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Comparing the different forms of
Fargesia sp.
'Jiuzhaigou'
Once in a while, a new bamboo is introduced to the horticultural world that has great potential as a garden specimen. The first introduction of Fargesia sp. 'Jiuzhaigou' has proven to be such a  plant. Between 1986 and 2000, there have been at least 11 new forms collected by European botanists and horticulturalists. Like the first introduction, they were found in Jiuzhaigou Park; a mountainous region of northern Sichuan, a province of China. The name translates to "Valley of Nine Villages", referring to the Tibetan villages that have inhabited this remote valley for centuries. Renowned for its beautiful turquoise colored lakes, the Chinese government made the area into a national park in 1982. The ecosystem, ranging from 6,500 to 15,000 feet in elevation, is mountainous temperate broad-leaf forest, with alpine systems in the higher regions. The forests take on attractive yellow, orange and red hues in the autumn and are home to a number of plant species of interest, such as several varieties of rhododendron and, of course, bamboo. There are isolated populations of  least 20 adult Giant Pandas still inhabiting this area.

All forms of Fargesia sp. 'Jiuzhaigou' are relatively young seedlings. They are clumping bamboo with a tight, pachymorph root system. Their diversity is evidence of a high degree of natural variation that most bamboo show in their native habitat, when allowed to flower and reproduce naturally over many centuries. Being native to very high elevations, they are all extremely cold hardy, but cannot tolerate extreme heat or tropical environments. The new introductions provide enough diversity to potentially fill a gap left by the old generation cultivars of Fargesia nitida that are finally flowering. F. nitida and F. sp. 'Jiuzhaigou' are very similar, but have enough differences (as revealed by genetic testing) that they should be recognized as separate species. As of yet, they are still not an officially described species (in the name Fargesia sp. 'Jiuzhaigou', sp. is a taxonomical abbreviation for species, meaning they are "undescribed" by botanists).

From a gardeners perspective, all forms of 'Jiuzhaigou' generally have smaller, more delicate looking leaves than most F. nitida, and perhaps more vivid and varied color (although some old generation F. nitida were very colorful ). The brilliant red tones they are renowned for are not present year round; they are most evident in the spring and fall. There is always a compliment of older, yellow culms, and new shoots that are light green with purple culm sheaths. The individual canes of  'Jiuzhaigou' shed their culm sheaths after about a year, lending to a more tidy appearance. F. nitida usually retain culm sheaths for a longer time. Beyond that, one would be hard pressed to find distinguishable differences. They show their best characteristics when grown in an area with morning sun for 2-4 hours, and shade for the hottest part of the day. Loamy, well draining soil is also important. 'Jiuzhaigou' will naturally shed about 30% of its foliage in late fall, to prepare for the winter. While still dense enough to act as a screen, we think 'Jiuzhaigou' works best in the landscape as a solitary specimen, or colorful accent. Try not to place it in close proximity to other tall, bushy plants, otherwise the most colorful part of the cane will be obscured. Due to their hardiness and upright form, they make excellent container specimens. They are truly beautiful plants, with an airy, delicate leaf pattern and surprising color changes throughout the different seasons. Easy to maintain and most garden worthy, even for small, urban spaces.

 Below we have listed five different forms we have available now or in the near future, with most obvious and important characteristics to distinguish them from each other. Aside from Jiuzhaigou I and II, we haven't grown the others in the ground long enough to determine their full potential.  Click on the name or photo of each one for more detailed information.

Fargesia sp. 'Jiuzhaigou' I
"Red Dragon"

Height: 9 to 12 feet
Diameter: 0.75 inch
Hardiness: -20
F

The original Jiuzhaigou, known for the intense red color of the new culms. They then age to a mellow yellow. Averaging about 10 feet, with a fairly upright habit due to the very small leaves.

Fargesia sp. 'Jiuzhaigou' II  

Height: 12 to 14 feet
Diameter: 0.75 inch
Hardiness: -20
F

Slightly larger canes and leaves than original  with a more "open" clump habit (more space between each culm), but is not as brightly colored.  Averaging about 12-13 feet in height. Beautiful foliage.

Fargesia sp. 'Jiuzhaigou' IV
"Black Cherry"

Height: 7 to 9 feet
Diameter: 0.5 inch
Hardiness: -20
F

This unusual bamboo is the darkest colored form of 'Jiuzhaigou' collected. The canes age to a deep, wine color, with purple and red tones, or black cherry. Kimmei Nursery in Holland describes them as turning almost black. It is also thought to be one of the shortest forms, averaging only about 8 feet. Black cherry colored canes are strikingly beautiful.

 

Fargesia sp. 'Jiuzhaigou Genf'

Height: 13 to 15(?) feet
Diameter: 0.75 inch
Hardiness: -20
F

This is reported to be the tallest form, up to 15 feet. It acquires a beautiful cherry red coloration in the spring and fall like the original Jiuzhaigou I.

 

 

All photos and article on this page copyright to Noah Bell, Bamboo Garden 2009                 

Fargesia sp. Jiuzhaigou X

Height: 10 to 12 feet
Diameter: 0.75 inch
Hardiness: -20
F

This interesting and  rare form of Jiuzhaigou has canes that age to a rich yellow/gold color. It appears to grow as tall, if not a little taller than Jiuzhaigou I (11 feet on average)

 

Timber Bamboo  (Phyllostachys)   
30 to 70 ft. tall
Mid-sized Bamboo (Phyllostachys)
15 to 30 ft tall
Cold-hardy Clumping Bamboo       
6 to 25 ft. tall
Cold-sensitive Clumping Bamboo
 6 to 50 ft. tall
Other Running Bamboo               
6 to 25 ft. tall
Small Running Bamboo                
1 to 8 ft. tall
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