Thursday, November 10, 2011

Black Bamboo

In 1971 I planted several clumps of Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) along a faked dry river bed of Saturnalite that gave a pleasing appearance, even if contrived. I wanted it to remain clumped and it did since it was surrounded by poor soil and the aggregate of Saturnalite. My understanding at the time was that it was a naturally clumping bamboo and would not spread. Since there had been an embargo on bamboo at around that time and particularly Black bamboo I was pleased to have it, and I might have imagined I was in China as I sat, musing on my dry river bed. We moved from Lotus City to Lotus Island, both in the Pacific Northwest, and I took some rooted portions of the clumps with me. They are still in my garden here today, protected from wind by windbreak plantings, and having weathered a particularly cold winter in 2010 with some top foliage loss. In the garden here they are in three big clumps, but this year they have started to move! They have, for the first time in 40 years, begun to develop spreading rhizomes in spades! The clumps are monstrous after this length of time and have probably responded to exhausted soil by seeking fertile land, sending probing rhizomes and new plants abroad. In addition, probably seeking for a location warmer than their present spot. Lotus Island is in zone 5, Black bamboo's top cold tolerance threshold. Like populations of anything, the plant does what it has to do to survive and thrive. It goes to show that the classification of clumping or spreading, in plant and animal, fails to account for the contingent capacity to change and move with whatever means is necessary to survive! Climate and food trump stick in the mud, in the plant and animal world!

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