Status report on alien bamboos: The emergence of temperate woody species.
Susan CANAVAN1,2, John R. Wilson1,2, David M. Richardson1, Johannes J. Le Roux1
1Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland 7602, South Africa
2Invasive Species Programme, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch Research Centre, Private Bag X7, Claremont 7735, South Africa
Early agricultural journals indicate that tropical bamboo species were introduced from India into South Africa by the forestry department. Experimental plantations were established in Mpumalanga and Natal, and from there propagules of bamboo were reported to be distributed to farms for small-scale use. Herbarium records indicate that tropical and herbaceous has been found over the past 200 years in line with the literature. During my MSc we aimed to understand the current status and extent of bamboos. We expected to find similar trends to these herbarium records in terms of the species present and their distribution in South Africa. Results found that there is a legacy of tropical bamboos that can still be found on older farms, with most bamboo populations seeming to be contained and in general a valuable asset to farmers. However during sampling we also found that more than 50 % of naturalized bamboo populations in the Western Cape, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal were temperate bamboos from China, mostly Phyllostachys species. Unlike tropical species, there are no herbaria records of these bamboos prior to my sampling, suggesting that the introduction of these species is recent and most likely for horticultural purposes. The Phyllostachys genus is considered to be the most invasive and weedy of bamboos. We found numerous cases of bamboo escaping in urban environments and giving the appearance of spread in abandoned land. Further assessment is needed to monitor spread and whether management is needed for this genus.