Bamboo Species of the Caribbean and West Indies
4 genera, 36 species
The native bamboo species in the Caribbean and West Indies are confined to small-sized bamboos less than 1 cm in diameter. Because of this, they do not have any economic value. However, Asiatic species have entered conspicuously into the local economy on some islands.
At present, the Caribbean and West Indies are known to have 4 genera and 36 species of native woody bamboos, with the richest bamboo diversity being in Cuba. Like Chile, the Caribbean the West Indies islands also do not have any natural distribution of the genus Guadua.
Bambusa vulgaris is perhaps the most widely cultivated exotic species in the Caribbean region. It is most abundant in the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where it has become an important wood source for multiple uses.
The Caribbean not only initiated the industrialization of bamboo in the region, with a small mill located in near St. Augustine in Trinidad, but also initiated the introduction and cultivation of exotic and useful bamboos from the Old World.
The Tropical Agricultural Research Station (TARS) in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, began the introduction and cultivation of bamboo at the time of its foundation in 1901, and continues to the present day. The 1930's and 1940's were perhaps the most active period at TARS with respect to the development of bamboo. During this time, bamboo species from the collection were widely distributed in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean as well as in several countries of Latin America.
The species Guadua angustifolia has been introduced to several Caribbean islands. Besides Puerto Rico, it is cultivated also in the Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos, Cuba, and it is probable that the species has been introduced to the Dominic Republic and Jamaica.