Bamboo rhizome surprise

I've been growing running bamboo for four years now, which isn't really that long. But since plants are usually quite predictable (much more so than pets or people), you pretty much know what to expect, even with a plant like bamboo.


Except when they do something you didn't expect. Like last evening when I took a division from one of my plants and made a surprising discovery.

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Before the surprising bit, a little setup. A rhizome had escaped its designated area last year, as evidenced by this nice-sized culm coming up 4' (1.2m) away from the grove of Phyllostachys glauca 'Yunzhu' this spring:


Since this was such a nice culm I decided to leave it alone so I could dig it up later in the year... which is now. So last night I started digging, and soon realized there was an old tree root running right along the path that I guessed the rhizome would have followed:


Great. My simple digging project has now been complicated by a thick, woody root, and I'll have to spend lots of extra time and energy getting it out. At least that's what I thought at first. Then I realized that the root was quite rotten and soft. Taking a closer look, I also realized something else:


The rhizome is growing inside the rotten tree root!


Okay, that's really unexpected. I guess the ground was so hard and dry back here that the soft tree root was the path of least resistance, so that's where the rhizome went. Very surprising.

I then noticed that this was a new rhizome, as it doesn't have much in the way of roots on it, so I looked around for any others, and found the "main" rhizome right next to the root (above it in this photo):


Once I understood what was going on underground, I dug the whole thing out pretty easily. It was a little awkward and heavy with the length of rotten root in there, but I wanted to get some more photos before breaking away the soft, pulpy wood.



The rhizome had recently worked its way out of the root and had emerged from the ground, which makes a pretty interesting photo:


I wasn't able to remove this part of the root from the rhizome since it was more solid (less rotten) than the rest, so I cut the last 16" (40 cm) of this rhizome off, and potted up the rest of the plant:


The rhizome was about 8' (2.4m) long, and had to be coiled a few times around the pot. This is going to be a nice plant next year!


The "star" of this post though is the root-following rhizome. What an interesting discovery this evening!

(There are more of these thick rotten roots back here -- I'll have to check all of them to make sure they're not hiding rhizomes now.)

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Gerhard Bock  – (September 27, 2011 at 10:58 AM)  

Wow, I've never seen anything like it! The odds of that happening are probably pretty astronomical :-).

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening!  – (September 27, 2011 at 11:15 AM)  

Gerhard: depends on how many roots and how many rhizomes you have I guess. I wouldn't be too surprised if I found another instance of this in this area.

Jennifer  – (September 27, 2011 at 8:43 PM)  

That's awesome! How far did the rhizome end up traveling via tree root?

Steve Lau  – (September 27, 2011 at 10:41 PM)  

It can't be that uncommon. I've seen a rhizome pierce through an old tree stump, and it makes sense that rhizomes are attracted to where water is available. Whenever I feel a fresh rhizome, it's usually dripping wet with water even if the soil around it is very dry.

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