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Bamboo seeds are brown rubies

October 21, 2012

Dokmai Garden VIP card holder Barbara from Germany visited us yesterday. At lunch she displayed a wonderful collection of bamboo seeds. I felt like a jeweler at a Burmese ruby market – bamboo seeds are rare and expensive!

She graciously shared her collection with us, a most generous gift as I estimate the seeds are worth ten thousand Baht. She had bought them from the German seed trader ‘Exotic Plants‘.

A comprehensive sowing instruction I am going to follow is found here:

My only bamboo book, mostly on temperate species though, is Ted Jordan Meredith’s (2001) ‘Bamboos for Gardens’ (Timber Press). Dokmai Dogma readers are welcome to share their book suggestions.

Please remember that tropical bamboos are often docile clump-formers, not aggressive runners like many temperate bamboos. A temperate runner like Phyllostachys nigra will not thrive well in this climate, and so cause no problem and can only be grown in a shady and moist corner of your monsoon garden where its black culms adds to the cooling sensation.

Why would you plant bamboo seeds? In many cases that is the only option to get a certain species, since clumps with soil may not be legal to transfer across political borders. Secondly, it is a joy to follow a plant from its birth. Thirdly, you end up with a new genotype, a new clone, which nobody else has. Fourthly such a clone may live for many decades.

I keep you posted about their progress!

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

(Precipitation report: no measurable rain at all for two weeks, hitherto only 7 mm of rain in October. The dry season has begun with full force one month too early. Due to El Nino Chiang Mai should not expect a decent rainy period for at least another eight months, spare an occasional shower.)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. David Cooke permalink
    October 21, 2012 10:56 AM

    I tried with Phyllostachys and Fargesia nitida seeds (Fargesia bloomed simultaneously all over the world, that’s it for the next150 years), and although they germinated alright they seemed to be very susceptible to dieing off. Judging by the number of Fargesia varieties that then appeared since 1990 or so, other people were having more success.
    And by the way Phyllostachys nigra as we see it in gardens is in fact Ph. nigra ‘nigra’, the stem form to be found in nature has uninteresting black blotches along its stem.
    I remember customers not wanting to buy and install a rhizome prevention PVC system (expensive to buy and to install, 70 cm deep) and then their calling me a few years later to come and get rid of the dreaded Phyllostachys. 5 meters a year subterranean rhizomes, invisible until they reappear in a neighbour’s lawn or cellar.

    • October 22, 2012 9:27 AM

      Very interesting information! The seedlings can turn out in any way, so this is a long term project to evaluate their qualities.


  2. October 21, 2012 5:35 PM

    How incredibly excited you must be! Please keep us posted as they germinate and grow!!

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