Bamboo is a versatile plant that has been used for thousands of years in Asia and around the world. While often thought of as having a light green or yellow color, bamboo can actually display a wide range of colors depending on the species. In this article, we will explore the different colors that bamboo can exhibit and what causes these colorful differences.
– Bamboo stems can be green, yellow, black, blue, purple, and even variegated.
– The most common bamboo colors are light green and yellow. Some species have dark green or black stems.
– Bamboo leaf colors include green, yellow, and variegated white/green.
– Bamboo color is influenced by pigments like chlorophyll and carotenoids, minerals, environment, and genetics.
– Certain bamboo species are prized for their rare or striking colors, like the blue-stemmed Mexican weeping bamboo.
Common Bamboo Stem Colors
The most common colors seen on bamboo stems are light green, dark green, yellow, and black. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent bamboo stem colors and what influences them.
Most bamboo has light green stems when young, turning to a darker forest green with maturity. This coloration comes from chlorophyll, the pigment plants use to absorb sunlight for photosynthesis. Light green bamboo stems indicate lush growth and healthy chlorophyll levels. Some common bamboo species with light green canes include Moso bamboo, Madake bamboo, and Sweetshoot bamboo.
As bamboo matures, the stems often darken from light green to a deeper forest or emerald green. This darker green stems from higher concentrations of chlorophyll in the plant tissues. Species that exhibit dark green stems include Oldham’s bamboo, Tiger bamboo, and Greenstripe bamboo. The depth of green can vary based on growing conditions and genetics.
Some types of bamboo have a golden, lemon, or lime green yellow coloration to the stems. This results from carotenoids, plant pigments that lend a yellow/orange shade. The presence of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids leads to yellowish stems in bamboo species like Buddha Belly bamboo and Golden bamboo. The vibrant yellow color is prized in ornamental gardening.
A few bamboo species develop black or very dark brown stems at maturity. This striking color may come from anthocyanin pigments or higher mineral content. Black bamboo varieties include Black bamboo, Timor black bamboo, and Suziki bamboo. The darkened stems can appear almost ebony in color.
Uncommon Bamboo Stem Colors
While green, yellow, and black bamboo stems are typical, there are some extraordinary species that produce purple, blue, striped, and variegated stems. These unusual colors make them highly prized as ornamental plants.
Several bamboo species can take on a reddish-purple stem color, like Indonesian dwarf bamboo, Sasa Veitchii, and Purple fountain bamboo. This hue results from anthocyanin pigments. The purple color is often most vibrant in new shoots and fades to green over time.
The rarest and most striking bamboo color is a bluish-purple stem. Mexican weeping bamboo is perhaps the best known blue bamboo. Its technical name, Oxchloa azurea, references the stunning blue stems. The azurescens variety has the deepest blue color. The blue comes from a waxy bloom that covers the stems.
Certain bamboos have yellow, white, or light green stripes along the length of the stems. This variegation arises from non-uniform distribution of chlorophyll and other pigments. Examples are Panda bamboo with white stripes, Fernleaf bamboo with yellow variegation, and Vietnamese lucky bamboo stems that are striped green and yellow.
A few tropical bamboo species have stems that flush red or orange when young. These hues also stem from carotenoids and anthocyanins. Orange bamboos include Schizostachyum lumampao and Bambusa vulgaris. New shoots on some Hawaiian golden bamboos can have a reddish-orange cast.
What Influences Bamboo Stem Color?
Several key factors impact the coloration seen in bamboo stems and canyes. Let’s take a look at what causes the spectrum of hues in bamboo plants.
The main plant pigments that affect bamboo stem color are:
– Chlorophyll – Produces green hues, influenced by light and nutrition
– Carotenoids – Create yellow/orange shades, higher in sun exposure
– Anthocyanins – Lead to red/purple/blue coloration
Higher concentrations of these light-absorbing pigments result in more saturated color in bamboo stems. The pigment profile varies across bamboo species and growing conditions.
Minerals & Nutrients
The availability of certain minerals impacts bamboo coloration. Higher nitrogen leads to deeper green stems. Iron contributes to darker black bamboo canes. Phosphorous encourages red/purple anthocyanin production. Mineral uptake is influenced by soil nutrition and fertilization.
