[Coral-List] Bamboo

Steve Rohmann Steve.Rohmann at noaa.gov
Mon Aug 31 09:30:27 EDT 2009

Anyone interested in planting bamboo should be fully aware of the 
environmental impact of such a decision. Here in the Washington, D.C. 
area, it was very popular to plant bamboo in suburban yards to "provide 
food" for Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, the two Giant Pandas that arrived 
at the National Zoo in 1972. Needless to say, bamboo is now a major 
invasive plant problem in the region and requires tremendous effort and 
expense to manage and eliminate.

A quick perusal of the Wiki indicates: "Many bamboos are popular in 
cultivation as garden trees. There are two general patterns for the 
growth of bamboo: "clumping" (sympodial) and "running" (monopodial). 
Clumping bamboo species tend to spread slowly, as the growth pattern of 
the rhizomes is to simply expand the root mass gradually, similar to 
ornamental grasses. "Running" bamboos, on the other hand, need to be 
taken care of in cultivation because of their potential for aggressive 

David describes well the plight of the American Chestnut. A similar 
fate, caused by Dutch elm disease, has dramatically affected the 
distribution of the American Elm, another former dominant forest 
species. However, the American Elm has been able to hold on in some 
areas, including northern Florida. You can obtain cultivars of 
generically resistant strains from the Elm Research Institute 


David M. Lawrence wrote:
> I would like to remind the learned gentleman from Florida to be careful 
> when cherrypicking historical trends to make a point.
> Consider this, when was the last time he or anyone else roasted American 
> chestnuts on an open fire?  I suspect no one has, for the chestnuts we 
> now consume are either imported themselves or are harvested from 
> imported chestnut species.
> The American chestnut was one of the dominant species in eastern North 
> American forests -- if not the dominant species over much of eastern 
> North America.  Within two decades of chestnuts being memorialized in 
> "The Christmas Song,"  they had been all-but-wiped out by the chestnut 
> blight, a diseased accidentally introduced from Asian chestnuts.  The 
> fungus was introduced about 1900.  By the 1960s it had completely 
> transformed the American forest landscape.
> I would not dismiss it as a "natural" cycle.
> While the species still survives as root sprouts, most sprouts succumb 
> to the blight before they reach an age or size class capable of sexual 
> reproduction -- which rather dims the odds that the species will evolve 
> resistance to the disease.
> Sure, there is still extensive forest cover in eastern North America 
> (where the forest is not taken over by kudzu, converted to subdivision 
> or strip mall, or sheared off the tops of mountains for coal 
> production).  But the forests that remain are quite different from what 
> they were before the blight.  They are arguably not as productive 
> economically -- the American chestnut was a very important timber 
> species.  Nor are they as productive ecologically -- they were arguably 
> the most productive mast (nut) producer; None of the species that 
> replaced them are capable of yielding as much as the American chestnut did.
> If such human-driven catastrophes happened in terrestrial ecosystems, 
> they most certainly can happen -- and historical data shows that they 
> have happened -- in marine ecosystems, too.
> Evidence for individual catastrophes may not be readily visible when 
> averaging a series of events over thousands or millions of years, but 
> because we cannot resolve them in the geological evidence available 
> doesn't mean they were not or are not devastating to organisms that 
> complete their life cycles over much shorter time frames -- which would 
> be just about every organism that has ever lived, including us.
> Dave
> P.S. The fact that most of us don't have a clue what Mel Tormé and Bob 
> Wells were talking about it "The Christmas Song" is a classic example of 
> what Callum Roberts refers to as a "shifting baseline."
> Eugene Shinn wrote:
>> Bamboo, Another hot button! Has anyone considered how many plants we 
>> take for granted are actually exotics? What are considered  exotics 
>> are often  those plants that got here before we were born. I love my 
>> Key Limes (an exotic Dr. Perine imported from Mexico). And what would 
>> south Florida be  with out coconut trees? Since the subject of bamboo 
>> came up I suggest that coral listers investigate Bamboo as I did a 
>> few years ago. You can find it all on the inter-net. First thing I 
>> learned was that there is one worldwide species that dies off at the 
>> same time every 125 years. The Pandas in China suffer because it is 
>> their principal diet. The Chinese have observed it for a few thousand 
>> years. Another species dies off about every 75 years. At the same 
>> time it is dying in the far east it is dying everywhere in the Amazon 
>> basin! How can that be? Its part of their flowering cycle. Another 
>> species,  recently covered on a NOVA series TV program, flowers every 
>> 40 years. When it flowers it produces nut like fruit that feed wild 
>> rats. The rats breed so fast that they devour rice crops in parts of 
>> northern India leading to famine.  It all a natural cycle!  Lets see 
>> now..The Acroporas began dying all over the Caribbean in the late 
>> 1970s  peaking in 1983 and 1984. umm. Gene

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