Bamboo identification, or researching bamboo names can be a difficult task, especially if you are not familiar with scientific and botanical terms. Most databases online will use descriptions that look like this: Guadua angustifolia.
Understood…? If this sounds too complicated, then this page is for you, a comprehensive beginners guide to bamboo identification!
The main difficulty in bamboo identification are the usually very long intervals between flowering (especially woody bamboos). In traditional taxonomy, components of flowers are often used as the most important part of the plant to classify a species, but in some bamboo species flowering interval can be up to 130 years! Therefore, the state of classification of bamboo (bambusoid grasses) is far behind that of all the other groups of grasses.
The classification and precise identification of bamboo has been a topic of debate for centuries. There are tendencies towards both a narrower and a wider definition of several bamboo genera by contemporary botanists, leading to different classifications and to name changes. The definition of many genera thus remains far from being sufficiently settled, because some bamboo species are sometimes “re-classified” under another, more appropriate genus.
A list of recently re-classified bamboo species can be found here: Corrected Bamboo Names.
All this makes it difficult to produce a general, world-wide survey of the bamboos, or their classification, even of a single genus. The most important data are considered to be the botanical names of the genera and species and their geographical distribution, along with their references. With the help of this information it will be possible for anyone to obtain a lot of additional facts: plant descriptions, diagnoses and keys for plant identification, botanical drawings, photographs of the plants, precise plant localities, vernacular names and much more.
Identification and classification of a bamboo species depends on the observation and description of all the plant parts. Rarely can a single part of the plant be used to recognize a bamboo species immediately. Usually it is a combination of characteristics that lead to the correct identification or classification of the bamboo species. We listed the most common characteristics and features of the bamboo plant below:
Also see this article about: Types of Bamboo Rhizomes
1 . Length between culms and diameter:
2. Rhizome habit:
3. Occurrence of buds on rhizomes neck:
4. Position of roots:
Also see this article about: Bamboo Stem Anatomy
1. Spacing of the culms:
2. Habit of the culms:
3. Size of the culms:
4. Occurrence of the nodes:
5. Shape of the nodes (in longitudinal section):
6. Architecture of the nodes:
7. Surface of the nodes:
8. Color of the internodes:
9. Surface of the internodes:
10. Shape of the internodes (in cross section):
11. State of the internodes:
12. Contents of the internodes (when hollow):
1. Duration of the culm sheaths on the culm:
2. Variability of the culm sheaths:
3. Color and Pattern of the culm sheaths (when fresh):
4. Surface of the culm sheaths:
5. Texture of the culm sheaths:
6. Posture of the culm sheath-blade:
7. Duration of the culm sheath-blade on the sheath:
1. Occurrence of the branches:
2. Habit and Length of the branches:
3. Development of the branches:
4. Origin of the branches:
5. Number and Arrangement (branch complement):
6. Posture of the branches at node:
1. Habit of the leaves:
2. Color of the leaves:
3. Shape of the leaves:
4. Size of the leaves:
5. Vein structure :
Image source: Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, JSTOR
It happens all too often that we come across a bamboo plant that we didn't bought or planted ourself. In those cases it might be extremely difficult to know what type of bamboo you're dealing with. Therefore we are more than happy to offer you a helping hand…
However, in order to help you, it is absolutely crucial to provide us with as many details as possible!
Here are the most essential pieces of information we will need:
1. Upload 4 high quality photos; one photo of the entire clump (showing the bamboo plant from top to bottom), one close up photo of a node where branches develop, one close up photo of a shoot (if available), and finally one photo of the culms.
2. Provide the location where the bamboo grows (country, state), and as much information as possible about elevation, climate conditions, average temperatures and rainfall, etc.
3. If possible, measure the average diameter of the stems at breast height and the estimated height of the culms.
Please share your photos and description in the comment box below. (Again, high quality pictures will only facilitate the identification!)