Overview: The Bamboo Garden at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is the state's largest public collection of bamboo species. Subterranean concrete walls separate 'running' species while 'clumping' forms are grown without such barriers. Bamboos are the world's fastest growing vascular plants; when their shoots emerge, they may grow nearly 2 inches an hour.
A closer look: Although bamboos are generally associated with the Orient, one of the principal centers of bamboo speciation is the American tropics. All of the approximately 1,000 known bamboo species grow as a series of canes arising from a creeping subterranean rhizome system. But there are two basic variations of this theme. Clumping bamboos produce new canes immediately beyond the plant’s outermost canes to generate a tightly spaced, visually impenetrable stand. Running bamboos send out long rhizomes (‘runners’) several feet away from existing canes and these send up widely spaced canes to produce an open thicket.
For about 10 months each year, bamboos produce little above-ground growth. Then, during their two-month “shoot season,” they send up shoots with a speed that exceeds the growth rate of all other vascular plants – two inches per hour in some species. Then most above-ground growth ceases and, until the next shoot season, growth is largely restricted to the subterranean rhizome system. Running bamboos produce their shoots in the spring whereas clumpers produce shoots in summer. Canes never grow again after the shoot season in which they produced. Each year’s canes grow taller than those produced in previous years however. Thus in any bamboo grove, the smallest canes are the oldest and the largest are the youngest. Individual canes live for five to 12 years. In many running bamboos, virtually the entire grove dies when they flower and the intervals between flowering are quite exact. The economically important Madake (also called giant timber bamboo) flowers worldwide once every 120 years.