Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Phyllostachys is a genus of hardy, running bamboos occurring in temperate climates. All Phyllostachys species are ornamental and almost all are likely to be invasive.
  • Weedy species in Australia include Black Bamboo (P. nigra), Japanese Timber Bamboo (P. bambusoides) and Golden Bamboo (P. aurea), occurring in New South Wales and Queensland.
  • Phyllostachys spreads by escaping from gardens and in dumped garden waste.
  • Plants may be limited in their spread by constructing an underground barrier around them if they are to be retained, or they may be controlled by removing them manually including all rhizomes and roots and by using herbicides.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Phyllostachys is a genus of hardy, 'running' bamboos, occurring in temperate climates. They are tall perennial (long-lived) shrubs or trees with leptomorphic or monopodial rhizomes, that is, with slender running underground stems, or rhizomes, rooting from the nodes, or joints, and with buds from the side of the node growing into new rhizomes or new shoots. Above ground, the culms (stems) are scattered (Li 1998; Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987). The woody culms grow 2–22 m tall and 1–15 cm thick, with slightly swollen nodes (joints in stem) and have flattened or grooved hollow internodes (sections between nodes). These grooves occur in an alternating pattern on the sides of the stem and above the axillary bud (the bud that occurs in the axil, the angle between the stem and leaf) (Romanowski 1993) .The genus is characterized by two unequal branches at most nodes (Stapleton & Barkworth 2007; Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987). Culm leaves are quickly shed as the culms elongate and are strap-shaped, narrow and usually reflexed (bent backwards or downwards towards the stem). Foliage leaves have deciduous sheaths, and the blades are shortly stalked, broad and cross-veined (Stapleton & Barkworth 2007).

Phyllostachys species flower at intervals of many years, some maybe only once a century or more (Jacobs & Hastings 1993). The inflorescence (floral structure) is comprised of branches of stalked spikelets (small partial inflorescences composed of an axis bearing bracts, or modified leaves, most of which enclose a small floret) on an elongate central axis. Each spikelet is surrounded by bracts (modified leaf) usually bearing a small blade at the apex. The spikelets have 1–4 florets, but not all are fertile (Jessop et al. 2006; Stapleton & Barkworth 2007).

All Phyllostachys species are used as ornamental plants, especially those that can produce coloured culms and are commercially propagated as cultivars. Almost all Phyllostachys are likely to be invasive (Stapleton & Barkworth 2007). Weedy species in Australia include Black Bamboo (P. nigra), Japanese Timber Bamboo (P. bambusoides) and Golden Bamboo (P. aurea) (Romanowski 1993).

A separate weed profile is also available for Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) on this website.

For further information and assistance with identification of Phyllostachys spp., contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

In their native China, Black Bamboo and Golden Bamboo grow in temperate areas with an annual rainfall of 1,200–1,800 mm, an annual average temperature of 15–20 °C, between latitudes 25°N and 30°N and a mean temperature in January (mid-winter) of 4–8 °C. They are commonly grown in gardens in Beijing (latitude 40°N) in sheltered positions. Both Golden Bamboo and Black Bamboo are hardy down to -20 °C. Japanese Timber Bamboo also prefers a temperate climate but it is not as tolerant of the cold as Golden and Black Bamboo (Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987).

Are there similar species?

The Phyllostachys species can be distinguished from each other by the appearance of their culms. The name "Golden Bamboo" is deceptive as it is only the culms that turn yellow, and then only in the sun. A stand of Golden Bamboo growing so densely that the sun doesn't penetrate will have green culms (Romanowski 1993). But Golden Bamboo differs from other species of Phyllostachys, including those with brighter yellow culms, in having a raised collar below the nodes and extremely shortened and asymmetrically swollen basal internodes, forming a zigzag pattern (Stapleton & Barkworth 2007). Mature culms of Black Bamboo are shiny black, immature ones green (Romanowski 1993; Sydney Weeds Committees 2008). Japanese Timber Bamboo can grow to 20 m tall and 15 cm diameter, the culms usually green, although there are 2 cultivars grown in Australia, "Castilloni" with golden culms striped with green, growing to 10 m, and "Holochrysa" with bright-gold culms (Romanowski 1993).

There is a tropical equivalent of Black Bamboo from the genus Gigantochloa. These species and cultivars have culms ageing to deep brown or black, often with fine coloured stripes, and large ornamental leaves. Gigantochloa is a genus of clumping bamboos with a different rhizome system to Phyllostachys and so doesn't become weedy (Romanowski 1993). Japanese Timber Bamboo, one of the largest of the Phyllostachys species, looks very similar to some of the very large tropical Bambusa species. Bambusa are clumping rather than running bamboos, three of which are native to Australia and many others are cultivated (Jacobs & Hastings 1993; Romanowski 1993).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Bamboo is one of the most important plants in the daily life of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In Asia, Bamboo is of enormous economic and cultural importance. It is used widely for construction, furniture, housewares, food and cooking, hunting, paper-making, craft and landscaping (Li 1998; Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987).

