Botanists from Iowa State University and University of North Carolina have recently discovered a new species of bamboo in North America. This is the third known native species of bamboo in the United States.
The hardy grass called ‘hill cane’ was discovered in the Appalachian Mountains. The other two American bamboos are known as ‘switch cane’ and ‘river cane’. They grow in large thickets called ‘canebrakes‘.
Hill cane, or Arundinaria appalachiana, grows only to about 6 feet, while the other two native species of bamboo can grow upto about 20 feet and are thicker.
The new variety mainly differs from the other two species in dropping its leaves in the fall.
Lynn Clark, a professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology in the Iowa State University is a leading member in the team that discovered the giant grass. She said ‘there are 1,400 species of bamboo around the world. They play an important ecological role.’
Clark and Ph.D. student Jimmy Triplett are studying North American bamboo as part of a worldwide project to develop an evolutionary family tree of bamboo species. Modern DNA sequencing and traditional plant taxonomy are both included in their work.
‘Most people have no idea that we have native bamboo in the US‘ Clark said. ‘But it has been a very important plant ecologically. And there’s recent interest in using it for re-vegetation projects because it’s native and is used for habitat by so many different animals, especially birds’ she added.