Variegation: both unexpected and unsurprising

My earliest-shooting tall bamboo (Phyllostachys bissetii) started to leaf out the other day, and something seemed different about some of the leaves. Taking a closer look, one of the culms (canes) was producing leaves that were variegated!

This was a bit of a surprise. Even though I had another bamboo (completely different species and genus) produce one culm with variegated leaves last year, I certainly didn't expect to see it happen again on another plant!


The upper branches of this one bissetii culm had variegated leaves ranging from almost all-white, to stripey:

I have no idea if the variegation will last through the summer, or if it will come back next year.

The Semiarundinaria okuboi variegation came back to some extent this year, although it is muted:

I don't know if this is what the variegation looked like early last year either, as I didn't notice the striping until later in the summer when it was much more pronounced. Perhaps it started mildly like this last year too, which is why I missed it in the spring.

With both of these plants I can only wait and see what happens.

I'm hoping that the variegation is stable, as we can always use another bamboo or two with striped leaves -- even though there are quite a few already. There's Sasaella masamuneana 'Albostriata', with no two leaves the same:

That wonderful creamy color is most prevalent right now (in the spring), but will fade as the summer progresses, resulting in a more green plant. I'll have to monitor some of the more heavily "white" leaves to see how (if?) they change over time.

There's Sasa kurilensis 'Shimofuri', with its uniquely thin striping:

Don't forget what may be the most impressive variegated bamboo in my garden: Hibanobambusa tranquillans 'Shiroshima':

It looks a lot like the 'Albostriata', but with pink tinting on the edges of the culm sheaths and culm blades. Plus it gets at least 5-6' tall in my climate, and the variegation doesn't fade as much as 'Albostriata', so it really stands out in the garden.

Some of the mainly green-leaved bamboos will produce some leaves with thin striping too, like this Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis':

I have a few more variegated bamboos that I didn't remember when taking photos, but even with so many variegated varieties already, I'm excited about the possibility of more. Especially since the bissetii is a medium-sized temperate bamboo -- it should reach at least 20' tall -- and taller bamboos with variegated leaves are quite rare.

Phyllostachys bissetii variegated leaf.

Even if they weren't, I'd still be excited to see this small area of white leaves in an otherwise all-green plant, because it's in my garden!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (May 18, 2011 at 9:40 AM)  

A variegated Bissettii, wouldn't that be something??? Keep us posted on how long it lasts. By the way, the small Spectabilis division I got from you has a couple of tiny stripey leaves as well.

:: Bamboo and More ::

anne  – (May 18, 2011 at 10:39 AM)  

I'm a variegated leaf fan and those photos of all your bamboo variegated leaves are beautiful.

anne  – (May 18, 2011 at 2:46 PM)  

I was thinking that usually it's the other way around - a variegated plant will eventually sprout some all-green foliage (which I cut off to keep it variegated) but finding variegated leaves from a usually green plant? That's a good one.

dv8  – (April 18, 2012 at 8:58 AM)  

I am the editor of a journal called 'The Sport', which is the magazine of the Variegated Plant Group, a specialist sub-group of The British Hardy Plant Society.
I recently came across this article on variegation in bamboos which made interesting reading, and I wondered whether you would be happy for me to reproduce this article in the next issue of our journal? I would, of course, give you due attribution and mention your website.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Ian Warden
'The Sport'

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