Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fascinating story about flowering bamboo. Apparently many species of bamboo are genetically programmed to flower and die in unison, over cycles that can be as long as 48 years. Plants from the same genetic line, even if they are continents apart, will all flower at the same time, and then die. In many parts of the world there are folk sayings that "when the bamboo flowers, death and destruction follow." There is some truth to this though, because as the bamboo forests die en masse, there is no source of wood for fuel and construction, the bare soil becomes eroded and floods and landslides occur, the rat population explodes to eat the bamboo flower seeds (which are apparently large and protein-rich). When the seeds are all gone, the rats then turn to eating the agricultural crops. Yowza. It's a mystery to scientists why bamboo forests would flower and die this way. A few of the theories:

1) The predator satiation hypothesis suggests that the mass flowering and seeding of the bamboo swamps predators with too many seeds to ensure some survive. 2) The plant competition theory suggests that under ideal circumstances bamboos maintain dominance over other vegetation in the areas in which they grow (see some of the extensive tracts of forests in India and China for excellent examples) and so to maintain that dominance, mass seeding carpets the ground with offspring and prevents other species from getting a foothold. 3) The fire cycle hypothesis, put forward by Keeley and Bond, that suggests that large scale death of flowered bamboos increases the chances of fire and the fire removes from competition any other plants.

Why does this fascinate me today? I don't know, exactly. But I want to work "flowering bamboo" into a poem.

3 comments:

Pamela said...

I have an old bamboo poem somewhere...I will have to dig it out, too.

Radish King said...

I want to work flowering bimbo into a poem.

Peter said...

R: Hahahaha!