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Bambusa is a genus of clumping bamboo plants native to tropical and subtropical Asia, with one species native to Australia. There are about 37 species total, most of which are giant bamboo. Like other bamboo plants, Bambusa species are grown ornamentally, and also sometimes used as timber and food. Many species are also useful in preventing soil erosion.
There are only three species of bamboo native to Australia, including B. arnhemica. This bamboo grows along riverbanks in the northwest of the Northern Territory, and can reach 26.24 feet (8 meters) in height. Bambusa balcooa is native to India, but is also grown in Vietnam, where it is used as food and timber. B. balcooa can grow to be 80 feet (25 meters) high and has a tendency to proliferate out of control.
B. vulgaris is another Bambusa species with edible shoots. Its stems are a rich yellow, with green stripes and dark green leaves. The shoots remain bright yellow when cooked. B. vulgaris can grow to be 40 feet (12 meters) high and is also widely used as a soil stabilizer. Unlike some Bambusa species, it can tolerate mild frost.
B. longispiculata, sometimes called 40-foot Burma, is native to South Asia. It is cultivated in many areas as an ornamental plant, a soil stabilizer, and material for scaffolding. As its common name suggests, the stems of B. longispiculata can grow to be 40 feet (12 meters). The Indian species B. tulda, reaching 50 feet (15 meters) in height, is considered one of the most useful species of bamboo. It is used is the Indian paper pulping industry.
B. lako, commonly called Timor black bamboo, is native to the Indonesian island of Timor. B. lako is distinctive for the shiny black color of its mature stems. The stems are green when young, and sometimes retain green stripes after they have darkened. Timor black bamboo plants can reach 70 feet (21 meters) in height. They grow quickly during warm months, and can only survive in frost-free climates.
Another Bambusa species with a particularly interesting appearance is B. ventricosa or Buddha bamboo, native to Guangdong province in China. B. ventricosa is valued for its bulbous culms, the portions of the bamboo between joints. This feature gives the plant a more organic, unusual look than bamboo with straight culms. It is used in bonsai as well as in gardens.
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