Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gregariously Flowering Bamboo a Rarity at ECHO

In the bamboo world, gregarious flowering is a rare phenomenon. Over a period of time, sometimes as little as two years, the bamboo plant flowers and produces large volumes of viable seeds. In the process, the bamboo plant becomes exhausted, and most die from the strain, leaving only the seed to carry on the genetic lineage.

What is especially fascinating about this phenomenon is that during a gregarious flowering cycle, a single variation or cultivar of a species will flower all over the world at the same time. In 1994, thousands of acres of a Thai cultivar of Dendrocalamus asper – pai tong keo – flowered in Southeast Asia. Plants of the same cultivar planted in Australia flowered simultaneously. This is a good reminder of the dangers of monocropping any type of plant.

At ECHO, we recently had the chance to witness our own gregarious flowering of the Bambusa tulda, or Punting Pole Bamboo. Most gregarious bamboos have a flowering cycle of between 30 and 120 years, so it was a rare and exciting spectacle to see. Interestingly, none of the seed was viable.