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What is Phyllostachys?

By Rhonda Rivera
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Phyllostachys is a genus of bamboo, which is a fast-growing evergreen grass. The plants within this group are varied, with about 200 cultivars and varieties among 75 species. In general, this genus of bamboo produces hardwood of good quality that is regularly used to manufacture wood furniture and outdoor fencing. These plants are originally from Asia, but they have spread to other areas of the world. In fact, many species of Phyllostachys are known to aggressively take over their surroundings, outgrowing and depriving other plants of the room and sunlight they need to thrive.

The appearance of this bamboo varies significantly, but one identifiable feature is a groove found on each segment of the plant. Many species tend to grow straight and stiff with slender green foliage. The maximum height for plants belonging to Phyllostachys is anywhere from 25 to 100 feet (7.5 to 30 m), depending on the species. Some species are purposely stunted to around 1 foot (0.3 m) for the art of bonsai.

Originally from Asia — a majority of the species are found in Central China — the Phyllostachys genus prefers moderate to semi-tropical climates. Some species are even cold-hardy and capable of surviving below freezing temperatures. The plants’ tolerance of less than ideal weather coupled with an abundance of countries with mostly temperate climates has allowed Phyllostachys plants to thrive in areas away from its native habitat. North America in particular struggles with the invasiveness of these plants.

One species in this genus, for example, is referred to as golden bamboo, or Phyllostachys aurea, and is particularly virile in its spread through alien environments such as the United States. This species is originally native to parts of Southern China and can spread quickly through open environments. It deters the growth of other plants due to its propensity to thrive in abundant sunlight and its underground reproductive root structures. The rapid proliferation of this plant sometimes causes it to be considered invasive by differing jurisdictions, and the use of chemical herbicides is often enlisted to beat it back. Removal of this plant is generally difficult due to its propensity to leave behind seeds and its aforementioned reproductive root structures.

Phyllostachys nigra is another species belonging to this bamboo genus. It is also known as black bamboo due to the stem which turns from green to brown or a purple-black color as it ages. Like many Phyllostachys plants, nigra rarely blooms. Scientists are unsure of its exact blooming period, with every 50 years being a popular estimation.

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