Schizostachyum lima

Schizostachyum lima (Blanco) Merrill

Amer. Journ. Bot. 3: 62 (1916).
2n = unknown

Origin and geographic distribution
S. lima is native to the Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi, the Moluccas, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. In New Guinea it is often also cultivated. For map click: Map17.TIF.

The specific epithet 'lima' is derived from Greek and means file, alluding to the rough surface of the culm, which was used for smoothing bronze in the Philippines. In the Philippines the culms are also used as material for housing, to make bamboo mattings (sawali) and other woven wares, to make musical instruments and fishing rods. Young shoots are eaten as a vegetable. In Sulawesi the culms serve to make flutes and they are also flattened to use for flooring. In Ternate the long internodes are often used as containers for molasses which is produced on a small scale from sugar cane. In Sabah and Sarawak pieces of the internodes are used as tobacco containers, usually carved with a beautiful low relief; the culms are also used to make spears. In New Guinea the culms are often used as walls, sometimes after being flattened and woven into sheets, and also for bow strings.

Production and international trade
In its native area S. lima is produced and traded mainly local. Its economic importance at village level is considerable, but no statistics are available. There are no known commercial plantations.

The dimensions of the fibres in the culms of S. lima are approximately: length 1.67 mm, diameter 22 µm, lumen diameter 4 µm, wall thickness 9 µm. The very tough fibre bundles in the culm wall can easily be separated. Green culms have an average moisture content of 43%-117% (decreasing from bottom to top). Specific gravity is 0.54. The modulus of elasticity is 10,100 N/mm2, the modulus of rupture 23.7 N/mm2 and the compression strength parallel to grain 41.3 N/mm2.

Densely tufted, sympodial bamboo. Culm erect with drooping tip, 7-10(-13) m tall, diameter 2-4 cm, wall 2 mm thick, rough, hairy when young but becoming glabrous, green; internodes 30-100 cm long, when young covered with white waxy powder. Branches many at each node, subequal. Culm sheath 18-30 cm x 8 cm, green when young, covered with brown to dark brown hairs, middle of top recessed at attachment of blade; blade 13-25 cm x 6-12 mm, erect first, then deflexed, hairy adaxially, especially near the base; ligule short, with slender bristles 3 mm long; auricles not prominent, bearing curved bristles up to 8 mm long. Leaf blade 19-30 cm x 3.5-7 cm, glabrous above, glabrescent below; sheath glabrous; ligule short, irregularly toothed; auricles short with long bristles. Inflorescence up to 20 cm long, terminating leafy branches or borne on short leafless branches; pseudospikelets in groups of few to several at each node of the flowering axis; spikelet 12-15 mm long, slender, glabrous, one-flowered with a rachilla extension bearing a rudimentary floret (sometimes absent). Caryopsis has not been described.

Growth and development
Hardly any information is available on growth and development of S. lima. Three-year-old clumps contain on average 150 culms. At maturity, culms and leaves turn from a fresh green to a dull green colour. Culms have their maximum diameter 2 m above ground level. Sporadic flowering occurs regularly, but gregarious flowering has never been reported.

Other botanical information
S. lima may be confused with S. lumampao (Blanco) Merrill, native in the Philippines, from which it can be distinguished by its much longer internodes. S. lima is closely related to S. iraten Steudel from Java and S. jaculans Holttum from Peninsular Malaysia, by having a narrow, long, deflexed blade of the culm sheath. It differs from S. iraten in having one-flowered pseudospikelets, and from S. jaculans by its acuminate palea.

S. lima grows in the lowland tropics up to 700 m altitude. It can be found growing wild in forest, forest margins, along rivers or river banks, or spontaneously on roadsides, wasteland or near villages. It requires relatively moist soil conditions.

So far, S. lima is only propagated by seedlings collected from natural stands and by rhizome cuttings (offsets). Cuttings with rhizome part, one-year-old culm portion (1 m tall) and roots are planted during the rainy season, at 5 m x 5 m, either directly or after 0.5-1 year in a nursery. Until fully established, young plants require regular watering. There are no reports of damage caused by diseases or pests. The culms are resistant to fungal decay. Plants with shorter internodes were more susceptible to insect infestation. Depending on the end use, culms can be harvested when 1 year old or older. They are cut close to the ground, preferably during the dry season (in the Philippines from November to May). Most harvesting is done from natural populations. In New Guinea small-scale cultivation around villages is common. Average green weight of the culms is 2.7 kg, of the branches 0.4 kg, of the leaves 0.3 kg. In the Philippines, bamboo mattings are impregnated with a preservative (absorbing 8 kg/m3) when intended for indoor use.

Genetic resources and breeding
No germplasm collections or breeding programmes are known to exist for S. lima.

Because of its long internodes, and its easily separated tough fibre-bundles, S. lima is a very useful bamboo, although it is possibly undervalued at present. More research is needed on botanical, agronomic and economic aspects. Germplasm collection is strongly recommended.

C.A. Roxas and S. Dransfield

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