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What are they?

Bamboos are readily recognized by most people as they provide us with all sorts of wooden products for house and garden. Yet probably far fewer people realize that bamboos are grasses. Bamboos vary in size from around one foot in height, to tropical monsters of over 60 feet!

Where are they found?

Bamboos are found throughout much of the world in the tropics and sparingly north and south into temperate zones. In Cape May, a single native species has been recorded, but the bulk of plants are ornamental species that have spread from gardens or from garden waste which has been dumped in the countryside. As such they may occur in a range of habitats, but most likely along roadsides and field edges, or rough ground in urban or suburban areas.


Bamboos can be tricky to identify, in part because there are many named color forms and varieties, some of which don't key out properly to the species that they belong to. Details of all parts of the leaves and stems should be studied - note there are two types of leaves: foliage leaves, which are the leaves found on side branches (usually high up on tall-growing species) and the culm leaves, which are the leaves that grow directly from the side of new canes. Bamboos flower rarely - when they do, they often die after setting seed - so flowers are not relied on here for identification.

Golden Bamboo      Phyllostachys aurea

Can be seen around Cape May County as a yard plant and known to be spreading along a roadside in Petersburg. Foliage leaves have a short, so-called pseudopetiole at the base as well as a small cluster of whiskers called fimbriae. Unlike the very similar Phyllostachys bambusoides (which may also be present in the county) the fimbriae are missing from the cane (culm) leaves. Very variable, depending on the variety; canes may be green or golden.
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Green cane
Golden cane
Base of cane has
distorted nodes

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Foliage leaf base

Arrow Bamboo      Pseudosasa japonica

Introduced from eastern Asia and a popular garden plant as it forms dense thickets which are useful for screening. Occasionally found on roadsides and in damp woodland, probably mostly as a result of dumped garden waste. Old leaf sheaths turn brown but can remain attached to the cane for several years.
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Leaf petiole
Cane with old
brown leaf sheath