Southeastern Bamboo

As a bamboo lover I can’t imagine a better place to live than the southeastern U.S. As we travel around the southeast I am always on the lookout for bamboo. We are familiar with most all the southeastern states and I find bamboo all over. Of course some areas seem to have much more than others but in general, one can find bamboo throughout the southeast. Here in north Alabama we seem particularly blessed. There are literally dozens of groves within a few miles of my home. Across the road is a large grove of Yellow Groove bamboo (P.aureosulcata). Next door is a beautiful grove of Red Margin (P.rubromarginata). Just up the road is a huge grove of Slender Crookstem bamboo (P.b.Slender Crookstem) and next to that is a yard covered with Arrow  Bamboo(P.japonica) and Golden bamboo (P.aurea). In the other direction there is a nice grove of Temple Bamboo (Semiarundinaria fastuosa) just a few blocks from a mature grove of Japanese Timber Bamboo (P.bambusoides). These are all within 1/4 mile of our home. I’m not sure why there are so many plantings of bamboo in this area but it is the same all around Birmingham and throughout most of Alabama. The locations below are some of the more spectacular bamboo sites we’ve come across in our travels. There are probably many groves near you if you live in the southeast, maybe you’ve just never noticed. The best time to look for bamboo is winter time when it is one of the few green plants around. Be on the lookout!

Biltmore Estate, Asheville NC
This is one of my favorites sites to see bamboo. The home is beautiful and impressive but the grounds and gardens are what we really love. There are probably 15 to 20 different species of bamboo, including a few rare ones. Just to get an idea you can drive about a 1/4 mile into the estate before having to purchase a ticket. On the right is a large grove of P.n.’Tosaensis’ followed by an impressive grove of P.n.’Bory’. On the left is an extremely dense grove of bamboo that I have not identified but may be P. bissetii. If you go on up to the ticket office you can see Indocalamus tessalatus in the parking lot along with a couple of other groundcovers. Along this drive are S.palmata, S.vetchii, and P.japonica. Be sure to look across the small river to the huge grove of bamboo on the other side. Just beautiful. Buy a ticket and tour the estate and see many more including a dense screen of Arrow bamboo along the river. Keep an eye out for the large grove of Ruscus bamboo (S.kumasaca) on the way out. Well worth the price of admission.

Carl Sandburg Home, Flatrock NC – Bamboo grove
Heading south from Ashville it’s not far to Flatrock. Keep a lookout for signs pointing to Carl Sandburg’s home. The fist time we stopped here it was raining, we were in a hurry, and we took a tour of the home without seeing the grounds. The home and land is beautiful with long walking trails. The inside of the house is just the way it was when Sandburg died and is highly recommended.
The next time we passed thru we decided to stop again and visit at a more leisurely pace. Walking up to the home I was amazed to find a huge grove of Yellow Groove Bamboo (P. aureosulcata) in the front yard that I hadn’t noticed before. I was suitably impressed by the size of the culms and we all thoroughly enjoyed walking the many trails around the property and touring the goat dairy. This site is now a National Park.

Old Silverbrook Cemetery, Anderson SC – Bamboo groves
Many people know about the famous Moso groves in Anderson and if you’ve never been, we encourage you to visit. The Moso grove at the back of the cemetery is maintained by the southeastern chapter of the American Bamboo Society. Besides the large groves at the cemetery, be sure to drive by the old Fant estate which has Moso bamboo that may be even larger. Drive around the town and you are sure to see several groves of bamboo, and not just Moso. The entire town seems to have bamboo planted all over.

Bellingrath Gardens, near Mobile AL – Bamboo groves
We visited Bellingrath while on vacation because we always enjoy seeing older homes and gardens that are open to the public. The home was not very impressive and although the gardens were extensive and beautiful the groves of bamboo we found made it really worthwhile. We came without expecting bamboo and found two large groves of Moso with some very large culms, several over 4 inches in diameter. Along with the Moso there were several groves of clumping bamboo and at least one other grove of some type of Phyllostachys.

Botanical Gardens, Birmingham AL – Bamboo collection
Living in the Birmingham area I am somewhat biased but I think you will enjoy the local botanical gardens, especially the bamboo collection. There are large groves of Black bamboo, Robert Young, P.viridis, P.bissetii, and many others. There is a nice grove of Moso that will be impressive someday if the Bissetii doesn’t smother it! There are a few ground covers scattered about including Sasa vetchii, P.variegatus, and I.tessalatus.

Botanical Gardens, Atlanta GA – Bamboo collection
We’ve only been here once but tried to see all the garden. There are several groves of different Phyllostachys and in the green house is a huge clumper. The gardens are nice, with a great collection of carnivorous plants another of my passions). We haven’t been back in many years, and since the Atlanta zoo acquired some Giant Pandas and I understand they have an even more extensive collection of bamboo.

Wilderness Park, Prattville AL – Bamboo collection
Prattville is just north of Montgomery, Al. The best way to find the Wildnerness Park is to go to Prattville and ask! This small, ten acre park is unique. There is a paved path thru the mixture of bamboo and forest. There are three main species here, P.v.’Robert Young’P.n.’Henon’, and P.aureosulcata (I think.) The culms are huge, the trees are huge, and once you’re inside, the park has an otherworld feel. The park suffers from a severe lack of maintenance but is well worth visiting.
Update
Since I made the above entry the park has been restored! The link is to an article about the new park but a seach will show you lots of links to the park.

Bamboo Farm and Coastal Gardens, Savannah, GA – Extensive bamboo collection
This is the site of a former USDA import station. There are dozens of species of bamboo, many mature groves. One of the most impressive collections of bamboo in the United States.

Jungle Gardens, Avery Island LA – Bamboo collection
We visited here a several years ago and were amazed. There are many species of bamboo but few are identified. We visited in July, it was 100+ degrees and in my 40+ years of living in the south I’ve never seen that many mosquitos at one time! We could not leave the car for over a few minutes at a time and we were covered with bites! Come prepared.
There have been many changes at Avery Island over the years since our visit, including a hurricane. The local chapter of the American Bamboo Society has done some clean up on the island and worked at identifying some of the different species.