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Oxytenanthera abyssynica - (A.Rich.) Munro

Common Name Savanah Bamboo
Family Poaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards On ripening, the spiky seed heads may cause wounds which are unresponsive to treatment[332 ].
Habitats Dry forest and soudanian woodland[332 ]. Along banks of perennial watercourses, in damp places at the bases of hills, in moorland, on slopes of wooded hills, often on termite mounds from sea level to 2,000 metres[308 , 610 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Senegal to Eritrea and Ethiopia, south to Angola, Mozambique and northern S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Oxytenanthera abyssynica Savanah Bamboo

wikimedia.org / David J. Stang
Oxytenanthera abyssynica Savanah Bamboo
wikimedia.org / David J. Stang


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Oxytenanthera abyssynica is an evergreen Bamboo growing to 12 m (39ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Bambusa abyssinica A.Rich. Oxytenanthera borzii Mattei Oxytenanthera braunii Pilg. Oxytenanthera macrothyrsus K.Schum.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Sap  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses: Drink

Young shoots - cooked[301 ]. They can be boiled, steamed or smoked, and can also be dried or salted for later use[301 ]. Used as a famine food[332 ]. Seeds - cooked and used like rice[301 ]. It is ground into a flour and is also used for brewing alcoholic beverages[332 ]. The sap from the stems can be drunk[301 ]. It can also be fermented into a wine[301 ]. To collect sap to make wine, the tips of young shoots are cut off, and the stem is bruised twice a day during a week. The exudate from the bruises is collected and left to ferment for 2 days. The resulting wine (‘ulanzi’) contains 5 - 5.5% alcohol[299 ]. Upon flowering, the flower-heads are frequently covered with honey-dew[332

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidiarrhoeal  Dysentery  Skin  Tonic  Urinary

A leaf-decoction is valued in the treatment of urinary problems, being prescribed for a lack of urine, as well as for too much urine, particularly in cases of diabetes[332 ]. The decoction is also administered for generalised oedemas and albuminurea[332 ]. The leaf and culm are reported to contain an (unnamed) alkaloid[332 ]. The hairs on the culm sheaths are rubbed off and used as a wound-dressing. This is mixed with the rhizome pith, which has been cooked to a mash, and the whole thing is bandaged on the affected area[332 ]. The rhizome is used in the treatment of dysentery[332 ]. The seed is ground into a meal, together with other grain, and used as a tonic for small children[332 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Charcoal  Fencing  Fodder  Fuel  Furniture  Repellent  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The plant is grown as a component of shelterbelts and windbreaks[299 ]. It is used as a complementary crop in plantations of Cordia africana, Eucalyptus microtheca and Khaya senegalensis[299 ]. The plants extensive root system makes it suitable for used in erosion control programmes in land rehabilitation[299 ]. Clumps for sap (‘wine’) production are typically established within areas cropped for maize, potatoes, pyrethrum or wheat[299 ]. Other Uses: The leaves, rubbed(?) on house-walls, are said to keep away lice[332 ]. The strong woody culms are the most valued part of the plant, used as building material for huts, for making furniture and fencing, for splitting to weave into baskets and panniers, for spears, bows and arrows, musical instruments, xylophones, and tambourines, etc[299 , 332 ]. Walking-sticks are commonly made by cutting suitably-sized culms with a piece of the basal rhizome[332 ]. The dried canes are used as a fuel and are also made into charcoal[299 , 332 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Regional Crop

A plant of the drier to moist tropics, but avoiding the humid zones, it is found at elevations up to 2,000 metres, but mainly at 300 - 1,500 metres[299 ]. It occurs in savannah woodland areas subject to a climate with an average annual rainfall of over 800 mm and 3 - 7 dry months (where the average rainfall is less than 50 mm). It is absent from closed forest and extends little into semi-arid wooded grassland and thicket. Prevailing average annual temperatures are 20 - 27°c, with monthly average daily maxima of 30 - 36°c and daily minima of 7 - 17°c. Locally occasional frost may occur; if severe, this may scorch leaves[299 ]. Succeeds on a range of soils so long as they are moisture retentive and also well-drained[299 ]. Clumps take up to 6 years (from rhizome offsets) or 8 years (from seedlings) to reach the stem harvesting stage[299 ]. A pure stand of Oxytenanthera abyssinica contains up to 750 clumps and 30,000 stems per ha[299 ]. A newly germinated seed produces a single shoot in the first year, which may reach 1 metre in height from a small rhizome. By the third year, several shoots 1.8 - 3 metres long and 12mm in diameter can be produced from a rhizome that is 30cm long[299 ]. The plant reaches full height and diameter within 4 - 8 years[299 ]. Bamboos have an interesting method of growth. Each plant produces a number of new stems annually - these stems grow to their maximum height in their first year of growth, subsequent growth in the stem being limited to the production of new side branches and leaves. In the case of some mature tropical species the new stem could be as much as 30 metres tall, with daily increases in height of 30cm or more during their peak growth time. This makes them some of the fastest-growing species in the world[K ]. New stems break through the soil surface in the rainy season, growing very quickly for their first 3 - 4 weeks then slowing down and reaching their final height after 2 - 4 months[299 ]. Canes mature in 3 years, and may survive for 8 years, but they are over-mature and unsuitable for harvesting from 6 years of age onwards[299 ]. Clumps of plants grown for sap production are thinned from the second year onwards to prevent stem congestion, while pruning branches to around 2 metres favours access, and loosening peripheral soil promotes rhizome extension and unhindered shoot emergence[299 ]. Bamboos in general are usually monocarpic, living for many years before flowering, then flowering and seeding profusely for a period of 1 - 3 years before usually dying. Clumps can live for 30 years, but this is less when mass flowering occurs and rhizomes die with the stems. Mass flowering can occur every 7 years in Uganda, 14 years in Zambia or 20 - 21 years in Malawi, whilst sporadic flowering of individual plants has been widely and frequently noted[299 ]. Sometimes clumps die after mass flowering, but in other instances they have been known to survive by sending up new canes from the rhizome[299 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - it remains viable for 6 - 18 months if stored at ambient temperatures under dry and pest-proof conditions, and is said to germinate better if first stored for a few months[299 ]. Seed can be sown in light shade in a nursery seedbed or in containers. Germination rates vary from 30 - 80%, with the seed sprouting within 11 days in warm moist conditions but up to 4 months in cool dry conditions[299 ]. Plants are grown on in the nursery for 8 - 24 months, being planted out into their permanent positions in the early part of the rainy season when they have at least two shoots, the larger of which is 30cm or more long[299 ]. Division of the rootstock is an easy method of propagation[332 ]. Early in the rainy season, rhizome sections 12 - 30cm long bearing healthy buds, or the lowest 45cm of a stem, are excavated and transplanted without delay[299 ]. Stem cuttings[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Savanna bamboo, Bindura bamboo, West African bamboo (En). Bambu africano (Po). Mwanzi (Sw).

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Tropical Africa - Senegal to Somalia, south to southwest Africa to Madagascar.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Expert comment


(A.Rich.) Munro

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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