to time, without resulting viable seed. Since it’s also not in gregarious flowering, there’s no way someone could get viable seeds of Yellow groove bamboo. However, there is a bamboo with similar characteristics (including zigzag and yellow striped sulcus) that is flowering recently and has given a lot of seeds already – Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’. Despite the fact that there are many growers, trying to get a Bamboo seedling with yellow sulcus, no such plant had been found so far.

The seedling that does show a bit different culm color

3 months old culm with older culms in the background
3 months old culm with older culms in the background

My first variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling has a very pale leaf variegation. It doesn’t only have pale leaves, culms are also lacking green pigmentation. In early stages of seedling’s growth, I could see that culm color was different than any other seedling I’ve grown, including other variegated seedlings. As soon as young shoots loose their sheaths, the culm inside looks almost completely white to very light green. Within days, light exposure makes the shoot turn more and more red. It can turn into unbelievable red color, unlike I’ve seen on any other bamboo. It later fades out into yellow. Seedling is still in a very young phase (it actually lost some weight due to chain of wrong decisions I’ve made :)) which means it can change considerably as it matures. It may end up looking much greener further down the road. We will see …

Lower nodes on 1 year old culm
Lower nodes on 1 year old culm

Upper nodes on 1 year old culm
Upper nodes on 1 year old culm

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Culms of other Luteosulcata seedlings?

The seedlings I am growing have shown no culm stripings so far. They are young and will perhaps show some kind of culm variegation later, but there are slim chances. So far, there are no reports about a new generation seedling with culm variegation. My other seedlings do show some difference regarding strength of light induced color, though. All have dark green culms with red coloration that colors the sun exposed culms purple/brown. The second variegated seedling also has a bit less intense green culms, that do not turn red, instead, they look quite similar to majority of other seedlings – less intense purple green.

Second variegated seedling is greener
Second variegated seedling is greener

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Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’

Basic information:
Height: 10 m
Culm diameter: 5 cm
Hardiness: -24 °C
Characteristics: very cold hardy, vigorous, running bamboo,
culms are bright yellow with green sulcus
young culms turn red when exposed to sun
they frequently genuflect, making zig-zag pattern at the base of the culm
some of the leaves have white stripe

It’s one of most cold-hardy bamboos that grows to decent size and can be extremely vigorous, especially in warmer climates.

Genuflection on Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis'
Genuflection on Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’

Sun exposed young culms become red
Sun exposed culms become red.

On lower internodes genuflection is not rare
On lower internodes genuflection is not rare

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When I bought a one culm division with almost no roots and without rhizome buds that would look alive, I doubted it would start growing. It took quite some time for it to push out two tiny survival shoots. At that point, I knew it’s not just a living bamboo stick and I’ll end up with a living, spreading Spectabilis.
Since then, it not only recovered, but managed to surpass any expectations every spring. Each spring new shoots appear larger and taller, except the after the last season that was abnormally wet. Spring after exceptionally wet year brought only minimal diameter upsize, but the number of shoots was incredible and the shoots managed to rise up taller than year before.

Genuflection
Genuflection

3 years old bamboo
3 years old bamboo
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ shoots in mid to late April and usually doesn’t regrow it’s winter damaged leaves until it’s almost done shooting. By pruning lower branches, it gets much more upright appearance, not to mention the look of exposed colorful culms. If it decides to put out additional survival shoots, it’s best to cut them off, before they can use any resources to grow.
It can be hard to keep the beast confined. During the summer, fall and sometimes even in early winter, bamboos invest all their energy into rhizome growth. Rhizomes can search for better growth conditions, so they usually travel towards east, south or west, and will colonize well mulched and fertilized soil rather than migrate into hard clay or sand. By knowing how it spreads, it gets easier to maintain, spot and remove the escaping runners.
 
 

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