The Guadua Timber Bamboo Complex of the Americas By Gib Cooper, Executive Director BOTA 1 May 2011 It is surprising

the number of people who think Guadua angustifolia is the only useful American bamboo! Why is this? Colombia and Ecuador are the main countries with native populations of Guadua angustifolia bamboo. They are also centers for research and education; perhaps this is due to not losing but adopting the Guadua-using culture of the indigenous people after the historical invasion by Europeans. For the past ten years, I have participated in activities to identify the native species in several regions of Guadua habitat and assess their conservation status. With the demand for bamboo for raw material for housing and other products, there is an opportunity to apply sustainable and ecological practices in the use and reforestation of our American hemisphere with her native Guadua species. The natural distribution of Guadua genus ranges from subtropical Argentina to subtropical Mexico. There are at least 25 species ranging from medium to large size, erect to scandent form and several that are not described. Below is a list of very closely related Guadua timber species, close enough to almost be sub-species but with some morphological differences to be considered species. Guadua aculeata – Mexico to Nicaragua Guadua angustifolia – Colombia and Ecuador Guadua chacoensis – Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina Guadua magna - Brazil Guadua amplexifolia is another large bamboo and useful bamboo easily identified as another species. While working in Nicaragua with Co2 Bambu, I found large tracts of Guadua aculeata and G. amplexifolia. It so happens that when I encountered Guadua aculeata, much of it was in flower and producing seeds (2008 Nicaragua and 2006 in Mexico). In 2008, I also found an occasional G. amplexifolia in flower in Nicaragua and had previously seen a large number of dead plants and seedlings of this species in a single isolated location in Mexico after complete flowering in 1999. In the Guadua bamboo regions of Nicaragua, indigenous people use whole and split culms for construction of their traditional houses. G. aculeata flowers

Guadua aculeata

Observing large areas of native timber bamboos piqued my interest in learning more about the other Guaduas and their status for conservation and use. An agronomist from Argentina, Roberto Neumann, wrote that Guadua chacoensis flowered and produced abundant seedlings in Misiones along the Parana River some 45 km southwest of Iguazu Falls. In reply to my taxonomic and habitat question Neumann writes, “Guadua chacoensis Guadua chacoensis was confused with Guadua angustifolia until 1992, seedlings 2007. Photo by when Ximena Londoño & Paul M. Peterson, (Novon R. Neumann 2:41-47, 1992), put things right. In Bolivia it grows down to 17º 38' S, but in Argentina it reaches some 50 km south of 28º S, always between 75 and 450 m altitude. There is an imaginary line between Villa Ocampo (Chaco) and Bella Vista (Corrientes) in Argentina and Sao Borja in Brasil.” He further states, “Some frost in that area occurs between mid June and mid August, with minimum temperatures of - 2º C. This overlaps with the southernmost commercial farming area of sugar cane and cotton in Argentina. Air temperature must be above 14º C for photosynthesis to start, and also with soil temperature for roots to absorb water. The dispersal of Guadua chacoensis along the Parana and Uruguay Rivers, and some of their tributaries is due to two factors: less competition in the more open riverine area with the giant trees of the Paranaense Rain Forest and better thermal conditions due to cool air drainage, along with fog built up in the morning hours. It is also of primary importance that this native bamboo does not tolerate water logging, and for this reason it always grows above the maximum level of flooding. Its absence further south in the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Rios is due to cooler temperatures, but also due to shallow river Guadua chacoensis - dead groves gullies and recurrent floods.” “I hope this will explain some features about the environmental conditions of Guadua chacoensis. This bamboo is much stronger than Guadua angustifolia, and is well suited to several building purposes.” I asked bamboo taxonomists Lynn Clark and Ximena Londoño about this group of very similar species. Clark replied, “Ximena (Londoño) will know best, but in the past we have considered G. aculeata as a good species, ditto for G. angustifolia and G. chacoensis. If G. aculeata were to be treated as a subspecies of G. angustifolia, its name would be G. angustifolia subsp. aculeata. What we would now refer to as G. angustifolia would be G. angustifolia subsp.
along Parana River 2008. Photo by R. Neumann