More sunlight exposure increases production of color-lending pigments like anthocyanins and carotenoids. Insufficient sunlight results in pale, washed-out bamboo stems. Yellow and red bamboo varieties thrive in full sun. Dappled shade produces vibrant green stems.
As bamboo matures over seasons, stems often darken from light green to deeper forest green. Maturation also leads to production of additional pigments, altering color over a bamboo stand’s lifetime. New shoots are often the palest.
Bamboo species and varieties have inherent genetic differences that predispose them to certain colors. Even when grown side-by-side, genetic factors mean some bamboos will always be yellow versus green. Selective breeding has isolated color variations like blue bamboo.
Subtle environmental cues can also modify bamboo coloration. Cooler highland climates intensify purple anthocyanins. Coastal or humid environments may impact mineral uptake. Drought stress results in dull or bleached color.
Bamboo Leaf Color Variations
In additional to diverse stem colors, bamboo leaves also vary in shades of green, yellow, and variegated patterns.
Like the stems, bamboo leaves are most commonly green. This results from chlorophyll that assists in photosynthesis. Shades range from blue-green to yellow-green. Deep green bamboo foliage indicates healthy nutrition and growth.
Some bamboo species have yellow-hued leaves. High concentrations of carotenoids create golden, lemon-lime colored foliage. This includes bamboo varieties like Buddha Belly, Golden Goddess, and Sasa Veitchii, the same species that displays purple stems.
Occasionally, bamboo leaves will emerge with splotches of color – most commonly white variegation. This results from lack of chlorophyll in those spots. Variegated bamboo varieties include Whitespot Japanese timber bamboo and Variegated sweetshoot bamboo.
Unique Bamboo Species by Color
Many bamboo species are prized for their rare and vibrant stem colors. Here are some of the most popular colorful bamboo types in cultivation:
– Mexican Weeping Bamboo – Deep bluish-purple stems
– Black Bamboo – Stems turn nearly black at maturity
– Suziki Bamboo – Ebony-hued stems
– Buddha Belly Bamboo – Vibrant yellow stems
– Golden Goddess Bamboo – Lime green stems
– Sasa Veitchii – Reddish-purple shoots
– Indonesian Dwarf Bamboo – Deep purple canes
– Variegated Sweetshoot Bamboo – Stems striped green & white
– Fernleaf Bamboo – Stems streaked yellow & green
In summary, bamboo displays a rainbow of stem and foliage colors beyond the expected green hues. Variations in chlorophyll, carotenoids, anthocyanins, sun exposure, minerals, and genetics lead to yellow, black, blue, purple, orange, red, and variegated bamboo types. With over 1,000 diverse bamboo species, there is an incredible spectrum of colorful canes and leaves to appreciate in this fast-growing grass. Many gardeners selectively grow rare colored bamboos as eye-catching specimens and living art in the landscape.
|Bamboo Color||Description||Example Varieties|
|Light Green||Young stems have bright light green color from chlorophyll||Moso Bamboo, Sweetshoot Bamboo|
|Dark Green||Maturing stems turn deep forest green||Oldham’s Bamboo, Greenstripe Bamboo|
|Yellow||Yellow and golden stems contain lutein carotenoids||Buddha Belly Bamboo, Golden Goddess Bamboo|
|Black||At maturity, some stems become nearly black||Black Bamboo, Timor Black Bamboo|
|Blue||Rare blue color from waxy bloom on stems||Mexican Weeping Bamboo|
|Purple||Reddish purple stems from anthocyanins||Sasa Veitchii, Indonesian Dwarf Bamboo|
|Variegated||Irregular stripes of color on stems||Whitespot Japanese Timber Bamboo|
Bamboo offers incredible diversity in stem colors ranging from common green hues to rare black, blue, and purple varieties. This broad palette results from specialized plant pigments, sun exposure, minerals, and genetics. Some species are prized for their unusual and dramatic colors but most exhibit light green stems. With over 1,000 bamboo species to appreciate, there is an extensive spectrum of tones and textures to enjoy in this versatile grass.