The Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society is having its meeting and membership drive Aug. 3 at the home of president Jacqui Marlin in Hawaiian Acres. Special guest speaker is architect Anna O’conner, who will speak about bamboo building construction with Guadua and other superior bamboos. The meeting will start with a potluck lunch at noon with program and tour to follow. The address is 16-1113 Moho Road. The public is invited. For more information, call Jacqui at 966-5080 or 781-960-5305.
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Asia is the ancestral home of many kamaaina — people and plants. When it comes to plants, one of the most valuable is bamboo. Although there are many species found in central and South America, tropical and subtropical Asia has used bamboo for thousands of years. It is said that bamboo and rice are the very foundation of these cultures.
With large tracts of land now available for forestry, and our local interest in sustainable agriculture, bamboo could become one of our major resources. It has many uses — commercial and ornamental. These will be discussed at the August meeting, along with discussion about bamboo arts and crafts.
Some folks only know bamboo from their experience with the rampant running species. Needless to say, these types are not for the small garden unless contained.
However, they have been used very effectively to stabilize steep slopes prone to erosion. That is why we find large stands of running bamboos on the steep slopes above Waiohinu in Ka‘u. The intricate mat of roots and rhizomes hold soil and rocks in place and save roads, homes and streams from mud and rock slides.
Bamboos are certainly a more attractive and environmentally sound approach to steep slope erosion control than concrete, wire or chain link screens. Erosion on East Hawaii gulch roads is a serious problem that could be addressed with certain bamboo species.
Bamboos also are excellent cattle feed and have a place in supplying nutritious greens at a low cost. Society members have been working on the potential of growing bamboos for multiple-use sustainable agriculture, incorporating the animal feed component, and it looks very encouraging.
There are plans to work with University of Hawaii agronomists in the near future to expand this project by using bamboo for windbreaks and feed.
Even though bamboos are excellent sources of edible shoots and construction material, most folks are interested in ornamental bamboos for their looks. Many of the hundreds of types of bamboos do grow in the tropics, but some species grow as far north as New York or Seattle, and can be found growing up to 10,000 feet in the mountains of Asia.
Bamboos vary from forest giants of 120 feet to dwarfs of 6 inches.
Many specimens of bamboo are suitable for ornamental purposes.
The clump bamboos are ideally suited for ornamental uses in their area of adaptation. They can be planted in groups for hedges or singly for specimen plantings. They spread very slowly and are easy to keep within bounds.
One of the best is the Mexican weeping bamboo. Others to consider are the Bambusa multiplex forms such as Alphonse Karr, Fern leaf, Silver Stripe and Feather bamboo. These delicate clump types range from 10-20 feet high. Other rare clumping types are beginning to show up in our nurseries, such as the Chusqueas, Drepanostachyums and Fargesias.
For larger gardens, try Buddha’s belly, Oldham bamboo, Punting Pole bamboo and Weaver’s bamboo. These are all clumping types in the 40-50 foot high range with fancy Latin names and multiple uses.
The giant tropical clumping bamboos need plenty of room since they soar from 50-100 feet tall under ideal conditions. This group includes the larger Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, Guadua and Gigantochloa species that can have culms 6-12 inches in diameter.
They are grown for edible shoots, construction material, windbreaks and furniture.
Miniature bamboos well suited to container growing are the Sasa species and Shibatea kumasasa. These and other running bamboos such as black bamboo can be kept small or bonsai when contained.
The running bamboos are more difficult to keep in bounds than the clumping bamboo.
Bamboo does best in a moist, well-drained soil with some organic matter. Apply complete fertilizer such as organic 8-8-8 or manures four to six times a year to the planting. Mulch the soil around the planting.
Mulches add organic matter to the soil, help to restrict the growth of weeds and conserve soil moisture. Dead leaves or dry grass clippings can be used for mulch.
Apply a layer of mulching material at least 3 inches deep.
For more information about bamboo culture for economic and agricultural uses, contact your Extension Office for UH Extension circular “Bamboo For Forest and Garden,” and be sure to come to the Bamboo Society meeting.
This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.