As I’ve mentioned many times before, bamboo can be confusing because there are so many types of bamboo plants. I have explained before how the plants are separated, but I wanted to go into a little bit more detail and describe bamboo types more precisely and scientifically for those science nuts out there.
1. Genus and Species
Anyone who has taken a basic science class has been exposed to the hierarchy of biological classification. Often you learn it as a rhyme such as, King Phillip came over for good soup. K, P, C, O, F, G, S…. Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. This of course goes from the largest group (kingdom) to the smallest (species).
Bamboo is of the family Poaceae, which is the true grass family. Bamboo is then broken down further into 91 genera and over 1000 species which are within the various genera. For instance, the genus Arthrostylidium has 31 species. One of the common species in Arthostylidium is angustifolium. So, to talk about this specific species of bamboo we would call it by its genus and species Arthostylidium angustifolium.
2. Clumping or running?
Genera can be sorted by clumping or running varieties. I’ve talked about the difference between clumping and running before and you can find out more information about that here bamboo plants for sale. Essentially, some plants have roots that will spread underground for yards and send up shoots everywhere (runners) while others have roots that are “U” shaped meaning that the resulting plant will end up next to the parent plant (clumpers). Neither one is better than the other, they just have different purposes. For instance, runners often make good hedges because they will spread rapidly and quickly fill in the surrounding space. Clumpers on the other hand, might be your preference for a garden centerpiece.
An example of this is the genera Fargesia which is a clumping bamboo. Fargesia has many species with many similarities. For example, all of the Fargesia species prefer some shade, grow medium heights and are rather cold tolerant. Even though they do have similarities, every species within Fargesia has its own unique attributes…one species has red culms, while another has white strips on its leaves.
3. Size and Weather
The various bamboo genera can be sorted further by its height and how hardy it is. This is something typically done to help you decide on which type of bamboo plants you want to buy. To use the previous example, Fargesia as a genera grows 8 to 18 feet tall and is hardy between 0 F and -25 F. Knowing that you needed a plant that was going to grow around 10 feet tall and be hardy to -20 F you might chose the species Fargesia Jiuzhaigou I.
Hopefully, this helps to clear up some of the confusion on all the different bamboo plant types that are out there. If you’re looking for bamboo I always recommend you sort by clumping or running, and then by size and weather requirements. The last step is picking out the bamboo color and structure that you find most appealing from your sorted list!