angustifolia. Even though species concepts in Guadua are difficult, there are enough characters to justify keeping G. aculeata and G. angustifolia as separate species, so my recommendation is that you use the name G. aculeata.” Londoño also replied, “According with your question about G. aculeata, it is a good species as Lynn mention too. The main differences with G. angustifolia are in the inflorescences and flower cycles.” In another correspondence asking about DNA Flowers of G. amplexifolia testing between Guadua aculeata, G. angustifolia, G. chacoensis and G. magna, Dr. Clark replied, “I don't think there has been any molecular analysis that includes all four of these species. There was a study in Colombia that surveyed the accessions available there using "fingerprinting" and if I remember correctly, the data were a bit messy but indicated some relationship between at least G. angustifolia and G. chacoensis. Perhaps Ximena can speak to this as well, because I can't remember right now if G. aculeata was included in that analysis. As far as sequence data are concerned, we have not yet been able to get resolution at the level of species with any bamboo group, for various reasons. We will continue to work toward this, but it is not a simple process. I think that the idea that these four species form a taxonomic complex (yes, that is the right terminology!) is based on morphology, that is, the external vegetative and reproductive features of the plant.” There is still a great need for taxonomic, conservation and human use assessments of the American Guaduas. Recently, Tarciso Filgueiras and Ximena Londoño described a new species named Guadua magna in their article, A Giant New Guadua from Central Brazil, in the proceedings of the National Seminars on Bamboo 2006. Only ten populations were found in two municipalities in the state of Goiás to the west of Rio de Janeiro. The bamboo is known locally as “taquarucu” which is derived from the indigenous word “taquara” and means “large taquara” (R. Neumann writes, “Tacuara is any bamboo in the guarani language, and guazu means big. In short it is called tacuaruzu.”). In the locale they grow along creeks. Numerous seedlings were found in some areas. This new species is sure to have utility and engineering value. Its potential uses and physical attributes are currently under study by several researchers. Guadua magna is also ornamental and resembles Bambusa vulgaris from a distance. The species was named after agronomist Roberto Magno de Castro e Silva, a bamboo enthusiast who had this bamboo growing near his porch.

Interestingly, I had spoken with Colombian bamboo architect and expert, Oscar Hidalgo, who told me about a “special” Guadua that he referred to as a legendary giant from Brazil. In his book, Bamboo: The Gift of the Gods, Hidalgo mentions a special “Guadua brasilera” that came from a hotel landscape in Petropolis near Rio de Janeiro. He considered this to be “the most outstanding species of the Americas from the economic point of view” (pp. 40-41). Could this be the recently described Guadua magna? Another example of an outstanding feature of timber Guadua comes from biologist Peggy Stern in her description of the habitat and distribution of Guadua aff. angustifolia in Madre de Dios, Peru; a bamboo that was harvested from riverbank forest and used for house construction. In the southwestern Amazon, within the tri-national border region of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, there is – incredibly - about 180,000 square kilometers of natural bamboo-dominated forests! These Guadua forests display a unique spectral signature in satellite images, hence it is possible to estimate the area of their geographic distribution, an extensive forest type comprised of at least five species of Guadua that grow in patches within a diverse tropical forest. References • • • • Judziewicz, E. J., Clark, L. G., Londoño, X. & Stern, M. 1999. American bamboos. Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian Institution. 392 pp. Stern, M. 2002. Bamboo workshop in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. ABS BOTA Report 2002. Hidalgo, O. 2003. Bamboo: The gift of the gods. Bogota, Colombia. D’Vinni Ltd. pp. 40-41 Filguieras, T. S. & Londoño, X. 2006. Proceedings: Seminario nacional de bambu Brasilia, Brasil. Universidad de Brasilia.

By Gib Cooper, Executive Director BOTA 28446 Hunter Creek Loop Gold Beach, OR 97444 541-247-0835

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