Thomas' Plant-Related Blog

On plant science. Mostly.

World’s largest grass fruit

with one comment

Pear bamboo fruit

Photograph by rattandy (flickr), used with permission.

When I came across a 17g grass seed in data from Kew’s Seed Information Database, I initially threw it out as a mistake. It’s over 60 times the weight of the next largest seed (maize). So, having realised my mistake, I think that the fruit in question deserves a post.

In fact, it’s a species of bamboo, Melocanna baccifera, from the Orient. It has various common names; I’ll use ‘pear bamboo’. Another fascinating thing about it is that it only sets seed after 48 years, and then it dies off.

Unfortunately, that has some rather nasty consequences. All the pear bamboo across a huge area set seed at the same time, a strategy to swamp predators with food so that some must be left. Their predators are rats, and they breed quickly, building up numbers until the food runs out, whereupon they turn on crops, causing food shortages. The whole phenomenon is called ‘mautam’, and last took place in 2006.

Interview with Daniel Janzen about the Mautam.

N.B. Documents (1, 2) also suggest that the same thing happens with another species of bamboo, Bambusa tulda, causing a ‘thingtam’. This is apparently due in 2025.


Written by Thomas Kluyver

23 February, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. The photographer, Rattandy, has told me by e-mail that Thingtams are less severe; the species involved has much smaller seeds, and doesn’t cover as great an area as Melocanna.

    Thomas Kluyver

    9 March, 2010 at 11:05 pm

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