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A review of bamboo resources in Yunnan, China - Yang Yuming1, Xue Jiru1, A.N. Rao2 and Pei Sheng Ji3

1 Vice President, Southwest Forestry College, Kunming.

2 Consultant, IPGRI-APO, Serdang, Malaysia.

3 Division Head, ICIMOD, Kathmandu, Nepal (present address: Kunming Institute of Botany, Kunming.)


Distributed under tropical and subtropical conditions, bamboo species diversity is rich in Yunnan Province. Owing to its specific natural geographical environment with rolling mountains, numerous rivers, different elevations, varied topography, various climatic types and regional differences, Yunnan province has the most bamboo species and abundant bamboo resources in Southwest China. Natural bamboo forests are extensively distributed and many types are very well-developed.

Situated in the joint area of the three zones in physical geography in Asia, namely the tropical monsoon zone of South Asia, the subtropical monsoon zone of East Asia, and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau zone, Yunnan possesses varied environments of the three zones providing very salubrious growth conditions for bamboos. In Southern Yunnan, the bamboo flora includes Indo-Malayan genera like Dendrocalamus, Cephalostachyum, Melocalamus, Gigantochloa, Thyrsostachys, Pseudostachyum, which are major Southeast Asian elements.

In Eastern Yunnan, the South China elements such as Indosasa, Schizostachyum, Sinobambusa and Bambusa are intermingled with the local ones. Both sympodial and monopodial species are present including Phyllostachys, Chimonobambusa, Neosinocalamus, etc.

The subalpine area in Northwestern Yunnan is the distribution centre of alpine bamboo species including Fargesia, Yushania, etc., most of which are endemic species.

Genera and species in Yunnan

There are about 75 genera and 1250 bamboo species in the world, and nearly 500 species of 40 genera present in China, mostly in the monsoon areas south of the Changjiang River. Among these, there are about 220 woody bamboo species of 28 genera in Yunnan, i.e., making up 40% of the total genera in the world and 75% of the total genera in China, 25% of the local species of the world and over 55% of the total species in China. With further investigations more new species, genera, and even communities of bamboo may be discovered in future. There are altogether more than 30 major types of bamboo forests distributed in all parts of the province, especially in Southern Yunnan, which includes tropical bamboo forests, cold temperate bamboo forests, dense bamboo forests, scattered bamboo forests, mixed bamboo forests, and sectorial bamboo forests with various ecotypes.

A total area with approximately 20 million ha of bamboo forests are present all over the world and about 7 million ha are in China, accounting for 35% of the total in the world. In Yunnan alone, there are 331 000 ha of bamboo forests, amounting to 4.7% of the total land area in China. Outside Yunnan in other five major bamboo producing provinces, monopodial bamboos are cultivated in 80% of the area with Phyllostachys pubescens. There are 32 000 ha (less than 10% of the total) of bamboo plantations in Yunnan scattered around villages, cultivated fields, and along roadsides. The areas and stocking of bamboo forests in Yunnan are shown in Table 1:

Table 1. The forest area and bamboo resources in Yunnan

Types of bamboo forests

Area (hectares)

Resources (tons)

Percentage (%)

Natural forests and plantations of large and medium-sized bamboos (diameter (>2cm)

189 000

19 000 000


Natural forests of small-sized bamboos (diameter (<2cm)

110 000

4 800 000


Total area with bamboo forests

299 000

23 800 000


Bamboo plantations

32 000

3 850 000



630 000

51 250 000


Geographical location of Yunnan

Yunnan Province is situated in Southwest China 21°08-29°15'N and 97°39'-106°12'E, covering 383 000 km2 area, neighbouring Guizhou and Guangxi Zhunag Autonomous region in the east, Sichuan Province in the north and Tibet Autonomous Region in the northwest, bordering Myanmar in the West and Southwest and bounded on the south by Laos and Vietnam. Vast in area, the province has many complex natural conditions of physical geography and varied topography. Among the 220 bamboo species in 28 genera distributed in Yunnan, most of them can be used as shoot-producing species spread all over the province. The geographical map of Yunnan province with tropical and temperate areas that support the growth of different sized bamboos is shown in Fig. 1.

Tropical area in Southern Yunnan

The area borders with Southeast Asian Peninsula and the tropical monsoon zone of the South Asian Subcontinent in both South and Southwest. Geographically it has higher topography in the north and the lower in the south, with many wide valleys and basins at 500-900 m intermingled with lower and mid-mountains at an elevation of 1000-1500 m. This area is strongly influenced by the tropical monsoon from southwest, forming favourable climate. The mean annual temperature in valleys and basins is over 20°C, highest average monthly temperature over is 24°C and the lowest temperatures is approximately 15°C. The area has annual precipitation of 1200-1800 mm, and more in mountainous areas. The annual pronounced dry season follows rainy season lasting from May to October, with 80% rainfall. The tropical vegetation in this area includes many indicator plants of the tropics, including bamboos of Southeast Asia, altogether, some 100 bamboo species. Some bamboo plantations of large and medium-size have been established around the river basins, along roads, and in villages, with the gross produce reaching 11 000 000 tons. Dendrocalamus membranaceus natural forest is the largest in China. Potentials for industrial developments in using this species are many. The shoot producing bamboos, that are preferred include: Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, D. brandisii and D. asper. Others include Dendrocalamus semiscandens, D. membranaceus, Gigantochloa levis, G. nigrociliata, Cephalostachyum pergracile, Chimonocalamus fimbriatus, Chimonobambusa yunnanensis, Indosasa amara and a few more. The shoot-producing bamboo resources in this area are many, 30 of which are of top-quality including the sweet bamboos. Bamboo shoots in this area grow in great numbers in spring, summer and fall, with the result that more than 900 000 tons of bamboo shoots are produced annually while at least 300 000 tons can be harvested.

