Bambusa textilis

weavers' bamboo


Bambusa textilis

McClure 1940

pronounced: bam-BOO-suh TEKS-till-iss

(Poaceae — the grass family)


common name: weavers' bamboo

Bambusa is a name for bamboo that was the result of an erroneous pronunciation of the Indian word Mambu; textilis is Latin for woven, wrought, textile.

This is a large genus (about 120 species) of clumping bamboos. These giant grasses, easily recognized by their smooth cylindrical stems, range in height from about 4.5 m to 24 m. Here we usually think of bamboo as being used for small ornamental objects and garden furniture; until one visits the far east, it is difficult to appreciate the importance of bamboo as a construction material. It is used in the construction of houses, boats, bridges, fences, and for scaffolding and screening. Some species produce edible bamboo shoots.

Non-suckering, bamboo plants form loose to dense clumps of smooth, strongly erect stems called culms. These are strong yet flexible, and are hollow, except at the nodes, where small branching sprays of narrow leaves appear. Large pale scale-leaves sheath the young stems, but are cast off as the culm matures. The feathery flowerheads appear at irregular intervals, and tend to be inconspicuous. Some species die after flowering. Bamboos are vigorous growers, but tend to be less invasive than many of their relatives, making them suitable for garden use for screening and informal hedging.

Weavers’ Bamboo is a well-behaved and beautiful bamboo. Its new shoots are prettily coloured, and the plant has a tight clump structure, with dark green culms and leaves. New poles are dusted with white powder, tinged blue. This is probably the best splitting bamboo, having long internodes, 2.5 – 4 cm in diameter, with no branches on the lower half of the plant, the foliage being high up. In Asia it is widely used for basket-making. It grows to a height of about 12 m with a circumference of 3 – 4 m if it likes the spot where it is planted; so it requires a large space or careful maintenance. This species has a temperature tolerance down to –12ºC, and so will grow well almost anywhere in Australia.

The type species, Bambusa textilis, is an important economic plant in south-east Asia, producing high quality timber with a wide variety of uses that include splitting for weaving and handicrafts, flute-making and fencing. There are numerous varieties cultivated as well as the one photographed here, the other best-known ones being gracilis, fasca and glabra. Bambusa textilis var. gracilis is a small variety, growing only to 5 or 6 m high, and so will fit into a much smaller space in the garden. The new culms have the white powdery bloom of the type species, and, even though they are small in diameter, they become usable craft wood after 3 to 4 years, even though the timber is not as good as that of the other Weavers’ bamboos. It can be difficult to propagate. Bambusa textilis var. fasca is named for the dark colour of the new culms, as they have little or none of the usual powdery bloom. They do age to much the same colour as the other varieties, becoming more golden in direct sunlight. It forms a slightly more open clump than the others, and grows to about 8 – 10 m high. The timber is very good craftwood and fencing material. Bambusa textilis var. glabra is a Chinese variety prized for its high quality weaving splits. It has even-coloured green culms to about 4 cm in diameter, and grows to a height of about 10 m.


Photographs taken 2011, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 17th October 2018