Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Kew Bull. 53(2): 394 (1998).
Cephalostachyum madagascariensis A.Camus (1925).
Giant bamboo (En). Bambou géant (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs mostly in the interior parts of the country.
The stems are used for construction and they are locally made into musical instruments. They are also used as water pipes for irrigation systems; stem parts are used as water containers. Split and flattened stems are woven into mats used for the construction of floors and walls of traditional houses.
Leaf bases and shoots contain cyanide.
Bamboo with elongated, long-necked rhizomes; stem (culm) solitary, up to 15(–22) m tall and 8(–12) cm in diameter, woody, hollow, glabrous or hairy, internodes 40–60 cm long with moderately thin walls; young shoots pale to purplish green, covered with sharp, stiff, brown to black hairs; leafy branches up to 1 m long, with up to 50 leaves. Leaves alternate, simple; sheath up to 21 cm long and up to 18 cm wide at base, glabrous or brown hairy; auricles up to 5 mm long with curly bristles, easily shed; ligule very short; blade triangular to lanceolate, (4–)7–26 cm × 1.5–6(–11) cm, glabrous but near the base covered with pale brown hairs. Inflorescence a globose, contracted, head-like panicle, 2.5–3 cm long, 2–4 cm in diameter, much branched. Spikelets 20–22 mm long, consisting of (3–)5 glumes and 1 fertile floret; lower glumes 3 mm long, 7-veined, upper glumes 7–11 mm long, 11–13-veined, with long pointed tips, lemma 12–13 mm × c. 4 mm, with long-pointed tip, 13–15-veined, palea 17–20 mm × 4–5 mm; floret with 6 stamens, an ovary with long style and 3 stigmas. Fruit a cylindrical caryopsis (grain), with thin wall, not easily removed.
Because of the long-necked rhizomes, Cathariostachys madagascariensis does not form clumps like many other bamboos do, but stems grow singly and scattered.
Cathariostachys comprises 2 species. The second species, Cathariostachys capitata (Kunth) S.Dransf., is also endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs along the east coast. It has stems up to 12 m tall, with a diameter of 4–5 cm. It is locally used for making flutes.
Cathariostachys madagascariensis occurs at 800–1000 m altitude in forest, forest margins, disturbed forest or on open ground. Populations of Cathariostachys madagascariensis sustain the lemur species Hapalemur griseus, Hapalemur aureus and Hapalemur simus, of which the latter 2 are critically endangered. Despite its high cyanide content, this bamboo constitutes an important part of their diets.
Genetic resources and breeding
It is unknown to what extent Cathariostachys madagascariensis is threatened by genetic erosion, but it is locally common.
Little is known about the potential uses, properties and ecological requirements of Cathariostachys madagascariensis. However, it does not seem to have good prospects for planting because it does not develop clumps.
• Bystriakova, N., Kapos, V. & Lysenko, I., 2004. Bamboo biodiversity, Africa, Madagascar and the Americas. UNEP-WCMC/INBAR. UNEP-WCMC Biodiversity Series 19. Cambridge, United Kingdom. 88 pp.
• Dransfield, S., 1998. Valiha and Cathariostachys, two new bamboo genera (Gramineae Bambusoideae) from Madagascar. Kew Bulletin 53(2): 375–397.
• Birkinshaw, C., 2005. Cathariostachys madagascariensis - main food of endangered lemurs / principale nourriture des Lémuriens menacés d’extinction. Ravintsara 3(2): 12.
• Clayton, W.D., Harman, K.T. & Williamson, H., 2002–. GrassBase - the online world grass flora. [Internet] Rotal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom.http://www.kew.org/ data/grasses-db/. Accessed October 2007.
• Lehman, S.M., 2006. Effects of transect selection and seasonality on lemur density estimates in southeastern Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology 27(4): 1041–1057.
• Tan, C.L., 1999. Group composition, home range size, and diet of three sympatric bamboo lemur species (genus Hapalemur) in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology 20(4): 547–566.
• Tan, C.L., 2006. Behavior and ecology of gentle lemurs (Genus Hapalemur). In Gould, L. & Sauther, M.L. (Editors). Lemurs: ecology and adaptation. Springer, New York, United States. pp. 369–381.
Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2008. Cathariostachys madagascariensis (A.Camus) S.Dransf. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.