Phyllostachys edulis (Moso Bamboo, Tortoise Shell Bamboo, Mouso Chiku)

Growing up to 1 meter (~3.2 feet) per day at its peak, bamboo are truly incredible. Despite being a species of grass, some Phyllostachys edulis have been recorded to reach up to 30 meters (98 feet) tall. Many colors and varities of culm, the stalk or stem, exist, ranging from goldish-yellow to gray to light-green. The flowering pattern of these giants is extremely peculiar and not fully understood. Once even 50 to 100 years or so, almost all bamboo of a particular species will spend almost all of their reserves into flower and seed production. This kills off many bamboo, although some do survive. The accuracy, in terms of timing, these bamboo have is truly astonishing, especially since they will still flower at a set interval even if moved far away. Bamboo have been an icon in eastern culture, and for good reason. Bamboo have been used for everything from furniture production to a popular springtime food to producing bows. Even though some of these can be invasive with their enormously rapid growth and quick spreading of their rhizomes, these are highly valued across the globe.


Phyllostachys edulis (Moso Bamboo, Tortoise Shell Bamboo, Mouso Chiku) [also known as P. heterocycla]
Deciduous: no
Hardiness Zones: survives 6b-10a, prefers 8a-9b
Height: up to 15 meters (49 feet) tall, some reports claim larger sizes in favorable conditions (some claim to reach 30 meters (98 feet) tall
Diameter: Some stems (known as culms) can reach 8 inches in diameter; the spreading rhizomes around 30 feet from each above-ground stalk.
Growth Rate: Enormously quick, this species has been reported to grow up to 120 centimeters in one day.
Age: anywhere from 40-150 years
Root System: A dense rhizome system typically lies within the top 12 inches of soil, the newest roots are white whereas older roots may appear a rustic-orange color.
Family: Poaceae
Subspecies: ‘Moso’, ‘Bicolor’, ‘Heterocycla’

Tolerates: moist soils, high humidity
Problems (major): Some fungi and bacteria can be quite detrimental in excessively moist conditions.
Problems (minor): aphids and scale, particularly on new growth
Poisonous: Oxalic acid, homogentisic acid, and glycosides (one of these being cyanide) occur in larger numbers as these plants develop.

Soil requirements: requires moist, loam soil anywhere from highly acidic to slightly alkaline
Air Requirements: not sufficiently researched (I have yet to find information regarding pollution tolerance.)
Watering requirement: Moderate, keep soil moist.
Sun requirement: full sun or part-shade

Leaf shape: lanceolate, much longer than wide
Leaf size: up to 10 centimeters in length but less than 2 centimeters in width
Flower structure: Monoecious flowers contain male and female organs and are wind pollinated. The flowers are small and white, not unlike other grasses.
Flowering frequency: Rare, anytime from 50-100 years since the last flowering. It seems that some forms of bamboo undergo enormous flowering, all around the same time, which subsequently kills most plants due to severely diminished resources. Some plants do, however, survive this. The process by which so many bamboo flower at the same time is not fully understood.
Bulb/tuber: neither, spreads by rhizomes
Monocot/Dicot: monocot
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: perennial

Notable characteristics:
The thickets or canopies these bamboo produce almost always crowd out other plant life. Those that frequently produce rhizomes are
sometimes considered “weedy”. For reasons we do not yet understand, entire species of bamboo will flower all at the same time. This is particularly intriguing, as they will do this even if moved far away from others. Some plants survive this mass flowering, although most are killed off due to fatally reduced resources.

After thorough cleaning and cooking, the new shoots can be eaten. In Japan, this a very popular food, especially in the spring. The stems have been used for a wide assortment of purposes, ranging from making bows to crafting furniture. These may prove very useful for bio-fuels, but more research is still needed.

Sources used:


Bamboo foliage with black petioles, implying that these are from P. nigra (uploaded 13 September 2004)


A bamboo forest, presumably P. edulis


P. edulis ‘Bicolor’ (uploaded 9 October 2010)


An emerging culm (shoot or stem) from a rhizome (photo taken by ひでわく, uploaded 30 April 2011)


Several light-green to gray-green stems (photo uploaded 21 July 2010, rights belong to Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên)


Multiple stems and corresponding foliage (photo uploaded 21 July 2010, rights belong to Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên)


Light-green flowers from an unspecified species of bamboo (picture uploaded on 14 April 2007, picture belongs to Mogens Engelund)


Bamboo foliage with yellow petioles, implying that these are from P. aurea (uploaded 13 September 2004)
I do not own the rights of these images; all credit goes to its original creator(s).



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