Fig. 1. Map of Yunnan province with different geographical areas and the neighbouring countries and provinces.

I. Tropical area of large-sized clustered bamboo in Southern Yunnan.
II. Tropical area of large-sized clustered bamboo in Southwestern Yunnan.
III. Tropical area of large- and medium-sized mixed bamboo in Southeastern Yunnan.
IV. Temperate area of medium- and small-sized mixed bamboo in Central Yunnan.
V. Warm temperate area of medium-sized mixed bamboo in Western Yunnan.
VI. Cold temperate area of small-sized mixed bamboo in Northwestern Yunnan.
VII. Cool temperate area of medium- and small-sized scattered bamboo in Northeastern Yunnan.
Tropical area of south western Yunnan

This area includes Dehong, Baoshan and western Lincang Prefectures, covering southern parts of the Gaoligongshan Mountains and Nushan Mountains. With the Nujiang River (lower reach), Dayingjiang River, Longchuanjiang River and Nanting River running through it, the area has a lower mountain landform with relatively gentle slopes, at an altitude of 1000-1500 m alternating with basins and valleys at an elevation of 500-900 m. A few mountains are over 2000 m. The area is characterized by its typical tropical monsoon climatic conditions with an evident dry spell and rainy season. The average monthly temperature is about 12-15°C in basins and valleys at an elevation of 500-900 m, mean annual precipitation is 1400-1700 mm, and in mountainous areas 1700-2100 mm. The heaviest rainfall recorded is 2400-2800 mm annually. The rainy season is always followed by a long dry spell which usually lasts from November to April.

In Southwest Yunnan there are more than 80 large-sized clustered bamboo species of 15 genera mostly Indo-Malayan, Indo-Myanmar and Myanmar-Malayan floral elements. The most prominent species from the Indo-Myanmar flora are Cephalostachyum scandens, that produces edible shoots. Dendrocalamus giganteus is generally cultivated around villages and farmlands and along highways and waterways. D. asper is also very popular. Thyrsostachys siamensis, and Th. oliveri, Bambusa blumeana, B. burmanica and B. lapidea all of which are well-adapted to their habitats and produce good bamboo shoots. Naturally distributed in the monsoon evergreen broad-leaved forests and mountainous rain forests are Chimonocalamus montanus and Ch. fimbriatus while Chimonobambusa yunnanensis and Ch. armata are always found in evergreen monsoon forests.

In the lower mountain areas around basins and near villages, there are some plantations of Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis and Ph. decora and Pleioblastus amarus. Owing to the favourable natural conditions, these species from East Asian flora grow very well in Tengchong, Lianghe, Longling, Luxi and some other parts within this area. Throughout the area, there are approximately 60 000 ha of bamboo forests and 12000 ha of bamboo plantations. The bamboo forests produce about 350 000 tons of shoots annually, at least 200 000 tons can be harvested.

Tropical area of Southeastern Yunnan

Southeastern Yunnan extends from Ailaoshan Mountains in the west to Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the east and bordering Vietnam in the south, including Honghe and Wenshan Prefecture of Yuanjiang County and western Xinping County in Yuxi Prefecture. Since this area is situated at 23°-24°N, both tropical and subtropical zones are included. Limestone hills are present in this area, mountains of 1200-1500 m in the west and those with lower elevation of about 600 m in the east. The lowest point of the province is at the confluence of the Nanxihe River and Honghe River, 76.4 m above sea level. The climatic conditions in the area are very beneficial to the growth of bamboo species. The mean annual temperature varies from 15.2-22.6°C and mean annual precipitation is approximately 1600-2400 mm in most of the area. Mountain rain forests are mostly distributed at an elevation of 800-1300 m while monsoon evergreen broad-leaved forests are distributed at an altitude over 1200 m above sea level. Soils are yellow laterite up to 500 m and between 500-1000 m red soil and in the higher areas beyond 1000 m mostly of mountain yellow soil.

Floristically, this area has relatively abundant bamboo resources in China and possesses an element from Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Within this area, there are more than 70 bamboo species in 13 genera including large, medium and small-sized species, which are clustered, scattered and mixed species and suitable for multipurpose utilization.

Indo-Malayan, East Asian, alpine and Himalayan species are included among the North Vietnam, South China elements; several species of Indosasa, are included. Indosasa sinica occupies a total area of over 10 000 ha. In. purpurea, In. ingens and In. triangulata are the major natural shoot producing bamboo species in the area. Bambusa chungii, B. rutila and B. textilis, Sinobambusa intermedia and S. seminuda form South China elements which can be grown as shoot-producing bamboo species. Among the tropical floral elements there are approximately 22 species in 10 genera including Schizostachyum funghomii and Sh. pingbianensis, Leptocanna chinensis, Ferrocalamus strictus (which is an endemic), Pseudostachyum polymorphum, Chimonocalamus delicatus, Ch. longiligulatus, Ch. makuanensis, Ch. dumosus, Ch. pallens, Melocalamus compactiflorus, Dinochloa multiramora, Dendrocalamus yunnanensis, D. sikkimensis, D. peculiaris, D. jianshuiensis and D. pachystachyus, Chimonobambusa brevinoda, Ch. grandifolia, Ch. microfloscula and Ch. yunnanensis and Teinostachyum yunnanensis. Distributed on higher peaks within the area, both Fargesia and Yushania are important small-sized shoot-producing bamboo resources.

Altogether within this area, there are approximately 70 bamboo species of 13 genera covering a total area of 45 000 ha, 2/3 of which are natural areas with many ecotypes. These include 15 endemic bamboo species of 2 endemic genera (Leptocanna and Ferrocalamus). By estimate, there are some 3 600 000 tons of green culms in the forests. The bamboo forests are dominated by Indosasa spp., Chimonobambusa spp., Teinostachyum spp., most of which form secondary communities in the denuded forest areas. Large and medium sized bamboo species such as Dendrocalamus yunnanensis, D. latiflorus, Bambusa intermedia, B. chungii, etc, are mostly cultivated around houses, villages and highways, most of them mixed with broad-leaved trees.

