At the bottom of the Chilean Coomb by the lower entrance to the Bamboozle our spectacular stand of Chusquea gigantea has flowered this summer.
This Andean species of bamboo is very rare in the UK and considered to be the holy grail to many bamboo enthusiasts. Chusquea gigantea forms an impressive clump of widely spaced, highly ornamental culms (canes) which are bright green turning yellow between the nodes.
The culms are completely solid, unlike most species of bamboo, and at Trebah they have been cut and sent to a firm in Somerset to make sturdy lightweight hiking staffs for hill walking and general country use. Sadly, the supply of these canes has come to an abrupt end for the time being.
Bamboos can grow for many years without producing flowers, but have what is known as gregarious flowering, when all populations of the same genus flower at exactly the same time all over the world. There is no means of predicting when flowering is going to take place and intervals of over 100 years have been recorded.
When a bamboo flowers, most of the leaves are replaced by flowers and the effort of flowering can kill any weak specimens. Some bamboos may recover on their own if sufficient food reserves are in the rhizome system and these are mainly the leptomorphs (running bamboos). Chusquea gigantea is a pachymorph and our clump has shown no signs whatsoever of re-shooting.
However, all is not lost; the entire clump has been cut to ground level and over the winter the roots or rhizomes will be taken out by a digger. Seeds have been collected from the mother plant and have been successfully germinated, they will be grown on for another season and planted out in 2021.
By Nicky Wharton, Garden Archivist