It's been mild: bamboo damage comparison

I've said again and again how mild it's been this winter, which is perfectly fine by me. It's perfectly fine by most of my plants too, and today I'll illustrate just what that means by comparing the state of my bamboos this year to their state at the same time last year.

Last year when I did the bamboo damage survey in mid-January I said that you'd probably only appreciate it if you were a bamboo grower. This year, I think everybody can appreciate the photographic evidence of an unusual winter.


I'm starting with one of the bamboos that last year looked pretty good: Indocalamus longiauritus. Above is what it looks like this year. Last year:

Not too bad. Bigger differences will start showing themselves in the next several photos though:

Sasaella masamuneana 'Albostriata' this year:

and last year:

That's a pretty big difference. Yes, the plant is fuller this year, but there is almost zero leaf damage! Last year there was a lot of leaf "burn" -- those grayish-green areas on the leaves that look dried out. There's still some of the cream-colored variegation remaining this year, which is amazing.

Not as amazing as this one though:

That's Pleioblastus fortunei this year. Here it is last year:

This is a groundcover bamboo that will probably get mowed down even if the leaves look pretty good (at least that's what I'm thinking now) so it doesn't really matter what happens to the leaves, but it's still amazing to see them alive and holding their color so well near the end of January.

Another incredible example:

Pleioblastus viridistriatus is still holding green leaves this year, while last year:

Completely top-killed. Again this is one that I'll mow to the ground most likely, but still -- it's green!

Now, instead of repeating the same phrase over and over and saying how amazed I am until the end of this post, I'm going to just post the photos with some captions. Ready?

Sasaella bitchuensis now. The dead leaves at the bottom are
 from being driven over -- it's certainly not cold damage.
Sasaella bitchuensis last year. Like the sasa, not too bad.

Phyllostachys bissetii this year -- pristine.
Bissetii last year had some burned leaves, but not many.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis'
looks fantastic this year.
Not a burned leaf in sight (although some mite damage if you look closely)
Ph. aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis' last year -- several
burned and curly leaves.

Semiarundinaria okuboi this year... see more than a couple bad leaves?
S. okuboi last year was mostly burned leaves.

Phyllostachys glauca 'Yunzhu' looks amazing this year.
Ph. glauca 'Yunzhu' last year was really fried (but leafed back out)

Phyllostachys atrovaginata looking quite nice

Last year it looked a bit burned in January, then a month later all of the leaves died.

And now I'll include a couple bamboos that last year I couldn't photograph because they were either covered by plastic or inside my greenhouse:

Phyllostachys nigra -- you might be able to spot a burned leaf
if you spend some time. It's in fantastic condition so far!

Pseudosasa japonica, or "Arrow bamboo'. I have so many of
these potted, I decided to leave this one exposed.

So there you have some evidence of the mildness of our winter so far. It's true that last winter may have been a little more harsh than is typical, but the bamboo doesn't lie...

It's also really getting excited about spring, as am I.

The one big worry that I have is that the mild winter will continue, we'll have a very warm early spring to get many of these bamboos awakened and shooting earlier than normal, then we'll get a late hard freeze to kill all of the shoots (and probably many of the perennials too).

We'll see though. For now I'm just enjoying the unseasonal but reasonable weather.


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Steve Lau  – (January 26, 2012 at 6:36 AM)  

Wow, it looks like you're getting nowhere close to 0F this winter. It dropped to the low single digits once and it caused a bit of leaf burn on my test culms on each species and may have caused wide spread leaf burn on nigra, but I'm not testing out it's hardiness here given it still hasn't fully established in the ground yet.

The only concern I see is that when there are a large # of culms getting very thick, I'm not sure if that can reduce the # of new shoots that emerge, but I would imagine all the groves should see an upsize.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (January 26, 2012 at 10:46 AM)  

Wow. Climate change at work? By when are you usually out of the woods, as far as sub-zero temps are concerned?

M  – (January 26, 2012 at 5:45 PM)  

1st snowfall of the year was Jan. 21st and I still have plants flowering and putting out seed. Which tells me that there are also pollinators surviving this mild winter.

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