Bamboos are evergreen perennial plants that grow in diverse regions and climates, including Davis. Both running (leptomorphic, commonly called "spreading") and clumping (pachymorphic) bamboo varieties can grow in Davis very well. Classified as woody grasses, bamboos can be found on campus at UCD behind the Science Laboratory Building and behind Robbins Hall, on 2nd Street at the intersection with B Street, at the Delta of Venus Cafe, in clumps across from the Arbors on Olive Drive, on Duke Drive there are numerous residences with bamboo growing in their front yards (including 50 foot tall bamboos), and in the yards of hundreds or more residences in Davis.
Bamboo stems, also referred to as 'canes', 'culns', or 'culms', can grow as large as about 40 meters (131 feet) high and up to about 30.5 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter. In Davis, some varieties of bamboo (most notably Phyllostachys vivax, a running timber bamboo) can reach up to about 21.3 meters tall (70 feet) and 12.7 cm (5 inches) in diameter. The largest growing clumping bamboo for Davis is Bambusa oldhamii which can grow to 16.8 meters (55 feet) high and 10.2 centimeters (4 inches) in diameter. The wood quality varies among bamboos. Several varieties feature exceptionally hard wood that can be used to make everything from flooring to musical instruments. Since it also grows very quickly, it is often cited as a sustainable wood for use in many products. Bamboo is commonly grown on plantations for the canes and for the bamboo shoots. Several kinds of running and clumping bamboos are well suited to wood and bamboo shoot production in Davis and the Sacramento Valley.
An excellent resource for bamboo information is the American Bamboo Society. Their bimonthly magazine, Bamboo The Magazine of the American Bamboo Society, is edited by DonShor. If you ask nicely at the Redwood Barn Nursery he will give you a free copy.
Pro Tip: if you ever happen to find yourself removing bamboo, wear safety glasses (this is a serious issue), ear protection (to protect your ear drums from getting poked by a bamboo twig), gloves, long pants, and long sleeves. The exterior of some kinds of bamboo canes are sometimes covered in small stiff protruding "hairs." If you brush against them, they will rub off into your skin, giving you a nice patch of splinters. These can be removed by pressing a piece of duct tape against your skin, and peeling it off in the direction of the splinters, "with the grain." Clear packing tape will not work, as the adhesive is less gooey.
Some interesting bamboo factoids!
Culms 140-150 feet are known. Zollinger measured a Gigantochloa aspera of 170 feet (1876). Guinness Book of World Records: 121.5 feet
Several species regularly exceed 100 feet; some tropical species regularly get 140 – 150 feet tall.
• Longest culm: Dinochloa andamanica, a clambering bamboo from Malaysia has culms to 90 meters (297 feet)
• Biggest basal diameter
Dendrocalamus giganteus: 30 cm (12 inches).
• Fastest growth
Phyllostachys pubescens (Moso) and P. bambusoides have been measured at nearly 48 inches in a 24 hour period. Dendrocalamus species grow nearly as fast.
• Typical growth
Running bamboos send up shoots in spring, clumpers in summer. Shoot elongation takes 30 – 60 days or so.
Culms live several years; very long-lived culms up to 30 years.
• Largest leaves
2 Colombian species have leaves that are 12’ long, the largest leaves known in the grass family.
• Geographic range:
Northern-most native: Sasa kurilensis, 46 degrees N on Sakhalin Island north of Japan
Northern-most in cultivation: Fargesia nitida at 70 degrees N in Norway.
Southern-most native: Chusquea culeou at 47 degrees S in the beech forests of southern Chile.
Highest altitude: Ecuadorian species grows at 12,000 feet in the Andes.
Hardiest: several species can tolerate temperatures at -20 degrees F, including Fargesia nitida. Phyllostachys species can tolerate very low temperatures.
• Leaf production
P. pubescens produces four to six tons of leaves per acre compared to two to four tons for P. bambusoides. Northern hardwood forests produce .75 tons of leaves per acre.