The species that possess good prospects and high value for exploitation and utilization are the large-sized ones including Dendrocalamus sikkimensis, D. yunnanensis, D. peculiaris, D. jianshuiensis, D. pachystachyus; and medium-sized ones (including endemic fragrant species) Chimonocalamus delicatus, Ch. dumosus, Ch. longiligulatus, Ch. longisulcus, Ch. makuanensis and Ch. pallens, Indosasa purpurea, In. ingens, Leptocanna chinensis, Pseudostachyum polymorphum, Ferrocalamus strictus, Schizostachyum pingbianensis, Chimonobambusa yunnanensis, Ch. grandifolia, Ch. microfloscula, and Ch. brevinoda. Most of these are shoot-producing bamboos but some can be utilized for bamboo splits.

Temperate area in central Yunnan

This area includes Kunming Municipality, Yuxi Prefecture, Qujing Prefecture, Chuxiong Prefecture, eastern Dali Prefecture, southeastern Lijiang Prefecture, northeastern Honghe Prefecture, northern Weshan Prefecture and southern Zhaotong Prefecture. The highest peaks are over 3000 m while the valleys are approximately 700-1100 m. The area is generally warm and mild throughout the year with the mean annual temperature of 12-17°C, and average annual precipitation of 800-1200 mm.

The major bamboo species in this area include Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis, Ph. decora, Ph. pubescens, Pleioblastus amarus and P. oleosus. Spring shoot produces include Neosinocalamus affinis and N. distegia, Bambusa intermedia, Dendrocalamus bambusoides, D. latiflorus, D. farinosus and D. pachystachys, all of them are common shoot-producing bamboo species in this area. Besides, there are some small fragments of warm temperate and cold temperate mixed bamboo forests of medium and small-sized bamboo species including Fargesia yunnanensis, F. papyrifera, F. yuanjiangensis, F. wuliangshanensis, F. fungosa and others. F. utilis, Yushania polytricha, Y. maculata, Y. pauciramificans, and Y. pubenula. Majority of the species produce delicious bamboo shoots that not only can be cooked when fresh but also be used as raw materials for good-quality dried bamboo shoots.

The total area of the bamboos in this area is approximately 10 000 ha, 2/3 of which are bamboo plantations. The total yield is about 45 000 tons per year and major species are Neosinocalamus affinis, Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis and Bambusa intermedia, all of which are widely utilized to weave handicraft articles and make farm implements.

Warm temperate area in western Yunnan

Located in the west of the northern subtropics, this area includes most parts of Nujiang Prefecture, western Dali Prefecture and north-central Baoshan Prefecture, belonging to the areas of the Hengduanshan Mountains in western Yunnan that cover an area of some 2002 kilometers from south to north. As a major geographical area of the Yunling Mountains, Biluoxueshan Mountains and Gaoligongshan Mountains in the north, this area has an altitude of 3500-4500 m, and an elevation difference of 2000 m or more because it is deeply grooved by the Lancanjiang River and Nujiang River, forming a landform of alpine area, mid-montane area and deep valleys. In the southern part, there are some 1500-1800 m mid-mountain basins that alternate with some gorges and higher peaks at an elevation of about 2000-2500 m, western Yunnan forests. The four seasons in the area are warm in spring, the pronounced dry spell followed by the rainy season, during which there is abundant precipitation both in high mountains and deep valleys. It is warmer in the south than in the north while the mean annual temperature in the plateau remains at 15-16.5°C. Strongly influenced by the interaction of the southwest monsoon, the area has annual precipitation of 1500-2600 mm, while the eastern part has only 800-1200 mm.

Phytogeographically, this area lies just where the Pan-Holarctic Flora crossess the Paleotropical Flora, including moist evergreen broad-leaved forests and natural bamboo forests, especially in the rainy western part. In other parts of the area, semi-humid evergreen broad-leaved forests are dominant with forests of Pinus yunnanensis. Bamboo groves are chiefly composed of cultivated plantations. Approximately, there are more than 100 bamboo species of 15 genera. The local muggy climate is caused by the warm moist air currents from the Bay of Bengal helpful for growth and spread of some tropical bamboo species, including Melocalamus compactiflorus, Dinochloa bapoensis, Dendrocalamus burmanicus, D. giganteus, D. semiscandens, D. parishii, D. fugongensis, D. tibeticus and D. dulongjiangensis, among which Dinochloa sp., Dendrocalamus fugongensis and D. tibeticus represent northernmost species; three species of Cephalostachyum, i.e. C. fuchsianum, C. scandens and C. virulentum in this area show the northernmost distribution limit of bamboo species; Bambusa burmanica and B. lapidea also belong to the tropical flora.

Gaoligongshania negathyrsa is a newly-discovered species with a large inflorescence, sympodial subterranean rhizomes, clustered culms, single branches and exceptionally large leaves. As an endemic it is mostly distributed on the west slope of the Gaoligongshan Mountains and in the Dulongjiang Valley. In the mountainous areas with an elevation of over 2000 m, there are more than 30 bamboo species of Fargesia, belonging to Sino-Himalayan floral elements, most of which are endemic, forming extensive pure bamboo forests under spruce forests, silver fir forests and moist evergreen broad leaved forests. Another species worth mentioning is Racemobambos prainii which has its easternmost distribution fringe on the west slope of the Gaoligongshan Mountains. Yushania elevata, Y. falcatiaurita, Y. farcticaulis, and Y. pubenula, are distributed in areas at 1500-2400 m.

