Bambusa multiplex

Bambusa multiplex (Lour.) Raeuschel ex J.A. and J.H. Schultes

Syst. veg. 7: 1350 (1830).
2n = 72 (hexaploid)

Origin and geographic distribution
B. multiplex is only known from cultivation. It probably originated from Indo-China and southern China, but is now widely cultivated throughout the tropics and subtropics, including South-East Asia. For map click: Map85.TIF.

B. multiplex makes excellent hedges and is a common ornamental in gardens. The culms are often used as umbrella handles and for fishing poles. In Indonesia and Thailand it is also used to make handicrafts such as bookcases. In the Philippines this bamboo is being tested for its suitability as paperpulp. In Taiwan it is planted as a wind-break. Several dwarf cultivars are attractive pot plants.

Production and international trade
Several cultivars have become popular ornamental plants and are traded on a small scale throughout the world.

The average fibre dimensions of the culm are: length 1.36 mm, diameter 18 µm, lumen diameter 2 µm, wall thickness 8 µm. At a moisture content of 15.5%, the culms have a density of 897-938 kg/m3, the modulus of rupture is 57.0-71.0 N/mm2 (with nodes), 78.0-98.3 N/mm2 (without nodes), the compression strength parallel to grain 20.0-27.2 N/mm2 (with nodes), 26.5-35.7 N/mm2 (without nodes), the shear strength 49.0-62.0 N/mm2.

Densely tufted, sympodial bamboo. Culm slender, erect with arching tips, 2.5-7 m tall, 1-2.5 cm in diameter, hollow but with relatively thick walls; internodes 30-50 cm long, glabrous, smooth, white waxy when young; nodes not swollen. Branches up to 20 or more at each node, primary branch hardly prominent. Culm sheath 12-15 cm x 6-8 cm, light green when young, turning reddish-brown to straw-coloured, smooth, glabrous, apex rounded with one side lower than the other; blade persistent to the sheath, triangular, 9-12 cm long, erect, acuminate or tapering to the tip, the base attached to the sheath along the rounded top, therefore unequal or oblique, with an auricle-like structure at each side, bearing short bristles; ligule less than 0.5 mm long, irregularly toothed. Leaves usually at the end of a branch, 6-13 together; sheath glabrous, with small auricles bearing fine bristles up to 5 mm long; ligule less than 0.5 mm long; most fully developed blades 7-12 cm x 1-1.5 cm, rounded at base, dark green and glabrous on the upper surface, glaucous and slightly hairy on the lower surface. Inflorescence terminating a leafy branch or ultimately resulting in elongate clusters of several pseudospikelets at the nodes of a leafless branch; spikelet linear-lanceolate, 3-4 cm long consisting of 2 glumes with up to 10 fertile florets, the uppermost one rudimentary.
Flowering may be induced if B. multiplex is allowed to grow for several years without pruning or clipping. Some cultivars flower easily and frequently, others flower sporadically.
Several cultivars have been developed:
- 'Alphonse Karr' (B. multiplex var. multiplex f. alphonso-karri (Satow) Nakai): culms, sheaths and branches striped orange-yellow and green, tinged pink when young. Common in Japan. Introduced as ornamental plant in South-East Asia.
- 'Fernleaf' (Wang tsai): the fernleaf hedge bamboo with smaller culms and twigs and its leaves closely 2-ranked, 10-20 on a twig, 2.5-6 cm x 5-10 mm; common in South-East Asia as pot plants.
- 'Golden Goddess': small bamboo with golden culms, leaves larger than in 'Fernleaf'.
- 'Riviereorum' (B. multiplex var. riviereorum (R. Maire) Chia and Fung): the Chinese goddess bamboo is a small miniature bamboo with solid culms and fern-like leaf blades of 1.6-3 cm x 0.3-0.8 cm. In Indonesia and Thailand it is a popular pot plant and is increasing in importance elsewhere. It tolerates temperatures as low as -8ºC.
- 'Silver Stripe': the tallest cultivar. Culms, sheaths and leaves are variously striped white or yellow. It is a popular ornamental plant in Indonesia and Australia.

In South-East Asia B. multiplex is cultivated up to 1500 m altitude on various soil types. It thrives well on sandy loams and survives several degrees of frost.

B. multiplex is usually propagated by rhizome cuttings (offsets). Propagation by tissue culture using shoot tips and culm buds for adventitious and axillary shoots, is in an advanced experimental stage. For hedges the propagules are planted close together. In well-established hedges, the plants are pruned regularly to maintain a good height. When the hedge is not pruned, the plants will grow to full height and form a compact hedge with arching culm-tips. Seedlings of forest or other trees should be removed from the hedge because the trees can smother the bamboo entirely if not controlled.

As an ornamental, the prospects for B. multiplex are good, both as garden and as indoor pot plant. Development of strong and reliable cultivars is worthwhile.

S. Dransfield and E.A. Widjaja

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