Native ecosystems: However, running bamboo, Golden Bamboo in particular (Romanowski 1993), has proven to be extremely invasive in Australia and poses a substantial threat to the environment. It creates an impenetrable network of roots, heavy leaf litter and dense shade. This weed invades bushland areas through escaping from properties or being dumped in garden waste. Bamboo infestations can lead to restriction of access to fence lines for maintenance and can present a fire risk (Sydney Weeds Committees 2008).

How does it spread?

Phyllostachys spp. produce erect shoots from rhizomes forming loosely clumped shoots over large areas. Rhizomes may extend as far as the height of the culms (Stapleton & Barkworth 2007) and will travel under fences, asphalt and concrete for several metres before emerging above ground (Romanowski 1993). Newly planted Phyllostachys may stay compact and not produce rhizome runners for 6 or 7 years (Romanowski 1993). Dumping of garden rubbish containing rhizome fragments results in spread of Phyllostachys from gardens into the bush and other areas (Sydney Weeds Committees 2008).

What is its history in Australia?

Phyllostachys bambusoides was recorded as naturalised in the Cook district of Queensland in 1954 (Queensland Herbarium 2008). Phyllostachys nigra was recorded in Brisbane as a cultivated specimen in 1940 (Australian National Herbarium 2008). Phyllostachys aurea was recorded as being naturalised near Windsor, New South Wales in 1971 (National Herbarium of New South Wales 2008). It was also recorded as being a serious weed in a golf course at Toowoomba, Queensland in 1984 (Queensland Herbarium 2008).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Non-chemical control: In order to comply with the Noxious Weeds Act, Bamboo must be prevented from growing within 3 m of a boundary fence (Sydney Weeds Committees 2008). Plants may be removed manually by digging out the base of the plant and removing all rhizomes and roots (which should be bagged and disposed of carefully). 

After drying out, the culms can be mulched or placed in green waste for recycling. The site should be monitored for the next few seasons for the reappearance of shoots. Plants that are deliberately cultivated must have a method of containment in place to prevent regrowth from occurring (Pittwater Council 2007; Sydney Weeds Committees 2008). An underground barrier should be constructed around all Phyllostachys spp. before planting. Such barriers should extend to a depth of 75 cm, especially for the larger Golden Bamboo (Romanowski 1993).

Chemical control: Culms can be lopped and immediately painted with a registered herbicide.

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority at http://www.apvma.gov.au  for chemical information.

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

New shoots of Phyllostachys appear in spring. For Black Bamboo, this will be for only a few weeks, but for other more invasive species, shoots may keep appearing for months (Romanowski 1993).

There is not a great deal of information available on the flowering and seeding cycles of Bamboo. This is because they flower very infrequently, some maybe only once in a century or more (Romanowski 1993). It is probably a myth that every plant of each species of Bamboo, after a very long life, (e.g., a couple of centuries), will flower en masse and die, no matter where in the world it is grown or in which climates, but it may be true for some species (Romanowski 1993). As many of the cultivated Bamboos are single clones, it is not surprising that they all flower at the same time, but plants grown in very different climates from those in which they originated will flower at different times, may never flower or may never recover from flowering and die soon afterwards (Romanowski 1993). Some populations of Golden Bamboo flower relatively frequently (with not all the plants flowering), and other populations flower en masse every 15–30 or more years (Jessop et al. 2006) Black Bamboo has been recorded as flowering a number of times in the past few decades (Romanowski 1993).

Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987 state that "bamboo plants of most species will wither and die after flowering. All the plants in a large bamboo grove in the wild sometimes die in the same year". In China, groves of landscaped Bamboo over 200 years old have been maintained by pruning at the first signs of flowering and application of large amounts of nitrogen (Jessop et al. 2006).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Japanese Timber Bamboo is known from a few collections from Moreton and North Kennedy in Queensland. Black Bamboo is naturalised in several areas on the central coast of New South Wales. Golden Bamboo is naturalised in several areas on the central and north coasts of New South Wales and at Moreton in Queensland (Sharp & Simon 2002).

Phyllostachys species have been declared Class 4 noxious weeds in all councils in the Sydney North region as well as in the Parramatta and Blue Mountains Councils (Sydney Weeds Committees 2008), and also in the Australian Capital Territory (Australian Weeds Committee 2007). They are prohibited until assessed in Western Australia (Australian Weeds Committee 2007).

Where does it originate?

There are about 50 species of Phyllostachys in Asia (Jessop et al. 2006), of which 39 species are native to China (Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987). Golden Bamboo grows in the valley of the Yangtze River in China. Wild Black Bamboo plants still exist in the Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces and are cultivated in the Yangtze River Valley. Japanese Timber Bamboo originates from China, but is commonly grown in Japan for its timber. It occurs from the south of the Yellow River to the south of the Yangtze River (Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987).

Golden Bamboo and Black Bamboo are found worldwide in Europe, Africa, temperate Asia, Australasia, Pacific Islands, North America and South America (Sharp & Simon 2002). Japanese Timber Bamboo also occurs in Europe, Africa, temperate Asia, tropical Asia, Australasia and North America (Stapleton & Barkworth 2007; Wang Dajun & Shen Shao-Jin 1987).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Phyllostachys spp.

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Bamboo, Fish-pole Bamboo, Golden Bamboo, Yellow Bamboo, Black Bamboo, Timber Bamboo, Japanese Timber Bamboo, Giant Timber Bamboo, Madake

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