Also there are three temperate bamboos, i.e. Chimonobambusa, Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus, all of which belong to the subtropical floral elements of East Asia. As the famous autumn shoot-producing bamboos in Yunnan, Chimonobambusa armata and Ch. yunnanensis are mostly distributed in the humid mountain evergreen broad-leaved forests and mossy evergreen broad-leaved forests. Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus are medium-sized cultivated ones which include Ph. nigra var. henonis, Ph. decora, Ph. heteroclada, Pleioblastus amarus and Pl. oleosus, planted along waterways and around villages and farmlands as major bamboo resources for young bamboo shoots and splits. This area is beneficial to the growth of Phyllostachys pubescens and the potential should be fully utilized and improved to cultivate high yielding bamboos.

Cold temperature area in northwestern Yunnan

Situated in the northwest of Yunnan at 27°-29°15'N with an average elevation of about 3500 m above sea level, this area covers Diqing Zang Autonomous Prefecture and northern Lijiang Prefecture, belonging to Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the well-known roof of the world. Connecting with Tibet in the northwest and Sichuan Province in the northeast, it neighbours with Nujiang Prefecture in the west. Since a humid cold temperate climate always prevails in the area, cold temperate dark coniferous forests with Fargesia species are very extensively distributed on the dark brown soil, forming zonal dominant groups.

Topographically, this area is located in the north-central section of the Hengduanshan Mountains where there are approximately 20 high peaks including those connecting with the Gaoligongshan Mountains, Biluoxueshan Mountains, Yunling Mountains, Shalulishan Mountians and so on, all of which are over 5000 m with the 6740-m-high summit of the Meilixueshan Mountains the highest in the province. Since there are some rapid rivers such as the Nujiang River, Lancanjiang River, Jinshajiang River, etc., running through this area, deep valleys at an elevation of 1500-2000 m are formed together with varied land configurations. Climatically, the area has the mean annual temperature of 5-10°C and average annual precipitation of 500-600 mm, and areas with relatively less rainfall. Altogether, 37% of the area is covered with forests with warm temperate broad-leaved forests and cool or cold temperate coniferous forests from the lowest land to the highest ones, forming a major forest area of the province. The most important forest zones are distributed at 2600-4100 m composed of the zonal vegetation dominated with spruce forests, fir forests and bamboo forests as well.

As a major distribution centre of alpine and subalpine bamboos of the world, this area is covered with vast forests of Fargesia spp. and Yushania spp., among which Fargesia belongs to the Hengduanshan-Himalayan flora. There are approximately 100 species of Fargesia over 30 of which are endemic and well-distributed because of their good cold endurance, making up 90% of the total bamboo species in the area. The extensive forests of Picea, Abies and Larix potaninii var. macrocarpa in the alpine and subalpine zones extend far above the tree line. Forests of Fargesia species alternate and mix with alpine bushes, bunchgrass and meadow thickets, forming a particular vegetative landscape in this special area. The medium and small-sized bamboo forests of sympodial Fargesia species are classified as the cold temperate bamboo forests. There are 60 000 ha of bamboo forests covered by Fargesia species, at an elevation of 2500-3500 m and some extending up to 4500 m, far above the snow line thus representing the highest distribution level of bamboos in the world. Apart from Fargesia species, some Yushania and Chimonobambusa species are fragmentarily distributed, whereas Neosinocalamus affinis and Bambusa lapidea are cultivated in lower valleys. Besides, Pleioblastus amarus and Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis are generally planted along highways and waterways, and around villages and dwelling houses. The Fargesia species include, F. melanostachys, F. yulongshanensis, F. yunnanensis, F. sylvestris, F. papyrifera and others. They all produce excellent long, straight culms and good-quality young shoots. In each hectare of the bamboo forests there are approximately 80-130 tons of green culm stocks, showing a great potential for exploitation and utilization. The ratio of the exploitation and utilization of the bamboo resources, however, is still low at present. Despite inconvenient transportation and poor economic conditions bamboo wood can be harvested in large quantities and utilized. Special attention should be paid to the conservation of soil, water and protection of ecological environment in this area when the bamboo resources are exploited. Both clear felling and overcutting are to be strictly avoided.

The area is deficient in vegetable matter and it is all the more important to exploit and utilize bamboo shoots that are produced to meet the needs of the local people. At a rough estimate, an annual total output of fresh bamboo shoots will amount to at least 18 000 tons if only 1/5 of the total bamboo forests in this area is properly harvested. Obviously, there are very good prospects to utilize the abundant resources including bamboo shoots. The quantum of yield is all the more important to the local people, who live in such high mountain areas.

Temperate Area of Northeastern Yunnan

As a transitional zone from Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau to the Sichuan Basin, this area mostly occupies Zhaotong Prefecture that belongs to a mountainous area around the Sichuan Basin. Although it is situated in the same monsoon zone as that in East China, the climate, vegetation and soil in this area are different from those in other parts of Yunnan Province. The climatic conditions are of subtropical monsoon zone with cold winter and warm summer with the mean annual temperature of 15-18°C and average annual precipitation of 700-1000 mm. Owing to its uneven and densely-populated conditions, this area has the lowest forest cover present in the whole province, and only 6.2% of the area covered with forests. The forests are dominantly composed of humid mountain evergreen broad-leaved and deciduous broad-leaved vegetation, belonging to the Sino-Japanese floristic type.

Without any evident dry spell, the climate is very beneficial to the growth of certain bamboos. There are 50 bamboo species of 11 genera altogether, including Qiongzhuea tumidinoda, Phyllostachys pubescens, Ph. bambusoides, Ph. heteroclada, Ph. nidularia, Ph. decora, Ph. nigra, Chimonobambusa tuberculata, Ch. utilis, Ch. parkispinosa. The major clustered bamboos include Bambusa rigida, B. sinospinosa, B. intermedia, Neosinocalamus distegia, etc., the major multiaxially-mixed bamboo species include Fargesia fungosa, F. longiuscula, F. semicoriacea, F. utilis, Yushania laetevirens, Y. grammata, Y. maculata, Y. mitis, Y. qiaojiaensis, Y. suijiangensis, Y. straminea and so on. There are altogether 38 000 ha of bamboo forests, and the famous Qiongzhuea tumidinoda (about 20 000 ha) is most extensively distributed and widely utilized in this area. Besides, Phyllostachys pubescens is distributed and resources should be well-developed and utilized.

