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Running vs Clumping Bamboo

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Bamboo is beautiful, but an often misunderstood grass. It boasts around 2000 species and subspecies and, as the diversity of bamboo is so big, it's often not easy to identify them when you are not an expert. Read on for a definition of running and clumping bamboo, the difference between the two, as well as the species Bamboo Bioproducts use.

Bamboo can have many uses and has an important role in conserving biodiversity. Bamboo has many sizes and shapes, and they can be classified depending on the structure of the flowers, the configuration of the branches or the shape of the rhizomes. Bamboo is a kind of grass, not a tree. According to the shape of the rhizomes and the way this plant can spread itself, bamboo can be divided into two main categories: running (monopodial or leptomorph ) and clumping (sympodial or pachymorph). At Bamboo Bioproducts, we use a clumping bamboo species named Bambusa vulgaris var. vulgaris which is non-invasive, and the predominant bamboo species resident in Jamaica.

Running Bamboo

Running bamboo rhizomes tend to extend outward and away from the main plant. Running bamboos have long rhizomes that quickly spread in an unpredictable direction. This spreading speed is the main reason why most people think all kinds of bamboos may be invasive.

There is a popular adage in the gardening world about running bamboos that says: the first year bamboo sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps. That's because initially, the bamboo is only establishing a network of rhizomes, the second year the rhizomes will have upward shoots, and then it extends rapidly and unpredictably.

Some common running bamboo species are Phyllostachys nigra, Hibanobambusa Tranquillians and Phyllostachys Bumbusoides. Even though running bamboos are considered invasive as they grow fast, they are not invasive plants.

Invasive plants proliferate and choke out native species, causing problems with the natural balance. Whereas running bamboos only spread faster and unpredictably with long rhizomes. They don't cast seeds like real invasive plants.

Clumping Bamboo

Clumping bamboos have short rhizomes with a u-shape that are closer to the main plant. This means it does not spread rapidly like runners. Clumpers generally grow faster than runners, but with a predictable growth pattern.

Related article: Bamboo Trial Test Plots

Common clumping bamboo species include Fargesia Nitida, Fargesis Rufa and Bambusa Vulgaris Vulgaris. At Bamboo Bioproducts, we are using the species Bambusa Vulgaris Vulgaris for our bamboo farms. Clumping bamboos are genetically incapable of spreading without control, they typically spread in circular clumps. Therefore, our farms will be growing bamboo in a very controlled way and they will not be invasive.

Did you know?

Clumping bamboos like our Bambusa vulgaris var. vulgaris don't build underground root networks like the running ones. Normally, once they reach a certain size, they stop spreading. In tropical weather, they grow up to an average of 30-500 feet.

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