Guide to bamboos in western cultivation
See also: Quick identification by photos Vegetative Key to Cultivated Genera
For cultivated bamboo of Europe, N America, and many other temperate or subtropical parts of the world, the species are slowly being studied to produce an online guide. In an ideal world, such work would be funded, and would soon have accurate reliable names, better descriptions that are verified from cultivated plants, and detailed illustrations (close-up photos) of the most important parts of the plant for identification by botanical detail.
But this is not an ideal world. Even if not completed, these descriptions will hopefully serve to demonstrate how to identify bamboo genera and their species from morphological characters, and they may one day eventually be expanded to represent a reasonable proportion of the bamboos in cultivation. There are considerable constraints here, not least the poor state of the fundamental taxonomy and knowledge of the species in their natural habitats, but sadly also a total lack of any interest or commitment from botanical institutions in the UK.
The descriptions were initially being developed for the grasses in the Flora of N America account, and for the Grass Manual on the Web, with help from Mary Barkworth and Lynn Clark, organized by Utah State University. An abridged version, giving only those species naturalised in the US, was published in FNA Vol 24 (10 species from Arundinaria, Bambusa, Phyllostachys and Pseudosasa). That is online in the Grass Manual on the Web, although the bamboos are rather hard to find among the other grasses. Unfortunately the Utah State University project stalled because of a lack of funding on that side of the pond as well, which is basically why this website was started, to make use of the descriptions prepared.
A small grant was received in 2009 through the generosity of the Stanley Smith (UK) Horticultural Trust to create this website as a service to horticulturalists, and it was hoped that further support would be found to continue to expand, verify, and improve the taxonomy, descriptions and illustrations.
Meanwhile, there are other similar websites with a wider coverage, but less detail, notably Fred Vaupel’s excellent German-language website, and of course several well-illustrated books written from a horticulture/nursery perspective.
Also see the ABS Species List, a list of all cultivated bamboos in the US, listed in a serial publication under their currently used, official, ABS-approved names on the ABS website, or as an expanded online list of these and others, more recently introduced, which have not had their identities, names, and characteristics checked, on the bamboowebweb.info website.