As for the development of shoot-production and industrialization, emphasis must be paid for resource management of Qiongzhea tumidinoda. Distributed in northeastern Yunnan and the neighbouring Sichuan Province and Guizhou Province, this species produces the famous top-grade Luohansun bamboo shoots which are well-known as the best seller at home and abroad, especially in the markets of Hongkong and Japan. With its nodes swollen the species has very high ornamental and aesthetic value. The resources of this species have been underutilized so far in plantation and natural populations have greatly declined and degenerated because of the excessive collection of shoots and lack of proper management.

Growing shoots of bamboo species display a variety of characteristic features useful for species identification. The shape of the shoot, size, colour, and culm sheath arrangement are relatively different and some of them are illustrated (Figs. 2-12).

Fig. 2. Bamboo shoot - Bambusa distegia

Fig. 3. Bamboo shoot - B. polymorpha

Fig. 4. Bamboo shoot - B. vulgaris var. viltata

Fig. 5. Bamboo shoot - Dendrocalamus asper

Fig. 6. Bamboo shoot - D. brandisii

Fig. 7. Bamboo shoot - D. giganteus

Fig. 8. Bamboo shoot - D. membranaceus var. bigemmatus

Fig. 9. Bamboo shoot - D. sikkimensis (Photos: By courtesy of Mr Wong Kanglin).

Fig. 10. Bamboo shoot - D. strictus

Fig. 11. Bamboo shoot - Gigantochloa sp.

Fig. 12. Bamboo shoot - G. nigrociliata

Sixty important bamboo species in Yunnan

1. Bambusa blumeana: Grows in Mengla, Yuanyang, Jinping, Hekou, Luoping and South China. It is often planted around houses and villages both for wood and edible shoots.

2. B. burmanica: Mainly distributed in Myanmar and India, also planted in Ruili, Longchuan and Yinjiang in Yunnan Province.

3. B. sinospinosa: Grows in Dehong, Xishuangbanna, Honghe, Wenshan and Zhaotong, and also planted in Gunagdong, Guangxi, Sichuan and Guizhou. Used for wood and shoot production.

4. B. lapidea: Grows in vast areas from Western to Southern Yunnan, cultivated in South China, culms used as building materials because of their thick and tough wood.

5. Cephalostachyum pergracile: It grows in Xishuangbanna and Lancang. The local Dai people are accustomed to cook glutinous rice using culms of this species.

6. Chimonobambusa armata: Grows in all parts of Nujiang Prefecture, elevations from 1500-2000 m also distributed in India, Myanmar and Tibet.

7. Ch. brevinoda: Grows in Malipo, Maguan, Xichou, etc. elevations 1500-2100 m.

8. Ch. grandifolia: Distributed in the Daweishan Mountains in Pingbian County.

9. Ch. microfloscula: Grows in Jinping in Yunnan, also distributed in Vietnam.

10. Ch. pachystachys: Grows in Yiliang, Fuyuan and Sichuan.

11. Ch. paucispinosa: Grows in Suijiang.

12. Ch. tuberculata: Distributed in Younshan, Yanjin and Weixin.

13. Ch. utilis: Mainly grows in Nanchuan in Sichuan, in Yiliang in Yunnan, used for wood and shoot production.

14. Ch. yunnanensis: In all parts in Yunnan, most extensively distributed with highest production.

15. Chimonocalamus delicatus: Pure bamboo groves and mixed forests together with broad-leaved trees in mountains of Jinping country at 1400-2000 m, shoots delicious, wood is tough preventing borers.

16. Ch. dumosus: Grows in the Xiangpingshan Mountains in Xichou, 1500 m.

17. Ch. dumosus var. pygmaeus: grows in Gengma.

18. Ch. fimbriatus: Vastly-distributed, growing in Gengma, Shuangjiang, Changning, Longling. Luxi, Ruili, Longchuan, Yingjiang provinces.

19. Ch. longiligulatus: Grows in Luchun and Jiangcheng.

20. Ch. longiusculus: Grows in the Xiaoqiaogou forests 1650 m and above. Xichou County, shoots very delicious.

21. Ch. makuanensis: Delicious shoots, grows in thin evergreen broad-leaved forests of Kashang and Gulinqing at 1700-1900 m in Maguang County.

22. Ch. montanus: Grows in the Gaoligongshan Mountains, elevation 1740 m and above, Tengchong County.

23. Ch. pallens: Grows in Jinping.

24. Dendrocalamus asper: Grows in Mengwang of Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, distributed in Southeast Asia and Hongkong, vastly cultivated in Thailand, Malay Archipelago; has high value as shoot-producing bamboo, one of the priority species.

25. D. brandisii: Grows in Mengsuo of Ximeng, Yohou of Yingjiang, Mengla of Jinping, Gasa of Xinping, Gengma, Changning, etc. elevation from 380-1900 m, also distributed in Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and India, good shoot-producing bamboo, also used for both wood and splits.

26. D. giganteus: Distributed in Myanmar, extensively planted in Southern and Western Yunnan, cultivated in the tropical and subtropical countries of Asia, large culms used as good building materials and splits, both D. sinicus Chia et J.L. Sun (1982) and this species are the tallest bamboo species in the world, fresh shoots taste bitter, made into dried slivers and slices of tender bamboo shoots after proper processing.

