JSU biology professor discovers new bamboo

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Jacksonville State University biology professor Dr. Jimmy Triplett recently discovered a new species of native bamboo in Alabama. Tallapoosa Cane, or Arundinaria alabamensis, is recognized as Alabama’s 31st endemic vascular plant and the fourth species of native bamboo in the U.S. His research is published in the international science journal Phytotaxa.

So far, the new species is only known to be in four counties (Cleburne, Lee, Macon and Randolph) in Alabama. The closest place to find it is in Oxford, with other populations being further south.

According to Triplett, the common form of native bamboo in and around Gadsden is the River Cane (Arundinaria gigantea). River Cane grows along creeks and streams near the Coosa River.

This new bamboo species helps shed light on the history of native bamboos in the Southeastern U.S., including their complex ecology and genetics. River Cane and Switch Cane (Arundinaria tecta), once formed vast bamboo forests in North America known as canebrakes and were traditionally used by indigenous peoples for a variety of tools and crafts.

“Our native bamboos are closely related to bamboos in East Asia and highlight an interesting distribution shared with plants like magnolias, dogwoods and ginsengs, which is explained by prehistoric land bridges between continents,” Triplett said.

Triplett was also involved in the discovery of Hill Cane, Arundinaria appalachiana – also found in Alabama – and several other species of plants from around the world, including Japan, China, Sri Lanka and Ecuador. He is the curator of the JSU Herbarium, a regional natural history collection of more than 70,000 plant specimens.

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