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Oxytenanthera abyssinica (Bindura bamboo)

Oxytenanthera abyssinica (Bindura bamboo) is a drought-resistant bamboo from tropical Africa. Kew's Millennium Seed Bank holds several thousand seeds from this species.

Bindura bamboo

Oxytenanthera abyssinica (Photo: Sidi Sanogo)

Species information

Common name: 

Bindura bamboo

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated by the IUCN.

Habitat: 

Savanna woodland, semi-arid wooded grassland and thicket.

Key Uses: 

Building materials, textiles and fibres, food, fuel, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

Not recorded.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Poales
Family: 
Poaceae
Genus: Oxytenanthera

About this species

Oxytenanthera abyssinica is a drought-resistant species of bamboo that grows in savanna woodland, semi-arid wooded grassland and thicket. It flowers after long periods of vegetative growth, occasionally sets seed and then dies back, sometimes synchronously across large areas. This phenomenon has led to the superstition in Mali that the fruiting of the bamboo is a bad omen for kings, conquerors and chiefs. It last seeded in 2006.

The Millennium Seed Bank now holds several thousand seeds from this species, which will be used for conservation research both in the UK and in Mali.

Genus: 
Oxytenanthera

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Collecting seeds of Oxytenanthera abyssinica.

Native throughout tropical Africa outside the humid forest zone, from Senegal to Ethiopia, south to Angola, Mozambique and northern South Africa. Introduced to parts of Asia and elsewhere.

Description

Bindura bamboo is a woody perennial. It has a clump forming habit with canes that are sometimes zig-zag. Stems are up to 10cm in diameter; clump height of approximately 9m.

Threats and conservation

Seeds from Oxytenanthera abyssinica have been collected in west Africa by the Millennium Seed Bank Project's partner institution in Mali, the Institut d’Économie Rurale. It is a priority for conservation because it is a very useful plant, its natural habitat is under increasing threat, and it sets seed only once every seven or so years.

The bamboo has many uses and is therefore highly valuable to local people, but is threatened in the wild by over-harvesting, animal grazing and urban development, as well as bush fire. It is now a fully protected species in Mali; harvesting is carefully controlled and reintroduction programmes have been established.

Weaving with Oxytenathera abyssinica.

Uses

Within Mali and other sub-Saharan African countries, Bindura bamboo is used for house construction, roofing, scaffolding, fencing, furniture, tool handles, arrow shafts, fish traps and a range of other products. Split stems are used for basketry.

Young stems and leaves, and the seeds, can be eaten as famine food. The seeds and sap are used to make alcoholic beverages.

The stems are used as fuelwood and for making charcoal, and can be pulped for paper-making.

The leaves and rhizome are used medicinally. In Senegal, leaf decoctions are used for treating polyuria, oedema and albuminaria, and the rhizome is used in the treatment of dysentery, diabetes and rheumatism.

The leaves are also browsed by livestock.

Oxytenanthera abyssinica, original drawing by Stella Ross-Craig.

Oxytenanthera abyssinica is used in windbreaks for soil erosion control and for rehabilitating degraded lands in Sudan and Tanzania, and is also used as an ornamental plant.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two
Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)
Germination testing: Successful

Cultivation

Bindura bamboo can be grown in full sun on slopes in poor dry soils that must be well drained. It is the hardiest of the three African species of Oxytenanthera. Propagation by rhizome divisions, and seeds are rare.

References and credits

Burkill, H.M. (1994). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa. Vol. 2. Families E-I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Chilufya, Henry and Tegnas, Bo (1996). Agroforestry Extension Manual for Northern Zambia, Technical Handbook No. 11. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Nairobi, Kenya.

Hutchinson, J. et al. (eds) (1954- ). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London.

Inada, T. & Hall, J.B. (2008). Oxytenanthera abyssinica (A. Rich). Munro. Record from Protabase.

Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (eds), PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Available online.

Mgeni, A,S.M. (1983). Bamboo wine from Oxytenanthera braunii. Indian Forester 109: 306-309.

Kew Science Editor: Raymond Townsend
Kew contributors: Sustainable Uses Group
Copy editing: Kew Publishing
Kew would like to thank the following contributors: Ruth Adeka and Staline Kibet, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.

While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions. 

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