Bambusa lako

Timor black bamboo


Bambusa lako

Widjaja 1997

pronounced: bam-BOO-suh LAK-ow

(Poaceae — the grass family)


common name: Timor black bamboo

Bambusa is a name for bamboo that was the result of an erroneous pronunciation of the Indian word Mambu; I have not been able to trace the derivation of lako. The plant was described and separated from the Indonesian Black Bamboo species Gigantochloa atroviolacea by Professor Elizabeth A Widjaja (b.1951); but she had been unable to observe it flowering, and a molecular study in 2000 confirmed that it would be better placed in  Gigantochloa; this will probably soon happen.

This is a large, fast-growing, non-invasive bamboo from Timor, that can reach up to about 20 m tall, with culms up to 8 or 10 cm in diameter. It clumps into a round stand about 2 m in diameter when fully grown. Ideally, it should be planted in full sun, but it will also grow in partial shade. It should not be grown in pots unless pots of more than 1 m wide are provided. In the ground, given the right conditions of warm moist well-drained soil and full sun, it will take about 2 years to grow into an attractive feature. If used as a privacy screen, plants should be sited around 1.5 m apart, and at least 1 m from a fence line.

The culms are initially green, but mature to a shiny black, although there may sometimes be scattered green stripes. The culms grow almost vertically, although they may droop at the top. Initially they are covered with culm sheaths having dark brown hairs. The branches are short, and the leaves long and pendulous, produced in pairs: leaf blades may reach 25 cm in length. They are emerald green in colour, and linear to lanceolate in shape. This species has not yet been observed in flower – some bamboos can take up to 120 years to come into flower.

The bottom couple of metres are usually free of foliage, giving the bamboo a clean and tidy appearance, but this can have some disadvantages if it is desired to use the plants for screening purposes. Its large size also limits its suitability for growing in small gardens. In the earlier growing stages it can be trimmed to height, which will encourage leaf growth and limit the plant’s final height.

New shoots are edible, and the timber is used in musical instrument production and other crafts.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2016
Page last updated 17th October 2018