27. D. hamiltonii: Its quality similar to D. brandisii.

28. D. latiflorus: Grows in Xichou, Hekou, Maguang and Kunming in Yunnan, Fujian, Taiwan, Guandong and Guangxi, excellent shoot producing bamboo, has high ornamental value.

29. D. membranaceus: Distributed in Xishuangbanna, Simao, Lincang and Honghe in Southern Yunnan, natural clustered bamboo covering vast areas in China, natural and protected habitat, good food source for wild elephants.

30. D. pachycladus: Distributed from Western to Southern Yunnan grows mostly in valleys along rivers, named river bamboo or wild bamboo, trailing habit, shoots excessively collected because of their good quality.

31. D. pachystachyus: Distributed in Xingpin, Shiping, etc.

32. D. peculiaris: grows in Jinping.

33. D. semiscandens: Distributed from Southern to Western Yunnan, grows in Mengla, Lancang, Ximeng, Pu'er, Jinggu, Yingjiang, Ruili, Longchuan, Longling, etc., delicious fresh shoots, has economic potential for development.

34. D. yunnanensis: grows in Honghe Prefecture, shoots edible, big culms used as building materials.

35. Fargesia fungosa: Distributed in Dongchuan, Huize, and Yiliang in Yunnan, and Huidong in Sichuan, from 1800-2700 m, shoots sweet, splits are tough, useful for tool making.

36. F. lincangensis: Distributed in the Daxueshan Mountains, 2900-3200 m in Lincang Prefecture, edible shoots, and good splits for weaving.

37. F. nujiangensis: Distributed at 2600-3200 m in Nujiang Prefecture, very tough solid culms used for building houses, attractive tiny leaves for ornamental use.

38. F. stricta: Growing in Gaoligongshan Mountains at 2300 m and above, straight, smooth culms with tiny, tender and emerald green leaves, edible.

39. F. utilis: Wild or cultivated in Dingchuan from 2700-3650 m, edible shoots and fragile culms.

40. F. yulongshanensis: Distributed in Yulongshan Mountains from 3050-4200 m in Lijiang Prefecture of Yunnan, underbush in spruce forests, edible shoots, with a little bitter taste.

41. F. yunnanensis: Vastly distributed, delicious shoots, tough culms used as shoulder poles, handles for various farm tools.

42. Gigantochloa ligulata: Distributed in Mengla and Jinghong in Yunnan as well as in India, Thailand, grows in damp monsoon rain forests, culms used for basketry, fence, handicraft articles, dried bamboo shoots and sour slices prepared and marketed.

43. G. nigrociliata: Distributed in Xishuangbanna, also grows in India, Thailand and Myanmar, culms for splits, delicious bamboo shoots.

44. Indosasa amara: Distributed in Jiangcheng at 1100 m, in Simao Prefecture, edible bamboo shoots with special local flavour, bit bitter.

45. In. purpurea: Distributed in Maguan, Pingbian and Jinping.

46. In. sinica: Grows in Maguan, Pingbian and Jinping, etc.

47. Phyllostachys bambusoides: In many places, very useful species.

48. Ph. decora: Species cultivated in Kunming and other places in Yunnan.

49. Ph. heteroclada: Distributed in Changjian river valley, also grows in Northeastern Yunnan.

50. Ph. nigra var. henonis: Culms used for weaving, ribs of a fan, fishing rods, edible shoots, used in Chinese medicine.

51. Ph. praecox: Top-quality shoot-producing bamboo, originated in Zhejiang introduced in Kunming.

52. Ph. pubescens: Major afforestation species in every province of South China, both bamboo wood and shoots of high economic value, Northeastern Yunnan, chiefly distributed in Yiliang and Yanjin.

53. Qiongzhuea montigena: Grows in Zhaotong from 2320-2500 m.

54. Q. tumidinoda: Growing in Northeastern Yunnan, very delicious shoots, high ornamental value, used in handicrafts, important protected species of the nation.

55. Schizostachyum funghomii: Growing from South China to Southwest China, large sized clustered bamboo, thin culms, tough skin suitable for weaving handicraft articles, making pipes, toys, rockets, arrows used by Dai nationality, high-quality bamboo shoots, important ornamental species.

56. S. pingbianensis: Originates in Daweishan Mountains, 1740 m.

57. Thyrsostachys oliveri: In Xishuangbanna.

58. Th. siamensis: Grows in Xishuangbanna, Lancang, and Longchuan, distributed in India, Thailand, Myanmar and popularly cultivated in many countries, an ornamental species, grows in dense clusters with straight culms, graceful branches, leaves, produces edible shoots and culms used for many purposes.

59. Yushania levigata: Growing in Southwest Yunnan.

60. Y. oblongo: Distributed in Bozhushan Mountains of Laohuilong from 2600-3000 m in Wenshan Prefecture, very delicious shoots, processed into dried bamboo shoots, used to make musical instruments including flutes.

Traditional uses of bamboos

Of the 220 woody bamboo species belonging to 28 genera, at least 100 of them produce edible shoots. Bamboo shoots contain various amino acids, trace elements, high protein and low fat. They are both delicious and nutritious, meeting the food and health needs of the people. Bamboos have other multipurpose uses, which are well-known. Bamboos grow fast and shoots can be harvested year after year (3-5 years) after mother bamboos are planted. Bamboo shoots have traditionally been utilized to meet the people's needs in their everyday life. Shoot processing industries in Yunnan are limited. Owing to their good adaptability to various environment, bamboos can be planted, not only in open fields, but also in wastelands, roadsides, along waterways, farmland, and near houses and villages. Bamboos also play an important role in soil and water conservation, regulation of climates and protection of ecological environment for agriculture. On account of their tall and graceful culms, natural branches and leaves, various beautiful shapes, evergreen nature, they remain attractive. Bamboos have high ornamental and aesthetic values. They are planted commonly and used well in classical Chinese gardens.

