Bamboo Garden

At SDBG, you can visit the largest living collection of bamboo in North America!
The Bamboo Garden at SDBG is special because it is the first garden planted as a collection. In 2013, the American Public Garden Association (APGA) granted official accreditation of our collection, recognizing it as a key resource for bamboo research and preservation. Our Bamboo Garden features over 100 different species and cultivars of bamboo from around the world.

Many people know that bamboo grows in China and that it’s eaten by panda bears. However, bamboo grows naturally on every continent except Antarctica and Europe! There are over 1000 different species of bamboo, but almost half of the world’s bamboo is threatened with habitat destruction. LIke any habitat loss, losing bamboo habitat will result in the loss of panda bears and many other animals around the globe that depend on bamboo.

What many people may not know is that bamboo is a grass, in fact they are giant grasses! They’re in the subfamily Bambusoideae of the grass family Poaceae. Each bamboo stem completes its growth in a year, and can grow several feet per day! Some bamboo grow as tall as trees, and even though they’re grasses, they can grow into a forest. Bamboo stems or culms are hollow, like the grass in a lawn. Trees form solid trunks which may take decades to reach maturity.

Bamboo is the fastest-growing land plant in the world! With over 1,500 uses of bamboo, it is an eco-friendly, renewable material that requires little fertilizer or pesticide to grow and few chemicals to process. While some bamboo plants need lots of water, there are many drought-tolerant species. Here are some other fun facts about bamboo:

  • Produces 30% more oxygen than an equal sized stand of trees.
  • Grows more than 3 feet in a day, can be sustainably harvested after only 3-5 years.
  • Super strong and sturdy, can even be stronger than steel.
  • Used from traditional foods to flutes and flooring.

There are two general types of bamboo: one type clumps together (clumpers) and the other type spreads out (runners). Clumpers have short thick underground stems or rhizomes. In contrast, runners have long, narrow rhizomes that can travel as far as 30 feet underground. A single runner can produce an entire bamboo forest! Due to these characteristics, it’s important to research the species, growth type, and water requirements so you don’t crowd out native species and threaten biodiversity when you plant bamboo.

Seeing a bamboo flower is rare because most woody bamboo only flower every 60-130 years, and after a plant flowers and sets seed, it usually dies. Most species of woody bamboo undergo a mass flowering event; all of the plants from the same root cutting (from the same parent plant) bloom at the same time, even if they’re on the other side of the world! This mass flowering and death of bamboo from the same root stock is another factor putting them at a high risk of extinction.

-Written by the Horticulture and Education Departments at SDBG

Thanks for your donations!

Thanks to the Southern California Chapter of the American Bamboo Society and the Ned Jaquith Foundation for their support of the Bamboo Garden.