When someone mentions bamboo, what pops into your mind? Do you think of some impenetrable tropical jungle and the constant buzz of mosquitoes? Or maybe your bamboo kitchen utensils or flooring?

Perhaps it's the picture of a bad neighbor's invasive screen planting that is constantly encroaching, or maybe all those things the castaways could do with bamboo on "Gilligan's Island."

That may be about as far as many go in their knowledge of bamboo, but hopefully a new vision can be created. Some interesting facts about bamboo: When you see a stand of green bamboo, what you are seeing is one season's growth. Bamboo shoots come up annually and grow to maturity in about 60 days. At that point, they are finished growing. They remain green, producing food for the plant for a period of up to 10 years, at which point the individual stalks, or culm, will die. The process repeats annually.

So a 70-foot-tall bamboo cane is growing at an average rate of more than 1 foot per day, almost right before your eyes. And if the bamboo has a 5-inch diameter, the shoot coming out of the ground is 5 inches in diameter too. It doesn't get fatter as it grows. 

How did we get all these tidbits of fascinating information? Joe took a tour of the Bamboo Nursery and Arboretum in Franklinton with owner and resident bamboo expert Alain Flexer — www.bamboocompanynursery.com.

Alain fell in love with bamboo while in the military and started planting bamboo in 1997. The nursery opened in 2004. The nursery covers about 50 acres and is planted with 162 species of bamboo. There are species of clumping and running bamboo ranging in size from Pleioblastus distichus "Mini" at about 12 inches to Phyllostachys edulis "Moso," which gets about 70-75 feet tall. The plant can be green, black, golden or striped.

Bamboo Nursery is a wholesale/retail nursery that sells bamboo plants, bamboo poles, fresh bamboo shoots, bamboo walking sticks, bamboo birdhouses and rhizome barrier, and it plans to sell bamboo fences next year. Visit its website for much more information. 

One more factoid learned on the tour: Bamboo flowers about every 100 years or so, and most people never see bamboo in flower. But when a species flowers, it does so worldwide no matter where it is growing or how long it has been there.

After flowering, the bamboo dies and has to be restarted by seed -- a genetically determined phenomenon.

Alain has a lot more information, but we'll leave some mysteries for you to discover on your own!


I am a resident of New Orleans and have issues concerning some of my crape myrtles. The bark of one crape myrtle has been completely covered in black. Oddly, the leaves have not yet turned black or been otherwise affected. — Greg

The black stuff covering the limbs and trunk is most likely what is commonly called sooty mold. Sooty mold is the moniker attached to several species of fungi that grow on the sugary secretions of insects that are feeding on your plant.

Crape myrtle bark scale is a growing problem in our area and is the most likely culprit. The scale insect itself is light-colored because of its protective coating. Populations of the scale can become high, leading to weakening of the tree itself.

The scale insect goes through at least two life cycles in our area that vary in appearance based on weather conditions. LSU is studying this insect and its life cycle to determine the best control measures to use. At this time, the best control recommendation is to use light horticultural oil according to label instructions.

It is imperative to get good coverage when applying the spray because it must come in contact with the scale to smother it. If you remove the source of the sugary secretions, the sooty mold will disappear as well or you can hasten its disappearance by washing off the sooty mold with a stream of water. -- Joe Willis

Questions? Write to agcenter@theadvocate.com.