With the onset of spring season, the flowering season in Mussoorie has begun. But today, I was startled by the sight of Bamboo flowering along the hilly roadside of key roadway connecting Mussoorie and Dehradun (Mussoorie to Dehradun road). I was happy to see flowers of bamboo, as its a rare phenomenon but at the same intrigued also, because flowering in bamboo is not considered as a good omen in different parts of the world.
The bamboo clump (Dendrocalamus sp.) was overladen with flowers depicting monocarpic flowering. I am thankful to Dr. Sas Biswas for kindly identifying the bamboo. The flowering of bamboo has always drawn interest of botanists and foresters. Kahkashan Naseem, IFS, Mussoorie Forest Division confirmed that it’s synchronous flowering. She also told that Bamboo board of Uttarakhand in year 2019 have given an alert not to plant Bamboo species as it will get ruined. The phenomena of bamboo flowering and fruiting has been recorded over 2000 years in ancient Chinese texts. The mention of Bamboo is also there in the ancient Hindu texts also. The first bamboo classification was given by Rumpf in the year 1750, who divided the bamboos into eight classes with the name Arundo. Later, Linnaeus used the name “Arundo bambos,” which included all the bamboos. Nees, in the year 1829 described bamboo inflorescence as a distinct structural unit.
There is a regular schedule of flowering in different species of Bamboos. Sometimes, it takes 50 to 100 years to see bamboo produce flowers and eventually plant will die off and reseed. While, sometimes bamboos flower multiple times before dying. But, it a matter of grave concern when there is gregarious or mass synchronous flowering and subsequent death of the plant. In Northeast India, the flowering of Bamboo is usually considered a bad omen. According to ancient belief, bamboo flowering indicates death, destruction, famine, increased pest and rodent attacks. In Northeastern states of Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur, after every 48-50 years, there is Mautam, which is a cyclic ecological phenomenon where flowering of bamboo triggers famine. In the year, 2009, different species of bamboo flowered in Arunachal Pradesh like Bambosa balcooa, B. tulda, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, and Stapletonia arunachalensis which resulted in rodent outbreaks causing severe damage to many crops (Kumawat et al., 2014). Hence, much attention is given towards bamboo flowering for its scientific importance as well as future implications.
The location where I observed bamboo flowering in Dendrocalamus sp. had monocarpic flowering, but later with the help of Forest Department of Mussoorie, I confirmed that it’s a synchronous monocarpic flowering in bamboo. In monocarpic flowering, bamboo plant will flower, go to seed, and then die. It’s characteristic of annual plants which have one growing season, then flower and die within the year. Most botanists will classify bamboo as monocarpic, but the issue remains somewhat unclear.The vicinity areas and localities should be explored for the bamboo flowering and locational studies should be conducted. According to the literature (Zhou, 1984; Du et al., 2000; Yuan et al., 2005, 2008, 2012; Franklin, 2010), sporadic flowering often occurs in cultivated or intensively managed bamboo species, which flower sporadically more often than wild species. Various research on bamboo flowering and inflorescence characteristics are widely used in the classification of bamboo. Also, studies has already been conducted with respect to bamboo, including flowering cycle, flowering habits, factors resulting in flowering, die-back and recovery, rejuvenation, and the effects of bamboo flowering.
Bamboo, also known as poor man’s timber has multiple uses and forms an integral part of social, cultural and economic life of the people. Earlier bamboo was categorized as tree , but after amendment of Section 2(7) of Indian Forest Act, 1927, bamboo is no longer a tree and felled bamboo too is not timber. With more than 130 species of bamboo in India, there is an immense potential to increase the productivity of bamboo resources and utilize it for increased value addition to generate employment and economic activities, primarily in rural areas.
Bamboo has both tangible and intangible benefits and can also be used in soil conservation. Climate change has adverse affect on the global ecosystems and Mussoorie and nearby areas are already facing it’s repercussion. The green cover and biodiversity enroute Mussoorie via Dehradun has been drastically affected due to rapid urbanization, irresponsible tourism, roadway extension to curb ever increasing traffic. The loss in the vegetation will pave ways for future landslides and mass wasting. Varying rainfall patterns and gradual rise in atmospheric temperature may trigger water shortage and hotter summers.
Nature has its own way of signaling disasters. Birds fly before earthquake, Bamboo flowers before disasters. Since time immemorial, the signs and signals given by nature and wildlife has averted many disasters. It’s important for us to recognize and decipher the signs and act judiciously to prevent and further protect our race. The demand of the hour is to act responsibly, before it’s too late.
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