Bamboo Farming USA

Vivax aureocaulis   Golden Vivax


Vivax is considered a weak poled bamboo. It is also considered one of the sweet flavored bamboos. I think that weak walled bamboos have shoots that can be harvested when older than strong walled bamboos. In other words, a shoot of a strong walled bamboo will begin to harden sooner than a weak one. You can let a bamboo like vivax get a bit taller before harvesting than a strong walled bamboo like moso. The advantages of vivax as a farm crop are that it sizes up rapidly, its shoots are large (more pounds per shoot, and the shoots are tender and free of bitterness. 

Vivax is a good choice for a large diameter bamboo in colder climates. It is hardier than moso or bambusoides. However, it is more likely to break from snow than stronger walled bamboos. I have noticed that one of the identification clues in a vivax grove is the cracked canes with the top is hanging down. Usually the leaves are still green. 

I think that the species green vivax is particularly lovely as a grove. My  P. vivax  aureocaulis is golden when you stand a distance away and  the sun hits it sideways. Close up, the mold that coats the canes gives them a tannish gold color. In other words the green species has a cleaner look than the gold variety.

Ned Jaquith of The Bamboo Garden in Oregon wrote years ago to the Internet Bamboo Group: "Our  P. vivax aureocaulis is just as vigorous as regular vivax. Ours went from a small plant to one with twenty culms averaging almost an inch in three years."

Vivax was named for its vigor. According to F.A. McClure in the original description, "The specific epithet alludes to the vigorous vegetative growth so vividly described by Mr. McIlhenny". In the early twentieth centuryNed McIlhenny of Tabasco fame researched many kinds of bamboo on his estate on Avery Island in Gulf Coast Louisiana, He trailed bamboos for the USDA working with David Fairchild and other USDA collectors

I particularly like my grove of  P, vivax aureocaulis. The canes are big. The grove grows naturally in an open manner. A special reason that I like my aureoaulis is that the walls are thin! I like to craft dishes from the poles. Because the walls are thin, the dishes have lots of room to hold foods and items. And the thin walls are easy to cut. The finished dish is light in weight.

My grove suffered from the drought in 2011. I did not realize it in time to turn on the sprinkler. I marked many shoots to grow up and fill in the grove. Up they went stunning in their brilliant gold yellow color. The bright color had not yet been dulled by mold. Once up to branching height, the shoots ran out of water. Only a rosette of branches opened looking like a witches broom. 

Species Source List Data - American Bamboo Society 2011

Max Height feet/meters   70.0/21.3     Max diam inch/cm   5.0/12.7       Min °F/°C   0/-18         Full Sun
"The culms turn yellow with a few narrow green stripes."

The largest pole in my research plot is 3.5". 


Thinned grove

The grove is less yellow than Robert Young. In Georgia, the canes quickly grow a brownish mold that dulls the brightness. In this grove, a few culms revert to a green form of vivax. Look closely to see a slight zig zag from node to node. 

Thinning a grove

Vivax aureocaulis poles
In order to prepare my research plots for harvest, I had to do a lot of thinning. Here are some of the poles that I removed to get the open grove shown above. I am only thinning a 32' by 32' research plot. The plot is 1000 square feet.


Shoot of P. vivax aureocaulis
The sheath leaf  is hairless and has no auricles. It is brown spotted on tan. Sheath blades are ribbon shaped, strongly reflexed, very crinkly.

Shoots on the Rhizome

The yellow lower part of the shoot was either under ground or buried in leaves. It was untouched by sun and daylight. The spotted part had poked above the ground. These are nice plump shoots. The middle one was severed by the shovel. Notice how the intact shoots arise from buds on opposite sides of the rhizome. The shoots are already extending anchor roots to support them when they are tall. These shoots have an egg shape appearance. The sheath leaves are tight. The shoots are the perfect age to be harvested and sold  - and cooked!

Selecting shoots to grow into canes/culms

I marked these shoots with surveyor tape. These are the ones that I intend to grow up and fill an empty space in the grove. I walk my groves, select and mark  the shoots to grow up, and then harvest the other shoots.

Marked Shoot

Shoot elongating
As an internode completes elongating, its sheath leaf falls off. The surveyor's tape holds its sheath leaf on. Notice the gorgeous color of the new shoot. Were you to wash the older canes, you would find a bright color underneath the mold. It would not be as bright as the young shoot, though.  P. aureocaulis has a few random green stripes. It does not have its green stripes in the sulcus (groove) like some bamboos.

Dying Shoots

Shoots dying
In this photo two shoots that were marked to grow up aborted early in their growth. The bright yellow cane in the left shot earlier when the soil was moister. Probably it is one of the ones whose top was damaged from drought and which resembles a witches broom. 


This serving dish shows the thin walls of vivax. Notice the ribbed appearance of the inner wall. When trying to identify vivax, this ribbed structure can be felt on the outside of the culm/cane as well. On the outside it iis a subtle corrugation that you can feel by running a thumbnail over the skin horizontally. The feet of the dish are of a green variety of bamboo, not vivax aureocaulis. 

Covered dish

The handle on the lid is a rhizome, not from aureocaulis. The feet also are rhizomes.

I visited in October 2011 for three days!

PHYLLOSTACHYS              CULTIVATED                 vivax 15554

Bamboos cultivated in the United States
Phyllostachys sp.          Avery Isl. La.
SPI 73453 = 82047
Coll. by E.A. McIlhenny
Det. by R.A. Young April 16, 1936

Handwriting in lower left corner "P. vivax  11110076" Can't read a word, probably the initials of the person who wrote the ID.Also a stamp like a barcode "UNITED STATES NATIONAL HERBARIUM 00144705"

Bamboos cultivated in the United States      Phyllostachys sp. 


