Dendrocalamus giganteus

Dendrocalamus giganteus Munro

Upper section of culm-leaf
of Dendrocalamus giganteus,
line drawing
from Flora of China.

  • Synonyms: Sinocalamus giganteus (Munro) A. Camus.
  • Thai names: ไผ่เป๊าะ (phai po) (Northern); ไผ่โปก (phai pok) (Chiang Mai); ไผ่หวาน (phai wan) (Chiang Mai); ว่ากวา (wa-kwa) (Karen: Mae Hong Son); ; Ref.: — ไผ่ยักษ์ (phai yak), ไผ่พม่า (phai phama), ไผ่ปักกิ่ง (phai pak king), ไผ่ยักษ์ปักกิ่ง (phai yak pak king). Chinese scientific name: 龙竹 (lóng zhú, dragon bamboo); Chinese common names: 苦龙竹 (kǔ lóng zhú, bitter dragon bamboo), 大苦竹 (dà kǔ zhú, big bitter bamboo).
  • English name: Giant Bamboo.
  • Distribution: THAILAND: northern and western borderland to Myanmar, native, in mixed deciduous forest and dry evergreen forest, cultivated in Chiang Mai Province; MYANMAR, native. INDIA: North-East, native; BHUTAN; CHINA: Yunnan, records might concern D. giganteus and a different species. — Map 23 in Bamboo Biodiversity, INBAR, 2003.
  • Culm size: Height 25–30 m, diameter 15–30 cm. A cut, 105 ft (32 m) long culm was reported from northern India (BP-YG).
  • Descriptions:
    (1) "The tallest of bamboos with close culms and slender branches. Culms 24-30 m tall, 20-30 cm diameter, usually 2-2.5 cm thick-walled, dull green, covered with white waxy crust when young; internodes 35-40 cm long, lower nodes with root scars. Culm-sheaths 30-50 cm long and broad, falling early, hard, smooth, shining within, dull yellow and covered with dark-brown hairs on the back; ligule 8-13 mm high, stiff, dark, serrate; auricles prominent, brown, crisped; blade 13-38 cm long and up to 9 cm broad, spreading at right angles, stiff, acuminate, edges inflexed. Young shoots cone shaped, pinkish brown, glabrous, glaucous green on maturity; auricles very small or absent; blades sharply pointed, generally reflexed. Leaves variable in size, in main culm up to 50 cm long and 10 cm broad, oblique, oblong, acuminate, smooth above, hairy beneath; petiole 3-5 mm long; ligule 2-3 mm high, serrulate; auricle small, glabrous. ..." — Bamboos of India, 1998: 105.
    (2) "Culms 20–30 m, 20–30 cm in diam.; internodes 30–45 cm; wall 1–3 cm thick. Branches several. Culm sheaths deciduous, initially purple, thickly leathery, brown hairy; margins broadly rounded; auricles reflexed, wavy; oral setae absent; ligule 6–12 mm, serrulate; blade reflexed, ovate-lanceolate, 13–38 cm. Leaf sheaths glabrous; ligule 1–3 mm, serrulate; blade usually oblong-lanceolate, to 45 × 10 cm. ..." — Flora of China.
    (3) "Densely tufted, sympodial, giant bamboo. Culm erect with arching tip, up to 30 m tall, 18–25 cm in diameter near the base, wall up to 2.5 cm thick, covered with a white waxy layer when young, becoming smooth, whitish to greyish-green; internodes 25–55 cm long, lowermost shortest; nodes not swollen, lower ones bearing aerial roots. Branches arising from midculm nodes, comprising one dominant branch and several smaller branches. Culm sheath caducous, 25–50 cm × 25–50 cm, widest at lower internodes, with dark brown hairs on the back; blade spreading, broadly triangular (on lower sheaths) to narrowly triangular, 13–38 cm × 9 cm, stiff, edges inflexed towards stiff