Bambusa is a genus of bamboos with more than 100 species of tall, woody, perennial grasses (subfamily Bambusoideae of family Poaceae), native to tropical and subtropical Asia but now cultivated in tropical areas around the world. China has 67 endemic Bambusa species, mostly in the south and southwest, with an additional 13 species that are native but occur in a larger region (Flora of China 2011). Bamboo species in this and other genera in the Bambuseae have numerous uses as food, fiber, and construction material, worth over $2 billion in 2000 (Lobovikov 2007), and play an important role in Asian culture, history, and ritual.
Bambusa species are characterized by a prominent rhizome system, woody, branching culms (stems), and leaf blades with petioles (McClure 1966). They grow 2–35 meters tall (Watson 1992) and are a clumping (pachymorph) type, in which rhizomes develop new culms close to the parent plants (rather than the running, or leptomorph, type characteristic of the species with serious invasive potential, in which rhizomes can grow 9–10 meters (30 feet) per year, sending up new culms along the full length; Waynesword 2011).
Many Bambusa species have been cultivated for so long that there are few, if any, populations known in the wild. These species are cultivated for a large range of uses (Flora of China 2011, Watson and Dallwitz 1992): for construction, scaffolding, and building materials (B. arundinacea, B. dissemulator, B. duriuscula, B. gibba, B. lapidea, B. malingensis, B. pervariabilis, B. rigida, B. sinospinosa, B. tuldoides, and B. vulgaris); split and woven into mats and other goods (B. albolineata, B. chungii, B. lenta, and B. textilis); for fishing rods, ski poles and furniture (B. pervariabilis), and for pulp and fiber for paper and rayon (B. guadua, among others). Several species are cultivated for their edible shoots (B. gibboides, B. variostriata). A number of species are famous for their use as ornamentals (B. multiplex, B. ventricosa, and B. vulgaris); some are used for hedges and property markings (B. flexuosa, B. gibba, B. sinospinosa). Various of the species are used for medicinal purposes, including as a febrifuge (to lower fever) and anti-emetic (to stop vomiting) and to treat kidney troubles and hematuria (ISSG 2011, Ngoc and Borton 2007).
Due to their fast growth and clonal habit, bamboo species may become weedy or invasive, although the pachymorph types do not generally spread as rapidly as the leptomorph types. Some Bambusa species, such as B. vulgaris, are classified as invasive in various Pacific islands (including in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Micronesia, the Philippines, and New Zealand), where they may colonize along streams and form dense monotypic stands despite their clumping habit (ISSG 2011, PIER 2011).
- Lobovikov, M., S. Paudel, M. Piazza, H. Ren, and J. Wu. 2007. World bamboo resources: A thematic study prepared in the framework of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 73 p.
- ISSG. 2011. Bambusa vulgaris. Global Invasive Species Database. Retrieved 8 November 2011 from http://www.issg.org/database/species/search.asp?sts=sss&st=sss&fr=1&sn=bambusa&rn=&hci=-1&ei=-1&lang=EN.
- Ngoc, H., and L. Borton, eds. 2006. Bamboo. Hanoi: Thê’ Gió’I Publishers. 88 p.
- PIER. 2011. Bambusa spp. US Forest Service, Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). Online resource accessed 28 November 2011 at http://www.hear.org/pier/species/bambusa_spp.htm.
- Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onwards. The grass genera of the world: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval; including synonyms, morphology, anatomy, physiology, phytochemistry, cytology, classification, pathogens, world and local distribution, and references. Version: 23rd April 2010. Accessed 28 November 2011 at http://delta-intkey.com/grass/www/bambusa.htm.
- Waynesword. 2011. Bamboo: remarkable giant grasses. Retrieved 28 November 2011 from http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph39.htm.
- Wiltshire, Trea. 2004. Bamboo. Hong Kong: FormAsia Books. 183 p.