Coll. by E.A. McIlhenny    Avery Isl. La.
Det. by R.A. Young       April 16, 1936

PHYLLOSTACHYS           CULTIVATED            vivax 15540

Phyllostachys vivax     McClure
Gerogia:      Savannah, Babour Lahrop Plant Introduction Garden (USDA. cultivated; PI 82047
introduced from Avery Island, Louisiana in 1929.
April 20, 1946
F.A. McClure 21537           Elev. 21 ft.

PHYLLOSTACHYS         CULTIVATED           vivax 15540

English text following latin description of vivax
      Species of striking appearance with elegant sub pendent foliage, readily distinguishable from the other species by the following characters: The glabrous culms, with copiously farinose, rather prominently ribbed or striate inter nods, the culm sheaths thinnish, glabrous, densely maculate with smoky spots, the ligule of the culm sheath very short, strongly arcuate, long decurrent on each side of the apex of the sheath especially in the lower sheaths, the sheath blade narrow and very much crinkle, the auricles and oral setae never developed in the sheaths of culms of mature stature.
     This specie is perhaps at first sight most likely to e confused with  Phyllostachys sulphuea var.  viridis Young, or P. bambusoides Sieb. & Zucc. From both of these, however, it may broadly be distinguished by the striate intends and peculiarly shaped nodes of the culms, the entire lack of any vestige of auricles on the culm sheet (at least in plants of mature stature) and the very short, decurrent culm sheath ligule. Once familiar, the habit of the foliage is sufficient to distinguish this species from the others even at a distance. In the striate surface and glaucousness of the internodes and the complete glabrousness of the culms, mature plants of this species resemble those of  P. dulcis McClure, but the latter is distinguishable by the well developed green auricles and oral setae on its more or less conspicuously color-striate fresh culm sheaths and the new less decurrent ligule of the lower culm sheath.
     Culms up to 11.8m tall and (int. V) 70 x 75 mm in diameter;  internodes up to (no. XIX) 327 mm (V:243 MM) long, strongly striate to the touch, glabrous throughout, copiously farinose from the first, the part above the node commonly perceptibly larger in diameter the the part below the node and somewhat gibbous, the  wood, 7-8 mm thick;  nodes flaring rather abruptly at the sheath scar and thickened somewhat asymmetrically above it;  farinosezone broadish, copiously farinose;  culm sheaths entirely glabrous, farinose, densely maculate with dark spots, coarsely nervosa and thinly coriaceous when dry;  auricles and  oral setae lacking entirely in plants of mature stature (more or less well developed in small plants;  ligule short, subglabrous, the apex strongly arcuate, the margin ciliolae of subglabrous;  sheath blade narrowly, triangular to sub linear, strongly crinkled, erect or reflexed, subglabrous on both surfaces.  Branches relatively short, glaucous, glabrous or several of the uppermost internodes pubescent at first then glabrescent, the branches and twigs 2-4 foliate.  Leaf sheaths glabrous, the margins ciliolate;  auricles sometimes slightly to moderately developed, ovate, all fragile and gradually disappearing;  oral setae fragile, fugaceous, few and appressed in the upper sheaths, more numerous and radiate i the lower sheaths;  ligule short, usually splitting in the middle, dorsally obscurely scabrous, the apex arcuate, often more or less concave in the middle, the undulate margin obscurely ciliolate;  petiole commonly puberulent at the base on the upper surface and often pilose toward the base of the leaf blade on the lower surface otherwise glabrous on both surfaces;  leaf blades up to 175 mm long and up to 25 mm broad, glabrous and shining above, the lower surface usually somewhat pilose along the midrib at the base, otherwise obscurely scabrous. Inflorescence unknown.

TYPE:     McClure 21044,collected May-August 142, at the Barbour Lathrop Plant Introduction Garden near Savannah, Ga., from permanent plot no. 72 (section C)
        This is one of Frank N. Meyer's introductions from china, but its precise origin is unknown. It appears in the Plant Inventory of the Division of Plant Exploration and Introduction under P.I. 82047, where the following information is given: "This bamboo, according to a statement of Nov. 19, 1929 from Mr. E. A. McIlhenny, is one of two introductions sent to him from Chico, Calif., by the Department of Agriculture, April 3, 1914, under nos. 23242 and 23243.
        Although he was at first of the option that it represented  Phyllostachys mitis of authors ( P. sulphureavar. viridis Young) the plant was later recognized by Mr. McIlhenny, in the course of his long experience in its cultivation, as distinct from that and all the other bamboos in his collection.
        The writer, upon seeing only smallish culm shoots of the plant for the first time in 1935 took them to represent P. bambusoides or something very near to it. Mr. McIlhenny rightly disagreed firmly, and later communicated his reasons for his view. The relevant statements in a letter of June 4, 1944,from Mr. McIlhenny to Mr. R. A. Young, may be paraphrased as follows: "The new growth of P.I. 82047 averages ten days or two weeks earlier than that of P. bambusoides. The plant s much more vigorous reaches maturity much more quickly, and the culms have much thinner walls than those of  P. bambusoides. The lower internodes of this plant are longer than those in  P. bambusoides, and the sheath blade is fluted or crinkled in the same manner as in  P. bambusoides. The culms reach a much greater size in the same period of time when planted side by side with  P. bambusoides. When the two were planet side by side P.I. completely shaded and killed the growth of  P. bambusoides. I believe P.I. 8247 is distinct from  P. bambusoides and much more valuable for culture in the United States."
     The specific epithet alludes to the vigorous vegetative growth so vividly described by Mr. McIlhenny.