Phyllostachys elegans

There were many highlights to our botanical trip to the southeast USA earlier this year, including a visit to the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah, Georgia. The institution does indeed have a lot of history (from their web site): “[The Barbour Lathrop Bamboo Collection] is the result of the USDA’s effort to introduce to the public, particularly southern farmers, the many uses of bamboo. The collection began in 1902, when Barbour Lathrop asked Dr. David Fairchild to obtain plants for him in Japan. Organized collecting began in earnest in 1906 by Frank Meyer, a USDA plant explorer, and continued with Dr. F.A. McClure until 1945. With over 150 species, this is the largest collection of bamboo available for public viewing in the United States.”

Phyllostachys elegans, or elegant bamboo, was scientifically named and described by the same Dr. McClure in the Journal of the Arnold Arboretum in 1956. Names and descriptions of plants have to be based on a physical object, i.e., a specimen of some kind (typically a dried plant specimen, but historically an illustration would also have sufficed). This specimen that is used to define the species is designated the type specimen. Reading Dr. McClure’s account (New Species in the Bamboo Genus Phyllostachys and Some Nomenclatural Notes), I noted the type specimen for Phyllostachys elegans was from a plant in the Barbour Lathrop Bamboo Collection, having the identification number 128778–the same as the plant in today’s photograph. In other words, the species Phyllostachys elegans was named and described from this exact plant. From the label: “Phyllostachys elegans. Elegant bamboo. Plant #128778. Max ht. 32ft. Max. dia. 2.25″. Min. Temp. 0F. Collected 1936 by F. A. McClure, Hainan Island. Received 1938, USDA, Savannah, Georgia. Origin: China. Prized as ornamental and for shoots.”

Additional descriptions of this species are available via the Flora of China: Phyllostachys elegans and RBG Kew: Phyllostachys elegans.

Phyllostachys elegans

5 responses to “Phyllostachys elegans”

  1. Ian C

    One photo, so much history.
    Frank Meyer, Meyer lemon and sooooo much more
    David Fairchild, uber plantsman, explorer, inventor……..
    True giants in the field of plant introduction, very active role introducing many hundreds of species both ornamental and agricultural and their subsequent commercial development. Did I mention giants?
    Sorry, saw the bamboo picture and information and it triggered so many different thoughts. Bamboo alone is a major topic.
    I’m okay now.

  2. Mirdza

    The lovely blue sky showing between the slender bamboo took me back to when we temporarily lived in Osaka Japan. Looking out of my kitchen window I could view a large bamboo grove. One evening, when the sun had almost set, the sky was gold. The gold betweem the bamboo looked like a work of art. I could not take my eyes off the gorgeous view until the gold sky faded away.
    Thanks for your website!

  3. Nancy Rose

    Direct-scanned (and therefore more readable) issues of The Journal of the Arnold Arboretum can be found online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library website:
    McClure’s article is here:
    Nancy Rose
    The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

  4. Daniel Mosquin

    Thanks for pointing that out Nancy, I’ve updated the link in the entry. Much appreciated.

  5. Eric Simpson

    Nice photo; like the blue sky showing through the nearly crystaline structure of the bamboo. I live near another garden with a large bamboo collection, the San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Botanical Gardens) in Encinitas, CA. On the purely taxonomical front, whatever happened to the push to split bamboo into its own family?

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