Plant of the Week: black bamboo (phyllostachys nigra)

photo credit: flickr/karumkoh

photo credit: flickr/karumkoh

One of the most popular bamboos in cultivation is phyllostachys nigra, aka black bamboo.

This running bamboo emerges as light green shoots, pretty much indistinguishable from others. However, as it matures, the shoots (also called culms) slowly turn to brown, and eventually jet black. Nigra retains its bright green leaves, creating a contrast that's dramatic and beautiful.

A little background: Nigra, like many other bamboos, originated in China. It is believed to be the first bamboo introduced into Europe, and began appearing in English gardens in about 1827. The cool, moist environment of southern England was perfect for nigra, which can endure temperatures dipping as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other than its color and cold-hardiness, nigra is attractive for its form. When mature, branches naturally arch over. When seen in mass plantings, nigra canopies create a "weeping" type of effect. Its leaf litter make natural mulch, which helps to retain ground moisture while suppressing weeds.

When cut and dried, nigra retains its naturally dark color. Its shoots are also edible and are used in Southeast Asian cuisine.

Want to know more? Get in touch with us — we love talking plants and enjoy having visitors (by appointment) stop by the nursery. Email us at ninthwardnursery@gmail.com or call 504-296-8398.

illustration from The Bamboo Garden, published 1896

illustration from The Bamboo Garden, published 1896

Mark SandersComment