acuminate apex, with scattered hairs adaxially, especially near the base; ligule 8–12 mm long, stiff, shortly fringed; auricles crisp, 1.5 cm × 3 mm, brown, not bristly. Young shoots purplish. Leaf blade oblique-oblong, 20–40 cm × 3–7 cm, glabrous, slightly rough, with distinct cross veins; ligule 2–3 mm long, irregularly toothed; auricles small and glabrous. … [flowers and seeds described]." — E. A. Widjaja in S. Dransfield & E. A. Widjaja (editors), Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 7, Bamboos, 1995: p. 85-87, fig. [#1226].
    (4) "Culm sheaths dark purplish green, with dark brown hairs all over; blade broadly lanceolate, spreading to reflexed; auricles fleshy crisped lobes 1.5–5 mm high, glabrous on margin; ligule a subentire rim 3–7 mm high. Culms to 30 m tall, commonly 18–30 cm diameter; internodes 40–50 cm long, dark green, copiously white waxy, the lower ones at first with scattered short pale brown hairs but rapidly becoming glabrous, with a narrow band of silvery brown felty hairs below and above each node; lower nodes developing conspicuous verticils of roots. Leaf: blades 20–45 cm long, 3–9 cm wide, glabrous; stalk 5–10 mm long; auricles inconspicuous lines or ridges, glabrous; ligule a subentire rim 2–5 mm high; the lower side of the sheath often developing a thin scale-like callus 2–3 mm long near the top. … [flowers described]." — K. M. Wong, Bamboos of Peninsular Malaysia, 1995: p. 111-112, fig. 54-55 [#1210].
    (5) J. S. Gamble, Bambuseae Brit. India, 1896, p. 87 [#1230]. (6) Munro, Trans. Linn. Soc. London, 26, 1868, p. 150. (7) Flora of Taiwan [#1106]. (8) Kew GrassBase. (9) PROTA, Wageningen Univ., accessed 27 Oct. 2017 [#1243].
  • Images: Line drawing in Gamble, 1896, pl. 76 [#1230]; Flora of China; Flora of Taiwan [#1106]; PROTA. Photos in AsianFlora (culms); Bamboos of India (habit, culms); K. M. Wong, 1995: fig. 54-55 (shoot apex, culms) [#1210]; K. M. Wong, Bamboo - The Amazing Grass, 2004: fig. 60 (shoot apex, culm sheath) [#1048]; photos (D. giganteus from Nan, northern Thailand) by Niramit Sareerudt in facebook, 26 Jan. 2014.
  • Videos: "Giant Bamboo Biggest in Thailand 1" by Nanbamboo Thailand, 20 Dec. 2013. "Dendrocalamus Giganteus Time Lapse 2012" by Robert Saporito, 11 July 2012.
  • Further references:
  • Characters: Distinguishing vegetative characters of three giant species of genus Dendrocalamus.
  • Uses: Shoots for food, culms for construction.
  • Culm harvest: Thinning and harvesting culms of thick old clumps of any giant bamboo is an extraordinary challenge. A detailed report on how this can be done, and was done with a clump of D. giganteus, was published by Vimal Dhiman: "Harvesting Giant Bamboo", in Yahoo Group "bamboo-plantations", in August 2012.
  • Comments: (1) Flowers and seeds known. (2) Populations of ไผ่ยักษ์น่าน (phai yak nan) have also been recorded from Nan Province, northern Thailand, occurring native (Photos by Niramit Sareerudt in Facebook, 2013). Characters of these plants seem to show some minor differences: Culm sheaths seem to be glabrous or nearly so, culm sheath blades erect or recurved (reflexed), young shoots pinkish with rather dark culm sheath blades and auricles.

