The Milkweed Diaries

Sunday, December 9, 2007


After a delightful visit Friday to Haiku Bamboo Nursery, today we're planting Buddah Belly Bamboo (the photo at left is our first bamboo baby planted today). This kind of bamboo, the first of 3 or 4 varieties we'll plant this winter, grows 15 or 20 feet high and is also known as "fishing pole bamboo." Apparently it does make great fishing poles and it's also good for making all kinds of pretty crafty things. I love the beautiful "rolls" of buddah fat on the stalk.

The bamboo forest at the Haiku nursery was a lovely place to walk -- quiet, open, and green, even in December. We're excited to get some bamboo growing -- with rhizome barriers to prevent it from growing TOO much. Besides providing green privacy, we hope the bamboo we're planting will create a creekside microclimate that will help with flood prevention and offer animal forage and habitat similar to the areas that used to be thick with river cane in this valley.

River cane, the only kind of bamboo native to the US, once grew in floodways and near rivers and creeks all over western NC. Some sources say there were 5 million acres of river cane (native bamboo) in the Southeastern US before Europeans arrived. Almost all of the native river cane has been cleared in the years since European settlement. We're lucky to have a stand of native cane growing on our property down between the pond and the river, and we're letting it spread and grow and mature, providing habitat and flood protection in the riparian zone. The Cherokee people and their predecessors used this native bamboo for all kinds of things (including baskets and blowguns), and recently the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians embarked on an exciting collaborative river cane restoration project with WCU.

But back to these other bamboos we're planting: just like river cane, these bamboos are beautiful, strong, and incredibly useful. You can build with bamboo, eat the shoots (of some varieties), and use it for all kinds of things. And of course it grows very fast, so is a great renewable resource. Here is the site for the American Bamboo Society and the International Network for Bamboo, obviously made up of serious bamboo diehards who know a lot more than we do about bamboo. And here's some more information about bamboo nutrition and uses from another bamboo-promoting government organization in India--I thought it was quite interesting.

This week we'll order some timber bamboo and some other tall varieties from our new friends at Haiku and we hope to have them all in the ground before Solstice.

Over and out!

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