Berg bamboo (Thamnocalamus tessellatus)

Also known as: Bergbamboes, mountain bamboo
GenusThamnocalamus (1)
SizeHeight: up to 5 m (2)
Stem diameter: 2 – 3 cm (2)
Leaf length: 8 cm (3)
Leaf width: 1 cm (3)

Berg bamboo is listed on Annex II of the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants (1).

This bamboo species forms tight clumps (2) of yellowish-green stems, known as culms (4). The culms turn dark purple in the upperparts and are segmented with regularly spaced growth rings (4). The long and narrow leaves are dark green (3).

The only bamboo native to South Africa, berg bamboo is found throughout the Drakensberg region from the Biggarsberg summit in the north to the Winterberg summit in the south (5).

Growing at altitudes of 1,200 to 2,400 m above sea level, berg bamboo is found in the fynbos ecosystem, which is characterised by reeds and heaths. It prefers river and cave edges (5).

Berg bamboo reproduces sexually only rarely, by flowering and dropping seeds. In the intervening years, it reproduces asexually, spreading through rhizomes.

As part of the unique fynbos ecosystem found in South Africa, berg bamboo is threatened by the spread of introduced plant species, including the Australian wattle, Port Jackson and European pine species. It is also at risk from the increasingly frequent fires, from which the fynbos species cannot quickly recover. Additionally, commercial development and afforestation fragment and destroy areas of fynbos containing berg bamboo (6).

Fynbos regions require protective legislation and would benefit immensely from designation as protected areas and management of introduced plant species. Increased public and landowner awareness and the promotion of ecotourism will both contribute to the conservation of fynbos and of berg bamboo (6).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. Gillett, H.J. and Walter, K.S. (1998) 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants - Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.
  2. Bamboo Garden Nursery (May, 2005)
  3. Bamboo Giant Nursery (May, 2005)
  4. Jungle Giants Bamboo Specialists (May, 2005)
  5. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (May, 2005)
  6. University of the Western Cape – Enviro-facts Guide to Fynbos (June, 2005)