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Bamboo Biology - Runners vs. Clumpers

Bamboo Biology - Article Contents

  1. Taxonomy and Classification
  2. Morphology, Structure, and Anatomy
  3. Bamboo Behaviors
  4. Runners vs. Clumpers
  5. Identification
  6. The Bamboo Flower

The Difference between Running and Clumping Bamboo

The rhizome system of bamboo is divided into two distinct categories: Running/Monopodial (Leptomorph rhizome system), and Clumping/Sympodial (Pachymorph rhizome system).   The type of rhizome system will determine the growth behavior of the bamboo. Clumping bamboos will generally stay in close proximity to the domain plant. Some common genera of clumping bamboos include: Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, and Fargesia. Running bamboos are invasive by nature and have the ability to spread over considerable distances each year. Some species can spread up to 20 feet each year, often requiring growers to implement control methods, such as a rhizome barrier. Some common genera of running bamboos include: Arundinaria, Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus, and Pseudosasa.

Clumping Bamboo

The pachymorph rhizome system, which is found in clumping bamboos, expands horizontally only by short distances each year. The rhizomes are generally short and thick in appearance. They curve upwards in close proximity to the domain plant. At the nodes, new rhizomes or roots can be produced. New culms can only form at the very tip of the rhizome. It is this feature that causes them to curve upwards and exhibit the clumping behavior. An advanced pachymorph system is very compact near the base of the plant, making removal or transplant of the bamboo exceptionally difficult.

Clumping Bamboo Bambusa multiplex
Clumping Bamboo, Bambusa Multiplex.

Running Bamboo

The leptomorph rhizome system is found in running bamboos. In contrast to the pachymorph system, the rhizomes have a tendency to branch away from the domain plant. The rhizomes are generally long and thin in appearance and some species can send the rhizomes up to 20 feet away in a single growing season. At the nodes, they have the ability to produce buds that will form either new culms or rhizomes. Bamboos with a pachymorph rhizome system will be spaced over a wide area. They are invasive by design and it can be extremely difficult to remove a well established plant.

Running Bamboo Grove
Growth Behavior of Running Bamboo, Phyllostachys.