Running bamboos, or "runners" are the most significant, eye-catching, beautiful, and useful of all the temperate bamboos. People want runners for their rapid growth and screening ability. The genera Phyllostachys are all runners and they are among the most popular bamboos for landscaping. Runners grow quickly and have thick rhizomes which usually grow horizontally, just under the ground's surface. Buds on the rhizomes swell to grow up as shoots in the spring leading to an ever thickening stand of bamboo. Running bamboo lends itself to hedges and borders, but can spread over 10 feet in a single season without maintenance.
Phyllostachys artovaginata - aka "Incense Bamboo"
Height: 30-50ft. Diameter: 1.5-3 inches
Incense Bamboo is a medium-sized running bamboo. It has a strong form with attractive, prominent nodes and small sunny-green leaves. Its medium-green canes grow to over 40 feet in height and 2.5 inches in diameter. It shoots in mid to late spring. The shoots are a very beautiful steely gray color with bright powdery white sheath margins and a sharp tip. They are quite tasty. Incense bamboo will naturally grow into a dense thicket.
The name "Incense Bamboo" comes from the pleasing grassy odor common to other timber bamboos which waft throughout the grove during humid air conditions. It is easiest to achieve here in Western Oregon with a little misting or irrigation in the summer.
Phyllostachys aurea - aka "Golden Bamboo"
Height: 15-30 feet, Diameter: 0.75-2 inches
Golden Bamboo has long been bamboo of choice for landscapes, screens, and hedges in the United States. It's overall appearance is usually a light green and it provides a dense cover. It's compact with relatively large culms and brances, and its leaves often begin just above the ground making it perfect for as solid wall. With rigidly straight culms that rarely grow over 20 feet, Golden bamboo is rarely harmed by heavy rain, snow, or ice. The culms are green, but the larger ones are often coated with a delicate, waxy, blue-ish powder when they drop their sheaths giving the bamboo a soft blue appearance for many months out of the year. Phyllostachys aurea can run vigorously, but seldom does.
Another name for this bamboo, "Fish Pole Bamboo", comes from it's straight, often perfect length, culms.
Phyllostachy bambusoides - aka "Madake"苦竹
Height: 20-60 feet, Diameter: 2-4 inches
Madake, like Henon, has a culm wall of moderate thickness which allows it to bend easily, meaning it rarely breaks under heavy snow or ice. The leaves are medium-sized and a mid-tone of green, while the culms are a nice mellow green color and very smooth to the touch. Madake is a fast grower, and it's shoots, when caught early enough are great for meals. Overall, an excellent bamboo, and, along with Castillon (see below), is the bamboo of choice for tall indoor installations.
Madake is the bamboo of choice for the weavers in Japan. It is unparalleled for its suppleness and smoothness; the ribbon-like strips resemble plastic lanyards. It's perfect for crafts of all kinds and can be shaped and cut easily using hand tools.
Also known as "Japanese Timber Bamboo"
Phyllostachys bambusoides - aka "Castillon"
Height: 20-50 feet, Diameter: 1-3 inches
Castillon is one of the gorgeous 'yellow' bamboos. Its smooth gold-colored culms with strinking green sulcus is highly sought after by bamboo collectors and those who want a bit of the unusual. Castillon's color is one of its nicest features. It brightens up dark spaces and its overall feeling is one of lightness. The medium-sized leaves are attractively streaked with color.
Castillon is a cultivar of Madake and is incredibly vigorous here at Bamboo Valley. Castillon, similar to Madake, is excellent for weaving and crafts, and is ideal for tall indoor displays.
Phyllostachys dulcis - aka "Sweetshoot Bamboo"
Height: 30-40+ feet, Diameter: 2-3.5 inches
The prominent nodes, short broad leaves and handsome form of dulcis gives it a character all of its own. The large shoots come up in May and are a cream color with brown freckles. This bamboo does not have a perfectly vertical habit, but becomes more so with maturity. Even when regularly thinned the canopy of the grove gets very leafy so the new shoots often bend toward the light. It has fat canes which are rather short for their girth. It's medium sized, dense leaves flutter nicely in the wind.
It gets its other name, Sweetshoot Bamboo, from the subtle sweet taste of its shoots.
Phyllostachys edulis - aka "Moso"
Height: 40-65+ feet, Diameter 2-7 inches
Moso's culms are green, but turn to yellow in constant sunlight. With tiny leaves in proportion to the tall, thick culms, Moso has a very delicate, feathery appearance. The shoots appear in late February through March, and are likely the kind you are eating at Chinese restaurants.
This bamboo does well in this climate, but does require adequate water.
Moso is the variety primarily used in bamboo flooring, and is commonly the bamboo in products that say they're made from bamboo. The forest in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was Moso.
Phyllstachys heteroclada - aka "Water Bamboo"
Height: 15-30 feet, Diameter 1-1.5 inches
Water Bamboo is named because of it's ability to survive in particularly wet conditions. It is interesting in that it has a long straight culms that barely taper until the top where the branches begin.
This bamboo is a vigorous runner for those looking for a large area to be covered, but can be easily controlled because the runners are quite shallow.
A thicket of Water Bamboo grows very dense, but not too tall, so would make an excellent screen or hedge where taller bamboo might not work.
Phyllostachy nigra - aka "Black Bamboo"
Height: 30-60 feet, Diameter: 1-4 inches
Black Bamboo is named such because of it's black culms and dark green leaves. It's a larger bamboo, and very strong, but the smaller culms will droop during heavy rain, snow or ice.
Each Spring, Black Bamboo produces a large number shoots that can be dug up and boiled to eat.
The bamboo itself is good for crafts, construction, and decoration.
Phyllostachy nigra 'Bory' - aka Tiger Bamboo
Height: 30-60 feet, Diameter: 2-4 inches
Tiger Bamboo is closely related to Black Bamboo, with the major difference being the coloring on the culms. The culms are green with black markings, sometimes spots, swirls or blotches. Both Tiger Bamboo and Black Bamboo are vigorous and can grow up to 6 feet a year in it's early years if given enough water, which the Pacific Northwest provides.
This bamboo will shoot rapidly, so maintenance is important if you want to keep it to a small area.
Phyllostachy nigra 'Henon' - aka Henon, Giant Gray Bamboo
Height: 30-60 feet Diameter 2-4 inches
Henon is very hardy in the Pacific Northwest. It is known for its size and strength, sometimes being called "Bulletproof Bamboo" due to it being unphased by weather or other conditions.
Henon's leaves are small and delicate like Moso. Its dark green culms have a powdery white appearance (blue on older culms) when viewed up close.
This bamboo is quite common in Oregon and grows well here if supplied with adequate water. It's thick culms allow it to survive our winter storms with little to no damage.
Henon is native to Japan where it was historically used for construction and weaponry.
Phyllostachys vivax - aka Vivax
Height: 40-60+ feet, Diameter 3-6 inches
The name Vivax comes froms Latin meaning vigorous. Vivax is a true champion when it comes to speed of growth and size. There are places in the Pacific Northwest where it grows over 60 feet tall and 4 inches in diameter.
Its smooth, glossy culms are a vibrant green color.
Qionzhuea tumidissinoda - aka Walking Stick Bamboo
Height: 20 feet, Diameter: 1 inch
Tumidissinoda is a bizarre bamboo. "Tumi" is Latin for "bulging" and it describes the nodes on the culms of the bamboo.
It grows to about 20 feet tall, and it's tiny leaves are reminiscent of Moso.
While this bamboo was once extremely rare and expensive, it is becoming more common in recent years.
It is a very quick runner, so give it room or plan to stay on top of maintenance.