What is Black Bamboo?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Exotic black bamboo is among the most famous flora of china. Scientifically known as Phyllostachys nigra, these bamboo plants are both ornamental and medicinal plants. Like the popular types of bamboo plants people enjoy growing in their homes, black bamboo begins as a green plant; it does not turn black until after two years of development.

Exotic black bamboo is one of the most famous plants in China.
Exotic black bamboo is one of the most famous plants in China.

Black bamboo is identifiable by its sleek ebony culms, or stems. As the young green saplings are exposed to sunlight, they gradually turn black in color. The plants can grow up to 30 feet (9 meters) in height and 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter. Though the culms are black, the trees' vibrant, evergreen leaves stand out in contrast against the plants.

Hardy in cold climates, black bamboo can survive in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius). Lower temperatures can kill the trees. Though bamboo can grow in some cool climates, it cannot reach its full growth potential without warmth. Strong winds can damage the plants, as can hot, dry climates. Rain and snow can cause the bamboo to lean at awkward angles.

During the summer months, bamboo requires frequent watering. Like other bamboo plants, a single culm can be expected to grow an entire colony of bamboo shoots. In typical groves of bamboo, a single plant can be expected to live up to ten years. During its lifespan, it will self-propagate other bamboo plants, leaving many behind following its death. Fledgling culms, however, are considered very fragile, and should be handled carefully.

Ideal growing conditions for black bamboo include thick layers of topsoil. Homemade compost works well for this purpose, though purchased fertilizer can be used as well. Many growers opt to use mulch or manure around their bamboo to provide it with rich nutrients and protection.

Since the color black occurs rarely in nature, the shrubs can be very popular. Many gardeners prefer black bamboo plants because they present a stark contrast against other plants and ornaments in their garden. Some prefer to grow the plants to delineate space or create natural privacy screens. The dark bamboo can add elements of mystery, depth, and height in a garden as well.

Many different projects utilize black bamboo as building material. Glossy black furniture can be made from the plant. Partitions, fencing, and other home materials are sometimes created from the wood. Artful handles for objects such as swords or daggers may be created from this sturdy material as well.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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