Bamboo society meets — an opportunity to help the planet


The Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society is meeting Saturday at Hilo’s Wailoa State Park pavilion 13. The program is on bamboo propagation, and the meeting is open to members and potential members of the society. The meeting starts with a potluck at noon, so bring a culinary creation to share. West Hawaii folks might like to visit the Hilo farmers market before the meeting. If you are interested in carpooling, contact Jacqui Marlin at goddessofchaos1@icloud.com or call 966-5080 for information.

Attendees will be eligible to win bamboos; those who join the society will receive a 15 percent discount on any plants purchased from Quindembo Bamboo nursery through the end of February. According to Susan Ruskin and Peter Berg, some of the bamboos available include Timor black, New Guinea sweet shoot, Mexican weeping, Panjang, Philippine sweet shoot, Dendrocalamus peculiaris and Guadua angustifolia, to mention a few. Check out bamboonursery.com or call 987-6452 for details. Not all the bamboos shown are available at this time, but arrangements can be made for future purchases.

The Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society meets monthly at planting sites in East or West Hawaii.

The saying, “Rain follows the forest and desert follows man,” is becoming more apparent all the time. We just returned from a reforestation and ecotourism project in the Peruvian Amazon. It was sad to see the destruction of the forest from logging and gold mining, but it is good to know we can make a positive difference here at home.

Seeing the mass deforestation was depressing. Areas of the Amazon I had visited many times over the past four decades are in worse condition than ever before.

Some disagree, but global warming continues to be in the news. Increased carbon dioxide is one issue, but the other side of the coin is decreased oxygen. Extreme droughts, floods and temperatures further exacerbate this global crisis. Most folks recognize this and yet you can turn on the radio or television and find there are those who deny we have a problem. Some political groups say global warming is a conspiracy of left-wing extremists headed by Al Gore. However, Richard Muller of University of California, Berkeley, who headed research mostly supported by coal and oil interests, has made public his views about our warming planet. In the past, he was skeptical of global warming concerns. He now says that based on the research, it is happening and humans are responsible for much of the problem.

What can we do about it? First, we must be willing to admit that we are making a big mess of things. Second, we need to make some changes. It might mean going so far as to become a vegetarian. It might be something relatively small such as planting a tree or saving one from being destroyed.

Some folks are reversing the trend by planting vegetation in areas that have become deforested. Reforestation on the windward side of the Big Island is one example. This includes the reforestation that occurs even in our urban and suburban gardens. Outdoor circles, garden clubs, commercial landscape and forestry associations as well as organizations including the Bamboo Society and Hawaii Island Palm Society all do their part to make a positive impact.

Members of the American Bamboo Society get the scoop on this ancient oxygen producing crop of Asia and network with people who want to make this world a greener, better place.

There are more than 1,200 species of bamboo found from sea level to 10,000 feet in elevation. Most species come from Asia, but some come from Africa or the Americas. One of the best for construction is the South American genus of Guadua. Culms used in Colombian houses more than 100 years old have stood up better than many hardwoods. Some clumping types from the Himalayas are cold hardy and grow as far north as British Columbia.

Many hardy running types, mostly of the genus Phyllostachys, are used for erosion control in steep road cuts. A good example is the steep mountainside above Naalehu that caused devastating floods in the early 20th century. Today it is a Phyllostachys bamboo forest. Many species of running bamboo travel where you may not want them, but some of the best bamboos for eating, crafts, cloth and construction are running types. There is no such thing as a bad plant, but it is important to grow them in the right place.

Clumping bamboos stay where you put them. The genera Gigantichloa, Bambusa and Dendrocalamus are some examples. Some Dendrocalamus grow to 120 feet in height with a culm diameter of 12 inches. These are the favorite bamboos in Southeast Asia for construction, crafts and edible shoots. Many will grow from sea level to at least 4,000 feet elevation when given sufficient water and nutrients.

The beautiful Dendrocalamus peculiaris does very well in the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary at 3,000 feet elevation as well as other moist areas of the island. Another large bamboo that is beautiful and edible is Nastus elatus, or New Guinea sweet shoot. The plant may reach 50 feet or more and has the look of a weeping willow. It is one of my favorites.

Of course, big isn’t the only thing bamboos do. The smallest ones are less than 6 inches tall, and there are many delicate species of moderate growth that are ideal for the small garden. These include Mexican weeping, Chinese hedge, Malay dwarf and Singapore hedge bamboos.