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Germplasm conservation and seed handling - Hui Chao-Mao

Director, Bamboo Institute, SWFC, Kunming, Yunnan, China


China, a country with a long history of bamboo cultivation and utilization, has rich bamboo resources, and stands in the forefront of development of the modern bamboo industry. Owing to its natural geographical environment with rolling mountains, numerous rivers, different elevations, varied topography, various climate types and other regional differences, Yunnan is acknowledged as a special region with abundant bamboo germplasm and high diversity. Yunnan is acknowledged as one of the places of origin and the main distribution centre of bamboos and praised as “the home of bamboo plants of the world”. It is important to develop and utilize the bamboo resources.

Land, soil and climatic conditions provide good habitat for various bamboos of high quality to flourish. In southern Yunnan, Dendrocalamus giganteus and D. sinicus can grow to over 30 cm in diameter and 30 m in height. Both of them are acclaimed as the biggest culm-producing bamboos in the world. D. hamiltonii and D. brandisii are famous shoot and culm producing species of best quality. Chimonocalamus fimbriatus, Fargesia yunnanensis and Schizostachyum pinpianensis, the high-quality shoot-producing bamboo species, are endemic to Yunnan. Qiongzhuea tumidinoda, provides handicraft-making material and some were exported to South Asia as early as Han-Tang Dynasty. Due to Professor Xue Jiru's work and recommendation, it has been listed in the national list for protection. Its shoots are exported abroad every year. Thyrsostachys siamensis, Bambusa vulgaris cv. vitatta, Yushania sp. etc., are famous ornamental plants. Cephalostachyum scandens with red flowers and Melocalamus errectus with big fruits are well known, distributed from southern to western Yunnan. (Hui 1996, 1998; Wei 1983; Xue 1995, 1997; Yang 1998).

On the basis of the natural geographical regionalization the bamboos of the world can be classified into ten types with reference to distribution areas (Table 1).

Yunnan is also rich in bamboo forests, including 189 000 ha of large and medium-sized bamboos, 110 000 ha small-sized bamboos; total green culm stands 1800 X 104t, annual culm output 500 X 104t and annual shoot output 10 X 104t.

D. membranaceus forms the largest natural forest with clustered, large-sized bamboo, chiefly distributed in the lower basin of Lancangjiang River with an area of 70 000 ha; Schizostachyum funghomii and Indosasa sinica in southeastern Yunnan occupy about 10 000 ha. In northwestern Yunnan, there are alpine bamboo of Fargesia and Yushania species.

Table 1. Distribution areas of bamboo species in the world


Types of distribution area




Tropical Asia (India - Malaysia)




Tropical India - southern China (Yunnan)




Vietnam - southern China




Tropical Asia, Africa and South America




Tropical Asia and Africa




Mountain area in subtropical Asia




East Asia




Specific to China




Specific to Yunnan




Centre of Yunnan



Germplasm conservation

There are 155 species which make up 70.5% of the total which are endemic, endangered and rare. “Studies on the Value of Endemic Bamboos and Setting Up Bamboo Garden” a project of SWFC has been completed. Yunnan bamboos are composed of sympodial clumping (15 genera), sympodial running (4 genera), monopodial running (4 genera), mixed (5 genera), climbers (7 genera), and alpine bamboos (4 genera).

The very important species endangered are: Ferrocalamus strictus Hsueh et Keng f.; Cephalostachyum scandens Hsueh et Hui; Gaoligongshania megathyrsa D.Z. Li, Hsueh et N.H. Xia; Gigantochloa felix Keng f.; Dendrocalamus sinicus Chia et J.L. Sun; Ampelocalamus yongpingensis Hsueh et F. Du; Teinostachyum yunnanensis Hsuch and Melocalamus errectus Yi.

In situ conservation: A total of 108 nature reserves have been set up in Yunnan, and five of them are of national importance. Nearly all the bamboos of Yunnan are included in these reserves. Important natural communities have been set aside as conservation areas.

Ex situ conservation: One of the important ex situ conservation methods is to set up bamboo gardens, which are easy to manage and conduct experiments. About ten bamboo gardens have been set up such as Anji Bamboo Garden with support from IDRC, Menglen Garden of Academy Sinica with tropical bamboos, Bamboo Germplasm Garden of SWFC which includes sympodial, monopodial, mixed climbers and alpine bamboos. A bamboo garden will be set up by SWFC in the “'99 International Horticultural Exposition,” in Kunming, China, 1 May 1999 - 31 October 1999. The area of this garden will be 20 ha, were 99 species and 1999 clumps of bamboo will be displayed.

Seed collecting and storage

Bamboo flowering: Before flowering, the bamboo stands or clumps show some abnormal features. Some individuals would flower wither and die, others would flower produce leaves and remain alive. The flowering is not related with the age of the individual.

The fruit of bamboo is caryopsis and seeds can be used as food because of its rich starch contents. When flowering occurs in nature, some would produce seeds. It is not easy to identify the species. Seeds are short-lived.

In 1984-86 Melocanna errectus distributed in Nanggunhe Nature Reserve, flowered and had fruits, as big as walnut, 2-3 cm in diameter. Most of the fruits had fallen on the ground and sprouted. The natural regeneration was studied by the author.

Cephalostachyum scandens is a rare species growing in the Gaoligongshan Mountain. The inflorescence is more than 3 cm in diameter, purplish red colour. Many seeds were collected in 1995, stored at room temperature, cleaned and dried. The seed is a nut of 5 mm in diameter and losses viability in two months. In the natural forest, some germinated and produced seedlings. Dendrocalamus giganteus and D. sinicus flowered many times, only with a few seeds.

Seeds of Phyllostachys pubscens mature during August to October. The method of collecting is to cut down the culm and flowering branch in the morning, thrash out the seeds and dry them in the sun. Seeds can be stored after dressing with insecticide in a shady, cool, dry and airy place. Seeds stored for six months or more remained viable.

The seeds of bamboo contain 18 kinds of amino acids besides starch, fat and protein. The amino acid content is 11.588%, GLU 0.106%, ASP 1.56% and MET 0.223%. Bamboo seeds provide healthy food, so some of them are collected and eaten. The seed of Cephalostachyum scandens is valuable and provide nourishing food, when cooked with pork or chicken. Seeds of Chimonobambusa utilis is as big as peanuts. Seeds of Bambusa bambos resemble wheat, Melocanna baccifera resemble pears and they are edible.


Hui, C.M. and Y.M. Yang. 1998. Timber Bamboos and Industrialized Utilization. Yunnan Science and Technology Publishing House, Kunming.

Hui, C.M., F. Du and Y.M. Yang. 1996. Bamboo Cultivation and Utilization. China Forestry Publishing House, Beijing.

Wei, T.H. 1983. About The origin of bamboos. Journ. Bamb. Res. 2(1).

Xue, J.R., Y.M. Yang and C.M. Hui. 1995. Yunnan Bamboo Resources and their exploitation and utilization. Yunnan Science and Technology Publishing House, Kunming.

Xue, J.R. and Y.M. Yang. 1997. Studies on Bamboo Germplasm Garden Rare Bamboo Species. China Forestry Publishing House, Beijing.

Yang, Y.M. and C.M. Hui. 1998. Bamboo Shoots and Industrial Exploitation. China Forestry Publishing House, Beijing.

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