DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — An extraordinary phenomenon is on display at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham.

An entire grove of blackstem bamboo, standing at 20 feet tall within the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, is wowing visitors with its blooms. According to Duke, it’s a “rare spectacle” which marks the first and only time in its life it has bloomed in Durham.

Bamboo blooms may not be very showy in nature the way flower blooms are. However, they make up for it with their sheer abundance and their rarity, according to the Duke Gardens website.

Blooms of blackstem bamboo. (Photos and video courtesy Duke University.)

Not your typical annual or perennial, blackstem bamboo in particular has an estimated 120 years between blooms. The blooms come about after decades of the bamboo focusing solely on vegetative growth until the dramatic bloom all at once.

In an explainer on its website, Duke Gardens said the bamboo dies after it blooms since it spent all of its energy. However, the cycle continues on as the bamboo leaves behind plenty of seeds as it dies out, which repopulates the same area.



For visitors who want to see the blooms for themselves, they are located near the garden’s lower parking lot. Given that the bamboo is so tall, the majority of the flowers will be higher up on the culms and may not be immediately visible from the ground, though.

Because it happens so infrequently, the science of mass flowering in bamboo is still poorly understood, according to Duke Gardens. It is also unclear what impact, if any, recent bouts of cold weather will have on the overall length of the bloom period.

For more information on the blackstem bamboo and the mystery of its blooms, you can read more here.