Bamboo groves in Subic

Bamboo thicklets

When our group was driving toward the Subic forest reserve , we saw a lot of bamboo groves dying , Bamboo belong to the family of  grass .  Bamboos are some of the quickest growing plants in the world, some species have been recorded as growing up to 100 cm (39 in) within a 24 hour period due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product.

According to our  field botanist guide there are about  5 species of native erect bamboos.  However , most of the bamboos that the group had encountered in Subic is quickly dying . Why ? They had already started to bloom in the middle part of 2011 and most of the bamboo groves have begun their flowering cycle which according to our local guides may happen between 40 to 60- year intervals. So it was estimated that the last time a bamboo die-off occurred in the Subic area was maybe in the 1960’s  given the 40- year cycle interval.

Bamboo inflorescence and flowers

In China, pandas and local wildlife species which heavily depend their subsistence on bamboos may experience  severe famine and eventually death ! One threat that pandas face is natural: sporadic bamboo die-offs which occur every 40 to 120 years. Bamboo usually reproduces by sending up new shoots, but for reasons not yet understood from time to time the plants flower, seed and then die off en mass.

According to one report , In the 1970s more than 130 pandas died when a species of bamboo found in the Minshan mountains in Sichuan province  flowered and died. In the old days when die offs occurred it was easier for panda’s to simply migrate to an area with more bamboo. But these days their habitats are fragmented and human settlements may block them from reaching bamboo supplies.

Huge bamboo specimen dying -off

In the Subic areas, native buhos also serves as a home for native bats. The aetas  ( natives of the area) also uses the bamboos in many ways from building materials , food , medicine, and even utensils. Bamboos is very important in our daily life that some ethno-botanists and anthropologists say that bamboo plant is just equal in importance to coconut palms.

The rodent and snake population may also increase during the blooming season of the bamboo,  rodents eat bamboo shoots and flowers and thus the gradual increase of their population in the area. This is also the opportunity for the snakes around the vicinity to breed because of the increase of food supply .

fallen bamboo poles

Our group saw  specimens of Schizostachyum bamboo, which is said to be probably bikal or Schizostachyum diffusum according to our  botanist companions.  Some clumps  appeared  to have flowered .  Some are in a state of disarray maybe due to the recent typhoons and heavy monsoon rains that swept the Subic region . We had to be very careful in crossing the bamboo  groves  since the split bamboos may cause injuries , some  dried bamboo  also served as home to countless of insect species such as wasps and ants.

Some of the individual clump  shoots have dried out and were split open.  Majority of them have fallen which is why we saw the structure of the dry flowers. The inflorescence is big but the individual flowers are very small.

After this  die-off , we expect that the seeds would eventually germinate and hopefully – if not disturbed,  these seeds would grow into specimen sized bamboo plants in few years to come.

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