Seed Viability

Seed viability is the capability of a seed to germinate. Bamboo seeds are known to lose viability relatively fast. Actually, there is a wide range in the duration of bamboo seed viability, depending largely on species or genus. There are very few studies on bamboo seed viability, hence viability is known only from a few species. Results of a well documented study on viability of several Chinese bamboos were published online by FMXG. This study reveals that species within a certain genus usually show a similar pattern in their seed viability. Therefore, it can be assumed in the absence of further data that most species within a certain genus follow this pattern, provided the genus represents a monophylletic group of species (e.g. Phyllostachys, and more or less Fargesia, but not a widely defined Bambusa).

The aforementioned study further reveals that cool seed storage (1-6 °C) contributes to longer seed viability. Additional extension of seed viability might be achieved by a process of gradually reducing the water content of the seeds, then freezing the seeds. We have records that this worked out with Phyllostachys edulis seeds; other seeds were not tested. We restrain from the method of reducing water content. All our seeds offered will be kept under cool storage only. From time to time, stored seeds will be randomly tested on viability and germination rates. Some of these test results will be published in our Bamboo Seeds Catalog. The tests give a rough pattern of germination rates, but are not representative as we perform tests of usually 10 to 30 seeds per species at a time.

Results of some of the bamboo seed germination tests (executed by FMXG Nursery and Baan Sammi Bamboo Garden) have been published online as listed below.
Some of the aforementioned test results were cited in the Bamboo Seeds Catalog and Compilation of Bamboo Seeds under the relevant bamboo species. There you can also find some additional germination results, e.g. from customers.

We endeavor to get and offer seeds as fresh as possible, thus we keep a limited seed quantity in stock, the quantity depending mainly on duration of seed viability, not on demand. Duration of seed viability of most Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, Gigantochloa, Phyllostachys, Fargesia, and Indosasa species, as tested by FMXG, is 6 months under normal atmospheric temperatures, and 12 months or longer under 1-6 °C storage temperature. Usually, these seeds will not be kept in stock longer than one year, and will be most often sold out within 9 months. Duration of viability longer than 1 year is known from a few species, e.g. Bambusa bambos, Dendrocalamus barbatus, D. membran­aceus, D. strictus, and Oxytenanthera abyssinica, hence you might find seeds of these species being offered for more than one year. Seeds of species with a relatively short period of viability, e.g. Lingnania, Neosinocalamus, Schizostachyum, Leptocanna, Chimonobambusa, and Qiongzhuea, will be kept in stock in low quantity, and usually not be re-stocked if sold out. These seeds will be most often sold out within 3 months. Seeds of species with very short viability, like Chimonobambusa, Qiongzhuea, and Melocalamus, will be offered only for a few days or weeks from arrival in stock, and may be offered only for the national market, not being sent abroad.

Collecting Seeds

Flowering of bamboo is a rare event, and collecting seeds from flowering bamboos in Thailand is an extremely rare event. Nobody will care for the seeds, and if a whole clump is gregariously flowering - thus promising going to die, people will cut down the clump to use the stems, usually before seeds will develop or ripen. This will happen to flowering bamboos in the wild, as well as to bamboos in private gardens and communal areas along streets and watercourses near villages. Only a few people, and some foresters throughout Thailand, will attempt to collect seeds when available. If bamboos flower in remote areas, whether wild or in cultivation, access to the area where the plants grow is most often challenging. There is most often no paved street but a dirt trail only, impassable during rainy season, known only by local villagers who are usually hill tribes and speak little Thai but a different language, and there is no mobile phone signal to connect with the rest of the world. If one got the chance viewing a flowering bamboo in such an area, it is usually not the time for collecting ripe seeds. Nobody can camp on the site for a month or longer, waiting for the seeds to ripen, therefore a villager might be engaged to collect seeds in due time. However, how can seeds on a twenty meter tall bamboo be collected? Hardly anybody will climb up the stem to collect seeds. Birds will be the first to collect the seeds for their own diet, and what fells down is diet for wildlife like rats and livestock like hens. Spreading out a net on the ground, or better some 1-2 meters above ground is a good idea, but often not practical as the ground is mostly covered by impenetrable other vegetation or houses and huts were built around. Storm and rain may render collecting seeds by a net of little success. Thus, villagers tend to cut the whole clump in flower, and maybe find some ripe seeds, but animals might find most in the first time. At the end, you get a handful of seeds. These peculiarities contribute mainly to exorbitant prices of seeds of some Thai bamboo species. Probably most harvested seeds of Thai bamboo species are from cultivated plants, thus harvesting is less challenging. Often, however, the yield is low, less than 1 kg seed, hence the sales prices are high to cover the expenses.