Chusquea up close

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that I’ve been planting bamboo at my in-laws’ place in Mount Shasta, mostly running bamboos that would be much too invasive in our tiny suburban yard. I’ve also planted two species of chusquea, a clumping bamboo native to South America. Chusqueas need cool summer nights to thrive, and Mount Shasta is just the place.

Last fall, I planted a Chusquea gigantea, and it’s put out a number of new culms this year that are noticeably thicker than before. It is known to be a vigorous grower, so next year we may see 10 ft. culms.

Chusquea gigantea and Chusquea culeou ‘Roja’

On a recent trip to Tradewinds Bamboo Nursery in Gold Beach, Oregon, I picked up a Chusquea culeou ‘Roja’, and it’s currently planted about 12 ft. from the Chusquea gigantea. In hindsight, I wish we’d allowed for a bit more space because it, too, can become quite large. I will most likely move it by another 6 ft. during our next visit, just to be on the safe side.

Chusquea culeou ‘Roja’, planted just a month ago

As I was checking out the bamboos at my in-laws this past weekend, I was drawn to the details that are easy to overlook when you focus primarily on the overall picture. The way new branches burst out of the nodes on the culms can be quite dramatic, especially on chusqueas which have many more branches than other kinds of bamboo. The photos below are all of the Chusquea gigantea at my in-laws.

New culm. The culm sheaths are being pushed off by new branches.
Somewhat older branches that have already spread out like an umbrella
Newly emerging branches
Whorl of new branches
The most delicate new branches have a vivid light green appearance. For some reason, they remind me of tender new lettuce seedlings.
Yet another bundle of branches emerging
The culm sheaths—the papery husks covering the culms as they emerge from the ground—are attractive in their own right. I love the irregular black splotches.
The sheaths begin to tear as the branches emerge…
…and often they hang on at a rakish angle before finally falling off

I hope you enjoyed this closer look at bamboo anatomy.


  1. Superb close up of a lovely bamboo Gerhard! Chusquea gigantea is one of the nicest bamboos you can plant in a garden (providing you have enough space like your in laws have). Very deep rooted though, near impossible to dig up (and out) when esttablished.

  2. I can't wait for these chusqueas to get bigger. The ones I saw at Tradewinds Bamboo Nursery were magnificent.


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