This is the largest of the hardy bamboos and one of the most beautiful. The very large culms are festooned with masses of the smallest leaves in the Phyllostachys genus, making it look even larger. The culms of a mature plant are very broad at the base and quite tapered. A culm 5 inches in diameter at chest height may be 7 or more inches in diameter at the base. New culms are covered with soft, velvety hairs, which provide protection from insect predation. Our common name "Moso", is the Japanese name which is an interpretation of the Chinese name "Mao Zhu", which translates to "Hairy Bamboo". (Also called: Phyllostachys heterocycla pubescens).
The type of Moso growing at Bamboo Garden was originally grown from seed by the founder of Bamboo Garden, Ned Jaquith, in 1985. We grew it on to maturity here at the nursery and Ned long considered it to be his favorite of all the bamboos. It is a particularly beautiful form of Moso, with primarily large green canes supporting the classic feather-fall leaf pattern. It also bears an occasional variegated culm or branch. With admiration and respect for the late founder of Bamboo Garden, we have assigned the cultivar name 'Jaquith' to our unique variety of Moso. It is well adapted to growing in the PNW and has achieved culm diameter of 5 inches at the base, becoming the largest bamboo at our nursery.
There is no mistaking Moso for any other. A mature Moso grove is a spectacular sight. From a distance the groves have a light, feathery look. When a grove is properly maintained, one can stroll among the large culms as if they were in a mature conifer forest. In a mature grove the foliage begins 30 to 40 feet above the base. Phyllostachys bambusoides is the bamboo of choice for basket weaving in Japan because of its flexibility. Moso, on the other hand, is unsuitable for fine basketry because it is so stiff, but it is the primary bamboo resource for the bamboo flooring industry, paper making, and shoot production. Fresh Moso shoots are delicious! It is also used for many utilitarian things such as utensils, tubing, construction scaffolding, etc. In the West it may be used for ornamental construction.
Moso shoots are the most commonly eaten shoots and consist of the majority of the bamboo shoot export from China. It shoots early, and shoots can even be dug in the winter, when no others are available. Moso does not mature quickly in cooler climates, and it is finally attaining some size in our yard (see the picture with Oggie the dog). We have transplanted large plants to our main nursery 25 miles west of Portland and now have a real bamboo forest. Our largest plants are about 40 ft tall and over 4 inches in diameter at breast height. We are also growing several distinctive clones with different color variations, such as the rare and beautiful, Bi-color Moso, and highly sought after but extremely rare, Tortoise Shell Moso. Moso shoots usually begin to appear in mid to late March in Portland, OR, depending on the temperature of the soil.