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What is Tonkin Cane?

By Vasanth S.
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tonkin cane is a type of bamboo tree that is part of the Poaceae plant family. It is native to southern China and is typically grown along the Sui River. The tall tree features strong bark that is used for a variety of applications, including building fishing poles and other rod-like instruments. Most of the tonkin cane is cut by hand, with machetes, on the sides of steep hills.

Scientifically, the tonkin cane is referred to as Arundinaria amabilis. It means "lovely bamboo." The tree was originally named by Dr. Floyd McClure and was recently renamed to Arundinaria amabilis McClure to honor him. The tonkin cane is also called the tea stick bamboo or the rodmaker's bamboo.

The tonkin cane grows up to 50 feet (15 m) in height. It features a narrow trunk that is leafless for several dozen feet. The top of the tree has a spreading form, featuring evergreen leaves.

In terms of climate, the tonkin cane can thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 7-10. The natural habitat of the tea stick bamboo is the steep hillsides along the banks of the Sui River. The climate there is tropical and very humid. An average of 6 feet (1.8 m) of rain falls in the region each year. Although the tree is adaptable to heavy rains, it doesn't tolerate standing water.

The soil in which the tea stick bamboo grows in usually has plenty of drainage since it is situated along a slanted hillside. Sandy and loamy soil are adequate for the tea stick bamboo. It can thrive in both acidic and alkaline soil. Generally, the pH range for the soil is between 5.6 and 8.5.

When growing the tea stick bamboo, it is recommended to plant it in an area that has direct sunlight for most of the day. The tree can also thrive in partial shade, but it may not grow as tall. It is also recommended to water the tree regularly.

The tea stick bamboo is propagated by division. It consists of a rhizome, which is a horizontal underground stem from which the roots extend. The rhizome is usually cut and placed in a hole. The shoots will quickly sprout and the tree will reach maturity within a few months.

During the harvest, the tea stick bamboo is cut and allowed to fall into the river. It is cleaned, and the foliage is removed. The bamboo is then bundled together to form large floating barges.

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