Bamboos have a wide natural distribution, occurring from approximately 46° N latitude to approximately 47° S latitude and from sea level to as much as 4,300 meters (ca. 14,000 feet) in elevation in equatorial highlands.  Here, maps of the major groups of bamboos are provided to illustrate the major distribution patterns within Bambusoideae.

The herbaceous bamboos (tribe Olyreae) (map 1) are concentrated in the Neotropics, where 20 genera and approximately 110 species are found (Judziewicz et al. 1999) from Mexico to northern Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil as well as in the West Indies.  Buergersiochloa, which includes only one species, is endemic to New Guinea (Fijten 1975).  Members of this tribe rarely occur above 1,000 meters in elevation.  One of the neotropical species, Olyra latifolia, is somewhat weedy and not surprisingly, is the most widely distributed herbaceous bamboo, known from tropical Africa and Madagascar in addition to its broad neotropical distribution.  Olyra latifolia is clearly naturalized in tropical Africa and Madagascar, but the question of whether it is truly native to these areas is still debated.  We have used a lighter shade of gold to indicate this uncertainty.  A report that O. latifolia occurred in the Tampa area of Florida in the continental United States is derived from confusion surrounding the geographic names.  According to Dr. Gerald (Stinger) Guala, there is or was a location called Tampa in Cuba, and Cuba was included in a broader region called Florida, therefore Dr. Guala considers it much more likely that the specimen upon which this report was based came from Cuba and not the continental United States.

The woody bamboos (tribe Bambuseae) (map 2) are much more widely distributed, both geographically and altitudinally, than the herbaceous bamboos (Judziewicz and Clark, in press).  Within the woody bamboos, three major groups have emerged from recent studies:  the paleotropical woody bamboos, the neotropical woody bamboos, and the north temperate woody bamboos.  The paleotropical bamboos (map 3) (including the subtribes Bambusinae, Hickelinae, Melocanninae, and Racemobambosinae and a few genera of uncertain placement) are distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia, southern China, southern Japan, and Oceania. The neotropical bamboos (map 4) (including subtribes Arthrostylidiinae, Chusqueinae, and Guaduinae) are distributed from Mexico south to Argentina and Chile and in the West Indies.  The north temperate woody bamboos (map 5) (including subtribes Arundinariinae and Shibataeinae) are widespread and diverse in the north temperate zone but some members occur at higher elevations in parts of Africa, Madagascar, southern India, Sri Lanka, and South-East Asia.

Map 1. Distribution of herbaceous bamboos (Olyreae). Larger image




Map 2. Distribution of all woody bamboos (Bambuseae). Larger image




Map 3. Distribution of paleotropical woody bamboos. Larger image




Map 4. Distribution of neotropical woody bamboos. Larger image

Map 5. Distribution of temperate woody bamboos. Larger image

Map 1 was prepared by Anna Gardner; Maps 2-5 were prepared by Elizabeth Vogel with assistance from Anna Gardner.

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