A customer recently wrote:

"My husband and I were at your farm last winter and bought about 12 bamboo plants from you. They are all doing well, but I've notice on two of the clumps there are black areas around the base of the leaves where they grow out of the cane, and there are these large ants running up and down the canes. I don't see any bugs, so I'm not sure why the ants are attracted to the canes. The ants don't appear to be doing any harm, but they are only on the canes with the black areas on them. Do you know what this might be?"

I answered:

The problem you are experiencing on some of the bamboos is probably sooty mold. Sooty mold is a cosmetic problem that does not hurt the plants themselves. The black areas around the base of the leaves is caused by a nectar secreted by aphids. Ants climb up the culms to reach the nectar and take it back to their mounds. To control the sooty mold, you need to eliminate both the ants and aphids - no small problem in Florida. You can defeat the ants - at least for a while - by applying an insecticide like Spectracide granules or Amdro. You can also use an insecticidal soap to kill the aphids. There are various organic formulas available for this purpose as well. Please remember that this is a cosmetic problem. The plant will not suffer from the aphids or the ants climbing up the canes. We caution you to consider the effects pesticides have on the environment before unnecessarily applying them.



People often ask how running bamboo grows. Since roots, by their very nature, are under the ground, they are not easily seen and difficult to imagine. But recently some red bamboo (
Semiarundinaria fastuosa) appeared in a section of our property where we had recently cleared away several feet of soil. Since the ground had been disturbed, a nearby section of red bamboo sent runners out into the open space. While some of the roots are anchored in the very dense cayola (white clay) soil, others are exposed providing an unusual opportunity to see exactly how a running bamboo grows.

If you look closely at the photo above you will see how the rhizones have spread in a straight line toward the open space. Every 4 - 6 inches a shoot has begun to reach upward, looking for light. Since the soil is so dense and lacking in nutrients in this location, the shoots are relatively short - less than 4 feet tall while only a few feet away, where the ground has been enriched with soil amendments, the same plants have stretched upwards of 15 feet.



Although it is only the start of February, many of the running bamboos have already begun to send up new shoots. The warm winter seems to have fooled the plants into thinking it's spring.

Normally bamboos don't send up their new shoots until the weather warms up in late spring/early summer but this years seems to be the exception. The running varieties of green and red hedge bamboo have been the first to send up new canes here at Bare Lake Farms and I expect to see other running varieties doing the same over the next few weeks.

To encourage new growth in your own yard, this is an excellent time to add organic matter to areas where you want your bamboo grove to expand. A top layer of compost, manure, peat, grass clippings, leaves or other organic matter spread around existing plants will encourage those plants to send out more new shoots.