Dendrocalamus giganteus (BS-0338):
Culm-leaf ligule and auricle in a young shoot

  • Specimens: BS-0338 [R07] (living plant), Kanchanaburi, western Thailand, cult., received 28 Nov. 2009.
  • Characters: Habit tight caespitose. Rhizome pachymorph, short. Culms straight, erect, occasionally ascending or slanting from base up. Young shoots reddish (orange to purplish), densely short dark hairy; culm-leaf blades spreading, dark purplish; emerge April/May – September. Culm-internodes terete, 27–38 cm long on lower culm, 40–51 cm on mid-culm, dull green to grayish-green, smooth, thinly or copiously covered with a white mealy-waxy deposit when young, moderately thick-walled (wall usually 2–2.5 (3) cm by 20–30 cm in diameter). Culm-nodes glabrous, smooth, flat, usually not farinose; sheath scar marginally protruding, 0–2 mm; supranodal line obscure or discernible, not ridged, about 10 mm above nodal line; below and above sheath scar with a narrow, 0.6–1 cm high mid-brown hairy ring, furry and dense below, felty and less dense above (the hairs may be whitish if the culm is copiously covered with a white mealy-waxy deposit); buds solitary, from basal node up, broader than tall, 3.0 × 1.7 cm; aerial roots commonly present on 1–5 lowermost nodes (up to 1 m from ground). Branches many at a node from mid-culm up, usually unbranching on lower culm, 1 branch dominant; branching intravaginal; rebranching. Culm-leaves early deciduous. Culm-leaf sheaths very large, about 50 cm wide at base, 50 cm long, 2/3 as long as internode length on lower culm, shorter than 2/3 but longer than 1/2 on mid-culm, thickly coriaceous, orange to purplish when young, dull yellow to light straw-colored when dry, thinly covered throughout with dark-brown stiff hairs, except for glabrous or nearly glabrous narrow strips along margins, bottom and top; margins dark purplish when young, usually eciliate, or with some early caducous short pale bristles; apex rounded, the middle part usually concave depressed. Culm-leaf auricles low, waved and slightly outward bent glabrous stiff rims, each extending from the basal edge of blade towards but not reaching the margin of sheath, blackish when young; bristles none. Culm-leaf ligule stiff, black when young, 0.6–1.2 (1.5) cm high, irregularly short fringed or subentire. Culm-leaf blades coriaceous, usually caducous, reflexed and triangular on lower culm, purplish green to deep purplish when young; apex sharply pointed; margins waved and strongly convolute towards blade apex on basal and lower culm. Foliage-leaves (5) 7–11 (15) per branchlet. Foliage-leaf sheaths keeled, mid-green to light green, glabrous; apex orange to reddish when young, edge of apex strongly raised (4–6 mm); margins eciliate. Foliage-leaf auricles inconspicuous very low rims, less than 0.5 mm high; bristles none. Foliage-leaf ligule 2–3 mm high, reddish when young, reddish-brown with age, concave rounded, subentire; outer ligule present. Foliage-leaf blades firm, lanceolate, mid-green to dark green, glabrous on both surfaces, (15) 25–45 (50) × (3) 5–8 (10) cm; base blunt-rounded to rounded to wedge-shaped, occasionally slightly asymmectrical; apex attenuate; margins antrorsely scabrous; midrib proximally prominent on both surfaces, light green beneath; side veins to about 13 pairs, not tessellate; petiole 3–7 mm long. Flowers and seeds unknown.

Dendrocalamus giganteus (BS-0202):
Young leafy branch, showing long, dark purple
foliage-leaf ligules with concave margin

  • Specimens: BS-0597 [BBG] (living plant), Thailand, without precise locality, possibly from Kanchanaburi, cult., received 1 Dec. 2010; BS-0597-1 [BBG] (living plant), Kanchanaburi, cult., received 21 Mar. 2011.
  • Characters: There are no significant differences to BS-0338. Perhaps, during a certain early stage of development, when the sheaths are no longer covering the elongated internodes completely, the sheaths turn into a striking bright reddish color.
  • Specimens: BS-0789 [R07] (living plant), Thailand, without precise locality, cult., received 6 Dec. 2013.
  • Characters: Culm-internodes copiously covered with a white mealy-waxy deposit when young.
  • Specimens: BS-0202 [†] (living plant, died), received as ไผ่ตงหวานปักกิ่ง (phai tong wan pak king) from a nursery in Lampang, 9 Dec. 2008, died 2011.
  • Characters (plant immature): Habit tight clump. Rhizome pachymorph, short. Culms erect. Culm internodes farinose, bluish-green, glabrous, thin-walled or moderately thick-walled (6th internode 118 cm above ground with wall 1.5 mm thick by 1.0 cm culm diameter). Culm nodes slightly prominent. Branches several, central dominant. Foliage leaves: Foliage leaf sheaths light green with orange tint, glabrous, upper sheath margins purplish; foliage leaf auricles and oral seatae none; foliage leaf ligule long, dark purple, concave, entire; foliage leaf blades medium-sized or large, usually 25 cm long and 5.0 cm wide, mid-green, glabrous on both surfaces.
  • Comments: There are no significant differences to BS-0338.
  • Specimens: BS-0028 [C5] (living plant), northern Thailand, without precise locality, coll. by C. S., #3097, received as "Dendrocalamus giganteus", 28 July 2011.
  • Characters: Habit very tall and caespitose. Rhizome pachymorph. Culms erect, potential length unknown, possible over 20 m. Young shoots reddish, with dark hairs, with blades dark green to purplish-black and erect to slightly patent, emerging from April/May. Culm-internodes glabrous, slightly farinose, bluish-green when young, green when mature, diameter over 10 cm, moderately thick-walled. Culm-nodes not prominent, with a narrow white ring below and above sheath scar, the white ring below sheath scar with a layer of brown velvety hairs when young, lower nodes usually with short aerial roots. Branches few, dominant branch with two subdominant side branches present, unbranching on lower culm. Culm-leaves early loosing, but reflexed 180° and attached to the culm in the middle of sheath base for long a time. Culm-leaf sheaths large, almost as long as internode on lower and mid-culm, thickly papery or coriaceous, abaxially scattered with short reddish-brown to dark brown stiff hairs, margins entire and eciliate on upper section, dark brown ciliolate on lower section when young, apex rounded, middle part of apex slightly depressed. Culm-leaf auricles a crispy, firm, low rim, bent outwards, blackish when young, about 3 mm high, extending towards the ends to an almost oval-shaped lobe of double height, with several waved bristles about 5 mm long. Culm-leaf ligule low, entire to dentate. Culm-leaf blades deflexed, triangular on lower and mid-culm. Foliage-leaves about 10 per branchlet. Foliage-leaf sheaths glabrous. Foliage-leaf auricles none or inconspicuous, without bristles. Foliage-leaf ligule conspicuous, entire, orange when young. Foliage-leaf blades [not yet observed]; base unequally rounded to wedge-shaped.
  • Comments: This bamboo was provisionally determined as Dendrocalamus giganteus. Characters are somewhat intermediate between D. giganteus and D. copelandii. Exceptional are the rim-like auricles which extend into bristly lobes, which are neither seen in D. giganteus nor in D. copelandii.


