Bamboo Farming USA

Phyllostachys edulis - Moso 2 - Mao Zhu in China - Early Shooter

The photo shows me in my 1000 square foot moso plot in spring 2014. The new shoots are abundant.


Moso is the largest temperate bamboo. I love it. To me moso is the most beautiful bamboo. It has dramatically large canes and way up high are the small leaves that flutter and sway with the wind. The tips of the culms bend giving a soft and charming appearance. 
Moso is the most important bamboo in China. It is is considered a forest resource. It covers 7.4 million acres. It is grown for food and lumber (for shoots and poles). Most of the manufactured bamboo products that we buy in the United States are made from moso. Most bamboo flooring is moso. Most bamboo plywood is moso. The cover for my iPhone is laminated of strips of moso bamboo. 
According to Fumiyo Iwamatsu, the tree forest in Japan is more valuable than the moso forest. The moso forest expands into the tree forest. This expansion is a concern to foresters. In China, foresters have plans and goals to enlarge the moso forest. 
Moso grows well in the Southeastern United States. Summers are hot with ample rain and winters are cold enough for peaches to grow. Moso does not grow well in coastal Georgia. It dies out at the Bamboo Farm in Savannah. Is the coastal soil too sandy? Are the winters too frost free? Or both? It dies out in middle and south Florida. 
In the right climate, the right location and with irrigation, moso grows fast. I planted one pot of moso on Vashon Island In Puget Sound, Washington State. We laid out a fifty foot diameter circle in a fertile meadow sloping gently to the south east. My friend's excavator (big machine!) turned the soil a foot or more deep. The machine incorporated the meadow grass. Habitat for voles and mice was destroyed. A truckload of curds from a Tofu factory was stirred into the ground. We mulched carefully the entire fifty foot circle. We irrigated with care. The moso reached 2 inches in diameter in three seasons. Unfortunately my friend, Clark Garrison, the land owner, died and my moso (and dulcis and vivax) experiment ended. 
Rock Ridge Farms, owned by Wade Bennett, is located 80 miles east of Vashon Island where my moso grew well. Wade Bennett has grown and sold bamboo shoots for 20 years. He sells at his farm store, to chefs at fine restaurants and to the public at farmers' markets in Seattle. Wade can not grow moso. The location is too cold. His farm is on the plateau north of Mount Rainier. Cold tolerant bamboos like vivax grow well for him, but not heat loving moso.  

How Fast Does Moso Mature?

Smaller bamboos reach full size faster than giant ones. The moso grove that I work with reached maturity in ten years. It belongs to Robby Russell of Georgia Bamboo. It is located in middle Georgia two hours south ofAtlanta and three hours west of Savannah.


These seedling moss are about to burst out of their pots. Young moso has large leaves. Perhaps because seedlings tend to grow in the shade for a few years. After the second spring in the ground, the leaves of the moso are small.


The above photo shows moso at one year old. The leaning darker smaller moso is the transplant made a year earlier. The four taller, lighter colored culms are what came up the following spring. The handle of the pitch fork is four feet long.


The above photo shows the new culms that grew the second spring. The dark short foliage is from the growth of the first spring. It did not stand up. I should have staked it.

The above photo shows moso that is three years old. It is clearly spreading out into the grass.

The above photo shows five year old moso. The leaves are curled because it had been dry for several days and the irrigation was down. I set my dogs there to help with scale, plus the four foot pitch fork.


However, not all the five year moso is as large as the first photo. Seedlings vary in vigor and on this five acre bamboo plantation, the soil is better at one end than the other.

I believe that ideally ground should be prepared vigorously as my friend with the excavator on Vashon Island did. If careful land preparation is not feasible, at least the planting area should be heavily mulched at planting. They should have been well irrigated May through October. Weeds should be controlled so that the moso has no competition and so that the irrigation heads can throw their water without being stopped by weeds. Many times people mulch at planting, then mow the grass in the rows between the plantings. The moso will spread into these mowed alleys. Shoots that come up in the alley are mowed. Spreading is reduced.