One of the leading biologists in bamboo research, Dr. Chris Stapleton, has recently found two new species of bamboo in the mountains of the Cameroon. Right across from Ethiopia, these species have been hidden away in the mountains as food for gorillas. Mountain bamboos in Africa are not well known to scientists. Their relation to traditional Asian bamboos is in question.
Almost all of the world’s bamboo is grown in Asia, so a species found multiple thousand miles away is extremely unusual. Since bamboo spreading by seed is a very rare occurrence, scientists wonder if these two species are old enough to bare resemblance to the earliest temperate bamboos that might have spread with the tectonic plates. During Stapleton’s analysis of the bamboos, enough differences were noticed (besides the obvious range) that warranted the naming of new genera. Traditional taxonomy has been brought into question because of this new finding. Many attributes and assumptions may have led to incorrect classification. There is a stark difference in the rhizome and root structures of these bamboos that is bringing a great deal of insight into the way we understand bamboo characteristics.
These new species are called Bergbambos and Oldeania, after their local designation in the local Afrikaans and Massai languages. Dr. Chris Stapleton further commented: “The features and DNA of the African bamboos are certainly different to those of East Asia, but it is still not clear whether they are really different enough to represent ancestors of all the Asian bamboos.”
Bamboo is expanding as an important domestic crop, being desired for its beneficial characteristics and its eco-friendly nature. As a renewable and sustainable crop, it represents a step forward for consumers who are demanding its production. As noted above, bamboo is almost solely grown in China. To ease the financial burden on companies supplying bamboo products like bamboo sheets, bamboo needs to be grown elsewhere in the world.