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Bamboos for Belize by Marquita Stanko and Taylor Walker

in Featured/Issue 38 by

Belize Bamboo LogoBamboos are some of the most useful plant species on earth. There are over 1000 species of bamboo distributed throughout the world that have been used for many practical purposes throughout history such as building shelter, making everyday tools and utensils and even as a food product. Bamboos originate from tropical, subtropical and temperate climates and grow on a wide range of soils. Many of the finest native and non-native bamboo species thrive right here in Belize.

Our bamboo project began in 2005 in Rancho Dolores, Belize District with the formation of Tropical Agro-Forestry, Ltd. Our desire was to introduce new varieties in Belize that exhibit exceptional characteristics for use in furniture making, landscaping and interior construction. We began working with Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) to conduct a pest risk analysis to confirm that each new bamboo would pose no threat to the ecosystem here in Belize. After twelve years of growth, our bamboo is the largest and most diverse bamboo collection in Belize. We are now focusing on bamboo furniture production, crafts, treated bamboo poles, landscape projects, and bamboo divisions for interested growers, farmers and landscape designers.

We specialize in clumping varieties that do not possess the aggressive, invasive capabilities of their “cousins”, the running bamboos. Clumping bamboos are some of the world’s fasting growing plants, making them an excellent candidate for regenerative production. When a bamboo plant is set in the field, the new canes or “culms” grow thicker and taller each year for the first three to five years until they reach their maximum height, which varies with each type of bamboo variety. Hereafter, the clump continues to spread outward until it grows into its full circumference which is fixed according to individual variety and can range from five to twenty feet in diameter. In contrast, running varieties have no particular set footprint and can spread to overtake acres of land over time. Of the twenty varieties of bamboo growing on our farm, we have selected some of our favorite varieties and highlighted some of their uses in this article.

Bambusa malingensis, ‘Seabreeze’

Bambusa malingensis, known commonly as ‘Seabreeze,’ is a very tough and adaptable bamboo. It can reach a mature height of thirty to forty feet tall with a two to three inch cane. Research has shown that bamboo is the ultimate windbreak for farms and orchards and Seabreeze excels in this capacity as it is one of the fastest growing varieties, producing many shoots in a dense and nearly impenetrable clump with a thirty-to-forty foot cane. It has many heavily foliated lateral branches along with a very bushy top growth that aids in the diffusion of wind. These qualities also make it an excellent choice for privacy screening and noise reduction and an essential selection when landscaping an ecolodge, resort, estate or housing development. Another excellent and underutilized function is for use as livestock shelter. Several clumps of Seabreeze placed together strategically throughout a pasture is an inexpensive and natural solution for animal protection.

Dendrocalamus brandisii, ‘Vietnam’

Dendrocalamus brandisii, or so-called ‘Vietnam’ variety, is the ultimate specimen bamboo. This landscape giant adds an awe-inspiring, prehistoric feel to your landscape. This is the largest bamboo grown on the farm reaching a colossal height of sixty feet with a culm diameter of four-to-five inches. While all bamboos make their own beautiful music, this variety’s is quite unique. Vietnam is one of the best for use in furniture making, crafts and construction. It has a very majestic appearance with minimal lower branching giving it a more open growth habit exposing the beautiful, towering culms at eye level.

Dendrocalamus minor ‘Amoenus’ or ‘Angel Mist’

Dendrocalamus minor ‘Amoenus’, also known as ‘Angel Mist’ or ‘Blue Green’ bamboo, is a beautiful variety featuring light yellowish culms with a powdery whitish wax giving rise to its common name Angel Mist. It is a standout in the landscape as it is a very showy variety offering a neat and tidy appearance. Reaching a height of up to thirty-five feet with culms of two-to-three inches it is perfect for a grand entrance, privacy screening or landscape specimen.

Bambusa textilis gracilis, ‘Graceful’

Bambusa textilis gracilis or ‘Graceful’ bamboo is one of the most popular landscaping bamboos and is unmatched in its ability to provide a very dense but more compact screening. Reaching a height of twenty-five-to-thirty feet, it is ideal for smaller spaces in comparison to some of our other large varieties. Graceful also has very straight culms making it an excellent source for cane fishing poles!

Bambusa tulda, ‘Tulda’

Bambusa tulda or ‘Tulda’ is one of the ultimate furniture and construction bamboos on our farm. With a tensile strength just below steel it is used in Asia to reinforce concrete. Its adaptability and usefulness makes this one well worth growing for anyone interested in a fast growing, replenishable timber. It has a thick-walled culm and clean, long internodes with limited side branching.

Bambusa lako, ‘Timor Black’

Bambusa lako, or ‘Timor Black’ is one of our beautiful ornamental varieties with distinctive black culms. They can reach heights of 30 feet with a culm diameter of around 2 inches.

If you would like more information about these or other bamboo varieties or are interested in our bamboo products please call us at 622-3184. We would love to help you select the right plants for your project or work with you to create unique bamboo furnishings.

Dendrocalamus brandisii, ‘Vietnam’

Editor’s Note: Marc Ellenby has been growing tropical fruits and tropical clumping bamboos in Florida since 1980. He is the owner of Belize Bamboo and Tropical Agro-Forestry, Ltd. in Belize. Marc’s passion to ensure food security in Belize and throughout the world has lead him to launch a new venture with the help of Marquita Stanko and Taylor Walker who are managing a new organic farm in Stann Creek using a multi-species cropping system with the main crop being breadfruit. While introducing several new breadfruit varieties to Belize, their purpose is to create an extended season for Belize and beyond and to trial perennial crops and various tropical fruits as citrus farming alternatives.

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