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African Bamboo Species

Africa, including Madagascar, has over 40 indigenous species of bamboo covering about 1.5 million hectares. The majority of these species are distributed only in Madagascar. The remaining 5 species can be found on the mainland of the African continent, which has the lowest diversity of woody bamboos in the world. In addition to indigenous African bamboo, bamboo such as Bambusa balcooa and Bambusa vulgaris have also been naturalized on the continent.

Indigenous African Bamboo
Yushania alpina: Also known as Arundinaria alpina or African
Mountain Bamboo it grows in dense stands on the mountains and volcanoes surrounding the Great Rift Valley in Eastern Africa between 2,200 - 3,500 m altitude with annual rainfall between 1,500 - 2,500 mm. The species could potentially occur in an area covering 202,019 km2. Culms grow to 12 - 20 m tall and 5 - 12.5 m in diameter. It produces shoots from rhizome buds every humid season until it flowers and dies in about 40 years, only to start life again from germinating seeds. The stems of this alpine bamboo are often used as fencing, plumbing and other building materials.

Oxytenanthera abyssinica: Young shoots are bluish green

with creamy yellow blades and it matures to be bright green in color. The culms grow to 6 - 10 m tall and 6 - 10 cm in diameter. Flowering occurs gregariously over wide areas about every 70 years and when this happens the clump dies and sprouts one year later from rhizomes. This bamboo species is distributed at altitudes between 700 - 1,800 m with annual rainfall higher than 1,500 mm. The species is the most common lowland bamboo in East and Central Africa, with an area of potential occurrence of 7,117,915 km2. It can be used for soil erosion control and the rehabilitation of degraded sites.

Oreobambos buchwaldii: Found at altitudes between 300
- 1,400 m in Eastern Africa and some areas of Southern African including Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the species’ area of potential occurrence is 527,789 km2. It grows in small dense patches or as solitary clumps. The culms are woody, green and hollow stems that grow up to 20 m tall and are up to 10 cm in diameter. Gregarious flowering is reported to have occurred at the end of 1943 in the Shire Highlands, Malawi, but in the Usambara Mountains, Tanzania, flowering reportedly occurs sporadically and regularly. The plant dies after flowering.

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Thamnocalamus tessellatus: This species, also known as

Berg Bamboo, is a clumping mountain bamboo that shoots in the spring. The culms grows to 3.5 - 4.5 m tall and up to 2.5 cm in diameter. The culms are yellowish-green on the bottom and turn dark purple on the top with growth rings regularly spaced along the culm. It has an area of potential occurrence of 89,260 km2 and can be found in the high altitude regions of the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa. Flowering occurs in 45 year intervals. It is the only African bamboo to be listed on IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Plants.

Hickelia africana: A very rare African bamboo species with an area of potential occurrence of
only 1,174 km2. Found in the Eastern tropics of Africa and primarily in Tanzania between 1,750 1,800 m altitude in wet mountain forest habitats. Culms are up to 3 m tall and 8 mm in diameter.

Naturalized African Bamboo
Bambusa balcooa: From Indian origin, this species has been
naturalized in South Africa since first being introduced in 1660. It can be found up to 700 m altitude and grows in any soil type with a preference for heavy textured soil with good drainage. Known to be one of the strongest species of bamboo with a compressive strength when dry of 51.0 to 57.3 N/mm2, it is used for construction. Culms are 12 - 20 m high and 8 - 15 cm in diameter. Gregarious flowering occurs every 35 - 45 years, after which the clump dies without setting any seed.

Bambusa vulgaris: Also know as common bamboo or

golden bamboo, it thrives in humid conditions up to an altitude of 1,000 m but has been known to survive at 1,200 m altitude and -3 degrees C. With yellow culms of vertical green stripes, it is a large clumping bamboo with a height of 20 m and 4 - 10 cm in diameter. The native location of the species is unknown but it has been naturalized in tropical regions across Africa. Flowering of the species is very rare. It can be used in the construction of such items as houses, boats, fences, and furniture.

Photo Credits: 1. EcoPlanet Bamboo; 2.EcoPlanet Bamboo; 3. Svtefaan Dondeyne; 4. Bamboo Garden; 5. EcoPlanet Bamboo; 6. EcoPlanet Bamboo

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