In Yunnan, the shoot-producing bamboo distribution areas are the following:

a) Tropical area in Southwestern Yunnan;

b) Tropical area of Southeastern Yunnan;

c) Temperate area in Central Yunnan;

d) Temperate area of small-sized and medium-sized scattered shoot-producing bamboos in Northeastern Yunnan, and

e) Cold temperate areas in Northwestern Yunnan. Cultivation of bamboos with edible shoots is limited in Yunnan. Most bamboo forests (90.33%) in Yunnan are the natural ones and plantations are few. It is important to cultivate good-quality, fast-growing and high-yielding edible bamboo species.

After years of hard work by researchers, many high-quality bamboo products have been developed with the support of the Forestry Department of Yunnan Province and Southwest Forest College (SWFC) including top-quality bamboo floor boards, canned bamboo products, bamboo plywood, particle boards, mosaic panels, etc. Many industries have developed and the products are of good quality with great economic value.

Edible shoot-producing bamboos

The results and achievements of scientific research on bamboos should be applied for industrial use by integrating investigations with production by linking technology to improve economic benefits. Based on a systematic study, a checklist of the shoot-producing bamboo species has been made and 10 superior bamboo species have been selected from among some 60 good ones to be cultivated on a large scale. According to their morphological characteristics, they can be divided into three groups: large, medium and small-sized shoot producing bamboos. In the large-sized group, there are Dendrocalamus giganteus, D. hamiltonii, D. latiflorus, D. membranaceus, whose mature culms are usually about 20-30 m tall, and edible shoots weigh 3-5 kg.

In the medium-sized group, there are Dendrocalamus semiscandens, Schizostachyum funghomii, Phyllostachys nigro var. henonis, etc., whose mature culms are 10-20 m tall, edible shoot weights 0.5-2 kg.

In small-sized group Thyrsostachys siamensis, Chimonobambusa yunnanensis, Qiongzhuea tumidinoda, Schizostachyum pingbianensis, have mature culms of 2-8 m tall, and edible shoot with a weight of 0.1-0.5 kg.

Nearly 100 bamboo species are cultivated for shoot-production including Dendrocalamus brandisii, D. semiscandens, D. membranaceus, Cephalostachyum pergracile in the tropical lowland.

Chimonocalamus delicatus, Ch. fimbriatus, Ch. yunnanensis, Schizostachyum funghomii, are the popular species in mountainous areas of Western Yunnan and Southern Yunnan.

Thyrsostachys siamensis, Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis, Dendrocalamus latiflorus, etc. in the Central Yunnan plateau, and Qiongzhuea tumidinoda, Phyllostachys bambusoides, Fargesia spp. are significant in the alpine and subalpine areas in Northeastern and Northwestern Yunnan. The resources of the shoot-producing bamboo species are very abundant in Yunnan, and very few other places have such an abundant number of species in a given locality.

Sweet bamboo shoots are mainly produced by Dendrocalamus asper, D. hamiltonii and D. pachystachyus, most of which grow or are cultivated around villages in Southern Yunnan. Emerging in midsummer, the shoots grow big and fleshy, and taste crisp, fresh, sweet and delicious. The fresh shoots are either cooked directly after harvest or processed into canned food. Owing to their superior quality, many of them are internationally known e.g. Qiongzhuea tumidinoda, an endemic species distributed in the Jinshajiang River valley in Northeastern Yunnan and Southwestern Sichuan. In early spring, bamboo shoots emerge in large numbers, with good colour, tender quality and delicious taste. They are also a favourite of Japanese people. Fragrant bamboo shoots are produced by Chimonocalamus delicatus, Ch. dumosus, Ch. dumosus. var pygmaeus, Ch. fimbriatus, Ch. longiligulatus, Ch. longiusculus, Ch. makianensis, Ch. montanus and Ch. pallens, most of which are naturally distributed in the prefectures of Weshan, Honghe, Lincang, Baoshan and Dehong. The bamboos with fragrant shoots were named differently because of specific aromatics in the internodal cavities. Production of young shoots is from summer to fall. Shisun bamboo shoots are produced by some medium and small-sized endemic bamboos including Fargesia nujiangensis, F. yunnanensis and Yushania levigata. These are naturally distributed in the subalpine areas from Central Yunnan to Western Yunnan. As traditional shoot-producing bamboos, these species are also suitable for cultivation in Central Yunnan including Kunming, establishing large scale plantations.

Producing bamboo shoots in all the four seasons of the year

In the provinces of East China, Phyllostachys pubescens is the major species for shoot production with other small-sized bamboos, including Phyllostachys propinque, P. iridescens, P. dulcis, etc., while in South China, clustered and large-sized Dendrocalamus latiflorus is the major shoot-producing species besides some small-sized species such as Indosasa crassiflora and Acidosasa chinensis. The above two regions have short shoot-producing seasons but with high economic returns. Yunnan has many high-quality shoot-producing species most of which are endemic, and shoots emerge in great numbers during the four seasons of the year.

The major shoot-producing bamboo species in different seasons in Yunnan are as follows:

- Bamboo shoots in winter: Phyllostachys pubescens.

- Bamboo shoots in spring: Phyllostachys pubescens, Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis, Qiongzhuea tumidinoda, Indosasa crassiflora.

- Bamboo shoots in summer: Dendrocalamus brandisii, Dendrocalamus semiscandens, Dendrocalamus membranaceus, Schizostachyum funghomii, Chimonocalamus spp.

- Bamboo shoots in fall: Fargesia yunnanensis, Chimonobambusa yunnanensis.

