How to Identify Running Bamboo Plants?

In this article, you’ll find out how to successfully identify the common running bamboo cultivars. 

This group of bamboo is common in the temperate region and includes the Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus bamboos. 
The common bamboos that grow in the UK, US, Canada and Australia are grouped into either clumping or running bamboo plants.
how to identify running bamboo plants UK

How to identify running bamboo?

Comparing running and clumping bamboos can give you a better idea about these two varieties. 

However, it is also best to know their standout features. So, what is running bamboo and how can bamboo growers identify it? 

Generally, a running bamboo has ‘running rhizomes’. The rhizomes are underground stems that grow (or run) along the ground, hence the name running bamboos or runners. 

It is quite challenging to identify the exact type of running bamboo unless you have enough time, botanical knowledge and are curious to find out. 

Also, it can be tricky to identify most of the bamboo cultivars by their appearances.
To help you, here are 5 rhizome facts for beginners to use when selecting a running bamboo or identifying them.

Find out about the advantages and disadvantages of growing running bamboo plants. 

5 distinct parts of a running bamboo

For any beginner bamboo grower, the 5 distinct parts will help you work out if the bamboo is a runner or not. 

Pay particular attention to the area where the culms meet the rhizomes. 
  1. Rhizomes: the running rhizomes are long and thin with long pointy tips.
  2. Rhizome internodes: The underground internodes are hollow and long.
  3. Shoots and tips: The new shoots and rhizome tips grow from dormant rhizome buds on the rhizome nodes, often further away from the parent bamboo.
  4. Base buds: These buds are potential new shoots and rhizomes (in 3) and are spaced further apart unlike the buds in clumping bamboos.
  5. Culms: The culms (also called the stems or canes) are much thicker in diameter than the rhizome from which they grow.

Diagram of the parts of a running bamboo plant

parts of a running bamboo labeled Parts of a Running Bamboo

  Running bamboos have running rhizomes

All in all, the bamboo rhizomes and underground parts are vital for identifying a bamboo as clump-forming or running. 

So, take a closer look at the rhizome of bamboo to work out if it is running bamboo or not.
Read about How to Identify a Clumping Bamboo using a similar 5-point identification strategy. 
As mentioned, look closely at the parts that are underground, especially the areas around the rhizome of the running bamboo. 

This is because it literally gets its name from the habits of its rhizomes – running! 

One way to know the different parts is to use the diagram as a reference point. 
Alternatively, read to this article, it gives a clear comparison of the parts of running vs running bamboo.

Where to buy running bamboos?

We work with some big UK’s home and garden brands. 

Check out the links to go straight to their website where you can find out the bamboo collections and read more about each one.

Identifying runners and clumpers

The Phyllostachys nigra Black Bamboo, though an invasive bamboo, can also behave like clumping bamboo in the cooler temperate area of the UK, US, Canada and Australia. 

Like other running bamboos, the Black Bamboo can spread quickly if left unchecked. 

Here is how and when to provide the right care they may need

Furthermore, such occurrence shows that some of the common bamboo species can be tricky to identify. 

So, pay closer attention to the parts of the bamboo around the joint where the culm meets the rhizome. 

 Phyllostachys nigra running bamboo (It also behaves as clumping bamboo)

Identify bamboo successfully

The 5 facts will help you to identify the running bamboos successfully. 

They are based around the rhizomes and determine the growing habit of these stunning bamboos. 

Knowing the parts and their general behaviours cab be useful when finding out about bamboo that you want to buy or have inherited. 

If you have any questions or cannot find what you are looking for, leave a comment and we will get back to you. 

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