Dendrocalamus giganteus (?) (BS-0028): Young shoot (left), apex of culm-leaf sheath in a young shoot, showing rim-like auricles extending into bristly lobes (right)

    Dendrocalamus giganteus (?) (BS-0928):
    Culm-leaf, abaxial view (upper half)

  • Specimens: BS-0928 (herbarium material), ต. สบโขง อ. อมก๋อย เชียงใหม่, Sop Khong Subdistrict, Omkoi District, Chiang Mai Prov., northern Thailand, at about 1,000 m altitude, coll. by ธ. บ., s.n., Feb. 2018, received as "ไผ่วะโซ๊ะ (phai waso), Dendrocalamus sp.", 23 Feb. 2018.
  • Characters: Habit tight caespitose, giant. Rhizome pachymorph. Culm-leaves deciduous. Culm-leaf sheaths 50 cm wide at base, 38–41 cm long, rigid, dark straw-colored when dry, covered with brown appressed hairs; apex broadly rounded, with slightly depressed, 11–18 cm wide middle part, and with its center slightly convex raised. Culm-leaf auricles waved, outwards tilted low rims, extending from blade base (rim 10–15 mm high) to sheath margin by decreasing height (to about 2 mm), glabrous and without bristles (when dry, fresh not seen). Culm-leaf ligule 1–4 mm high, entire. Culm-leaf blades leathery, persistent, erect, triangular, base 9–12 cm wide by 6–7 cm tall on lower culm, about 14 cm tall on mid-culm, and about 25 cm tall on upper culm, dark straw-colored when dry, adaxially densely hairy on middle part near base; apex attenuate. Foliage-leaf sheaths glabrous, towards apex dark purple when young; margins short pale ciliate. Foliage-leaf auricles an inconspicuous, very low (less than 0.5 mm high) entire glabrous rim, dark purple when young. Foliage-leaf ligule 2–3 mm high, entire, glabrous, concave, dark purple when young. Foliage-leaf blades lanceolate, to 41 × 8 cm, glabrous on both surfaces, mid-green above, bluish-green beneath; base rounded to wedge-shaped; margins antrorsely scabrous; midrib proximally prominent beneath, light green; petiole 5 mm long.
  • Flowering and seeding: Flowering in Feb. 2018, seeds were not found.
  • Comments: It is a species of Dendrocalamus, but the assignment as Dendrocalamus giganteus is questionable.
  • Specimens: BS-0649 [BBG,SSG], BS-0649-1 [-], BS-0649-2 [-], BS-0827 [-] (living plants), raised from seeds received as "Dendrocalamus giganteus" from FMXG, Yunnan, China, 2011–2015.
  • Characters of BS-0649 (young seedlings): Culm-nodes with a white short-hairy ring below (and above?) nodal line; culm-leaf sheath scattered with pale hairs, sheath margins long pale ciliate; culm-leaf ligule high, fringed, the fringes terminating in slender pale bristles.
  • Characters of BS-0649-2 (young seedlings): Culm-internodes, culm-leaf sheaths, and foliage leaf sheaths densely covered with soft, rather long pale hairs; the edge of sheath apex in foliage-leaves not raised, ligule short.
  • Flowering and seeding: Compilation of Bamboo Seeds: BS-0649 etc.
  • Comments: (1) The plants are species of genus Dendrocalamus, but species identification as D. giganteus is possibly wrong. Two year old seedlings show characters quite different from plants identified as Dendrocalamus giganteus from Thai locations, e.g. from Nan. — (2) A big mature clump, said to be Dendrocalamus giganteus from China, which looks quite different from Thai D. giganteus, is cultivated in Nan (Post and photo by Thoop Nakasen, Nanbamboo น่านแบมบู, in facebook, 1 Dec. 2017).