The large-sized Dendrocalamus giganteus is the major species for summer in Southern Yunnan; small-sized Qiongzhuea tumidinoda and Chimonobambusa yunnanensis are the important ones in spring and fall in Northeastern Yunnan; large-sized and medium-sized Schizostachyum spp. Indosasa spp. are for spring and summer shoots in Southern Yunnan; small-sized Fargesia spp. are the main ones for bamboo shoots in Northwestern Yunnan; and medium-sized and small-sized Fargesia yunnanensis, Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis and Chimonobambusa yunnanensis are the main species for spring and fall shoots in Central Yunnan. All the above species should be well-cultivated to obtain shoots throughout the year. If the bamboo shoots are intensively produced, they will have a ready market due to their specific flavours, high nutrition and delicious taste.

Criteria for selecting bamboo species for shoot-production

It is very important to select the most suitable species from the abundant resources available in Yunnan to establish shoot-producing industries. The criteria for selecting and evaluating bamboo species are as follows:

1. Biological characteristics including the time of shooting, the ratio of producing shoots, the duration of shooting, the rate of shoot growth, the size of shoots and convinient to harvest.

2. Ecological characteristics including good adaptability to their environment.

3. Nutritional characteristics including the kinds and contents of fresh bamboo shoots.

4. Taste characteristics including crispness, taste and suitability for cooking.

5. Yield per unit area.

By means of the above five criteria, ten elite bamboo species were selected for shoot-production and cultivation after being compared with other species in Yunnan, shown in (Table 2).

Table 2. Ten elite bamboo species chosen that yield high-quality edible shoots in Yunnan


Distribution areas

Types of Culms


Dendrocalamus hamiltonii

Dehong, Baoshan, Linchang, Simao, Xishuangbanna

Large-sized, & sympodial-clusters

Including: D. brandisii, D. asper, D. pachytachyus, etc

Qiongzhuea tumidinoda

Zhaotong, Kunming (introduced)

Small-sized & multiaxially-scattered

Shooting in spring

Fargesia yunnanensis

Kunming, Dali, Baoshan

Medium-sized, small-sized & sympodially scattered

Shooting in fall

Chimonocalamus fimbriatus

Dehong, Baoshan, Linchang, Honghem Kunming (introduced)

Medium-sized, small-sized & sympodially-clustered

Including 8 species of this genus, shooting from summer to fall

Dendrocalamus semiscandens

Dehong, Baoshan, Nujiang, Lincang, Simao, Honghe, Xishuangbanna

Large-sized, medium sized & sympodially clustered (natural)

Including: D. pachycladus

D. latiflorus

Kunming, Honghe, Wenshan

Large-sized & Sympodially clustered

Shooting in summer

D. giganteus

Vastly cultivated from Western Yunnan to Southern Yunnan

Large-sized & sympodially-clustered

Suitable for dried bamboo shoots, shoot slices and sour shoot slices

Schizostachyum funghomii


Large-sized, medium-sized & naturally-clustered

Shooting from summer to fall

S. pingbianensis


Small-sized & naturally-clustered

Shooting in spring, summer and fall

Chimonobambusa yunnanensis

Zhaotong, Wenshan, Honghe, Dehong, Baoshan

Small-sized & multiaxial type (natural)

Including 8 species of this genus, shooting in fall

Minerals and nutrients in bamboo shoots

Although bamboo shoots have been used as food for over 2500 years in China, only recently has nutritional quality been evaluated. By means of careful analyses, measurement and tests, it has been shown that 17 amino acids including serine, valine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, lysine, histidine, etc., essential for good health can be obtained from bamboo shoots. There are ten major mineral nutrient elements, six including trace elements Fe, Zn, Mn, Cu, Cu, Co and Ni, essential to humans. There are no harmful elements found in bamboo shoots.

The advantages and characteristics of bamboo shoot food can be briefly summarized as follows: (1) Possess high nutritional value. Some bamboo shoots have high protein content (up to 15.23%) with many amino acids, trace elements and vitamins. (2) Most bamboos grow naturally in mountainous areas where neither chemical fertilizers nor pesticides are applied. Therefore, bamboo shoots provide clean vegetables without pollution. (3) Bamboo shoots have low content of fat (less than 2.4%) and high edible cellulose (about 6%-8%). Bamboo shoots help to reduce or prevent obesity. (4) There are several scores of high-quality shoot-producing bamboo species which can be exploited and utilized profitably on a large scale. Both population survey and genetic improvement of natural populations of these species are required. Since most of the extensive bamboo forests in Yunnan are low-yielding, proper care and management of them are important to increase the production. By doing so, the resources of bamboo shoots will be even more abundant. (5) Bamboo shoots taste crisp and fresh.

Four major types of bamboo shoot products have been developed, (1) dried bamboo shoots which include dried shoots, dried shoot slivers and dried slices of tender bamboo shoots. (2) canned bamboo shoots. (3) fresh bamboo shoots are (always transported fast and sold fresh). (4) bamboo beverages include fresh bamboo shoot juice and bamboo alcoholic drink, with distinctive flavour with good curative effects relieving cough and reducing phlegm.


The above account briefly explains the wide variety of bamboos in Yunnan province where tropical, subtropical, temperate and alpine bamboos grow in different regions. More studies are needed to determine the phytogeographical or endemic status of many genera and species. The potentials for bamboo cultivation and production to bring economic benefits to the local people are great.


Local publications on bamboos in Chinese are many and these were made available while planning the lecture topics for the training course. Particularly fascinating aspect was the cultivation and collection of bamboo shoots, all the year round used as food to meet the needs of rural people, especially that live in higher mountain regions and in far off places. It was thought that the importance of the vast number of species used in Yunnan should be highlighted for the benefit of bamboo researchers both outside Yunnan and China. One of the authors, (ANR) compiled the details and wrote this paper for publication with the cooperation of the other three authors. We are thankful to Mr Yang Yongping and Mr Wang Kang Lin, both from KIB, for their help and assistance in many ways.

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