Bambusa flexuosa Carrière
Common Name: Zig-Zag Bamboo
Phyllostachys flexuosa is an evergreen bamboo that usually grows 5 - 6 metres tall but can reach 10 metres; the arching, woody culms are 20 - 40mm in diameter, exceptionally to 70mm, with thin-walled internodes op to 30cm or more long. The rhizomes are elongated, the plant having a running habit that can produce new canes some distance from the main clump, especially in warm climates. This tendency to run, however, is somewhat curtailed in cooler climates, where new shoot production can be rather reduced.
The plant is harvested from the wild and also cultivated for use as a food and a source of materials. It is often grown as an ornamental, valued amongst other things for the distinct zig-zag pattern shown by some of the culms, and is also used for hedging and soil stabilization.
Like several other members of this genus, the rootstock can be vigorously running and so has the potential to escape rom cultivation and invade the local environment. It is reported to have escaped from cultivation in New Caledonia, where it has been described as invasive.
E. Asia - Eastern to southwestern China
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Phyllostachys flexuosa is a very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -17°c. According to another report the plant only suffers minor leaf damage at -22°c[
]. It dislikes prolonged exposure to hard frosts[
Succeeds in full sun and in partial shade. Requires a rich damp soil in a sheltered position[
] and plenty of moisture in the growing season[
This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[
A plant at Trebah gardens in Cornwall, England was flowering heavily in May 1995[
New growth appears from late March[
This species is closely related to Phyllostachys angusta[
Plants need quite a lot of space because the outer culms spread out sideways and arch over[
Bamboos have an interesting method of growth. Each plant produces a number of new stems annually - these stems grow to their maximum height in their first year of growth, subsequent growth in the stem being limited to the production of new side branches and leaves. In the case of some mature tropical species the new stem could be as much as 30 metres tall, with daily increases in height of 30cm or more during their peak growth time. This makes them some of the fastest-growing species in the world[
Bamboos in general are usually monocarpic, living for many years before flowering, then flowering and seeding profusely for a period of 1 - 3 years before usually dying. This pattern can vary - sometimes flowering is sporadic, with plants flowering annually and not dying; at other times it is gregarious with all the plants in a specific species coming into flower at the same time.
Young shoots - cooked[
]. A delicious flavour[
]. Slightly acrid raw, they are usually boiled in at least one change of water and added to salads etc[
]. The canes are about 10mm in diameter[
]. The shoots, which are generally 2- 4cm in diameter, though occasionally up to 7cm[
], are harvested in the spring when they are about 8cm above the ground, cutting them about 5cm below soil level.
This is a good companion species to grow in a woodland because the plants have shallow root systems that do not compete with deep tree roots[
Plants can be used as a hedge with arching stems and, with its running rootstock, can also be used for soil stabilization.
The canes are not of the highest quality but can be used for plant supports etc. The medium quality wood is good for all standard bamboo uses for canes of this size[
]. The culms are used as handles of tools[
]. The splints made from the split stems are used for weaving articles[
Seed - surface sow as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse at about 20°c. Do not allow the compost to dry out. Germination usually takes place fairly quickly so long as the seed is of good quality, though it can take 3 - 6 months. Grow on in a lightly shaded place in the greenhouse until large enough to plant out. Seed is rarely available.
Division in spring as new growth commences. Divisions from the open ground do not transplant well, so will need careful treatment and nurturing under cover in pots until at least late spring[
]. Division is best carried out in wet weather and small divisions will establish better than large clumps[
]. Another report says that you can take large divisions from established clumps and transfer them straight to their permanent positions, misting or drenching them frequently until they are established[
Basal cane cuttings in spring.