Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hawaii Big Island - Annual Bamboo Festival

Annual Bamboo Festival - September 11, 2011 @ 11a.m.

30 minutes from Hale Moana Bed & Breakfast:  

The Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society will hold its 12th annual Bamboo Festival from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Papaikou Hongwanji. The Hongwanji is located makai off Hwy 19 between Mile Marker 7 & 8 North of Hilo. The event is open to anyone interested in bamboo.

Bamboo experts, growers, artists and specialty chefs will be on hand to assist participants learn more about bamboo. Of course, rare bamboos will be on sale along with bamboo products.

Guest speakers include Danny Li speaking on construction with Guadua and Hirose bamboos. Paul Booth will discuss propagation. Josiah Hunt of Hawaii Biochar will discuss the value of bamboo charcoal. Richard Vonwellsheim will speak on bamboo curing. For more information, call Donna Manion at 315-9870 or Joy Brennan at 982-4666.

Global warming continues to be in the news with ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic melting. Increased carbon dioxide is one issue, but the other side of the coin is decreased oxygen. Extreme droughts, floods and temperatures further exacerbate this global crisis. Severe drought and fires in the western United States and floods in the east are examples of what is happening worldwide.

What can we as individuals and communities do about it?

Some folks are reversing the trend by planting vegetation in deforested areas. Reforestation on the windward side of the Big Island is one example. This includes the reforestation that occurs even in our urban and suburban gardens. Organizations including the Outdoor Circles, garden clubs, commercial landscape and forestry associations as well as societies like the Bamboo Society are all doing their part to make a positive difference.

Besides joining the Bamboo Society, the festival offers an opportunity to get the scoop on this ancient crop of Asia.

Now, let's look at some of the outstanding bamboos that are being considered for multiple uses in Hawaii's sustainable agriculture picture.

There are more than 1,200 species of bamboo found from sea level to 10,000 feet in elevation. Most come from Asia, but some outstanding species come from Africa and the Americas. One of the best for construction is the South American genus of Guadua. Culms used in Colombian houses more than 100 years old have stood up better than many hardwoods. Some clumping types from the Himalayas are cold hardy and are grown as far north as British Columbia. There are many hardy running types that are used for erosion control in steep road cuts like the Hamakua to Hilo highway.

The genus Dendrocalamus contains some of the biggest bamboos of all. Some grow to 120 feet in height with a culm diameter up to 12 inches. Growth has been recorded at more than 3 feet in one day with the majority of height reached in three months. These are the favorite bamboos in Southeast Asia for construction, crafts and edible shoots.

My favorite is Dendrocalamus brandisii, which is native to Burma. It can reach a height of over 100 feet and culm diameter of 8 inches. The leaves are about a foot in length and are similar to our local yellow ginger in appearance. It is used in house construction, furniture, basketry, paper pulp and edible shoots. It will grow from sea level to at least 3,000 feet elevation.

Other favorites include Dendrocalamus membranaceus, which reaches up to 70 feet tall with culms 4 inches in diameter. The leaves are very small and delicate, giving a fern like appearance. Dendrocalamus latiflorus from China reaches 80 feet and culms 8 inches in diameter. Both are used in construction, crafts and for edible shoots. They do well from sea level to at least 3,000 feet where they are being tested at Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary in Kaloko Mauka. Another large bamboo that is beautiful and edible is Nastus elatus from New Guinea. The plant may reach 50 feet or more and has the look of a weeping willow.

Of course, big isn't the only thing bamboos do. The smallest ones are less than 6 inches tall, and there are many delicate species of moderate growth that are ideal for the small garden. These include Mexican weeping bamboo, Siamese bamboo, Bambusa nutans from the Himalayas, Bambusa textilis and the many forms of Bambusa multiplex. The latter species contains many beautiful cultivars like Alphonse Karr, Fernleaf, Chinese Goddess, Silver Stripe and Willowy.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

(Article was published in the West Hawaii Today, September 3, 2011)

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