Botanical name: Bambusa tuldoides
Common name: Bamboo shavings
Family: Gramineae, grass family
Part used in Chinese medicine: stems (culms)
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Clears and transforms phlegm heat, clears heat in Lungs,
clears Stomach heat, alleviates nausea and vomiting
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Phyllostachys nigra; 06/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 2: Phyllostachys nigra; 01/2006; author Rob Cowie; permission under GFDL
Because of the plant’s durability, strength, flexibility and resilience, bamboo is a well-known symbol for longevity in Chinese culture. It endures all kinds of weather and conditions, bends but does not break, and stays green all year, and so stands for adaptability, the secret to a long, happy life.
Bamboo has over 1,000 species and is the fastest growing woody plant in the world, with some species growing up to 4 feet per day. Bambusa tuldoides is a tight clumping bamboo, growing 40+ feet tall and producing calms up to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. It is fast growing but non-invasive as it does not propagate by sending out distant runners.
Phyllostachys nigra is also an acceptable species for use as Zhu Ru. Common known as “black bamboo” it is highly sought for its jet black culms. New shoots emerge green and gradually turn black over 2-3 years. Under ideal conditions, black bamboo grows to nearly the same size as Bambusa tuldoides, but spreads by runners, making it highly invasive if not contained adequately.
Growing and Propagation
Requiring moderate to full sun, these bamboos grow best with at least 5 hours of direct sun per day. They need adequate water while becoming established, but are fairly drought tolerant when mature. Frost resistant to 10 degrees F, they are hardy in USDA zones 8-11. The plants do best in moderately acid, loamy soil and being a forest plant and accustomed to decomposing leaves on the ground, it likes 2 or more inches of mulch.
Bamboo is easy to propagate by division in the spring. In mild climates this may be done any time of year, but in cooler regions plants should be given time to become established before their first winter. If planted late in the year, they should be protected with a heavy layer of mulch.
It is also recommended to root prune plants annually, especially runner types, to control their spread. A barrier can also be used for rhizome control, using 60 mil HDPE (high density polyethylene) 30 inches deep. Bamboo rhizomes will generally stay in the top several inches of soil, however if they encounter a barrier, they will sometimes grow down quite deep in order to spread, and may “jump” the barrier. Probably the most successful way to control the spread of bamboo is to surround the plant with a shallow trench 8-10 inches deep. In this situation, it is easy to check in the late summer and autumn to see if any rhizomes have crossed the trench and if so, they can be cut off.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, newly harvested bamboo is considered superior quality as it has a softer, finer texture. Zhu Ru is finely shaved bamboo and should be yellow green in color, without old, woody textured pieces.