Lucky Bamboo or Is It?

by Kathryn Lebbon


The commonly named "lucky bamboo" plant you can buy at any mall and else where, all over the USA, is in reality an unrelated species: Dracaena sanderiana.





Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Liliopsida
Order Asparagales
Family Ruscaceae
Genus Dracaena
Species D. sanderiana

Dracaena sanderiana is also known as Ribbon Dracaena, and is native to Cameroon in tropical west Africa. It is one of a group of small, shrubby species that grow as understorey plants in rainforests. Dracaena sanderiana can grow to be 1.5 m tall, with leaves 15-25 cm long and 1.5-4 cm broad at the base.


culm (stem)

stem (culm)



rhizome (root)


"Real" Bamboo on the other hand, are the tallest species in the true grass family Poaceae. Bamboo are woody, perennial evergreens. There are approximately 1,000 species of bamboo and they populate the diverse climates of Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, all the way to the west in the Himalaya, and south to Northern Australia. They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the Southeast of the USA, through South America ending in Chile.

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Liliopsida
Order Poales
Family Poaceae
Subfamily Bambusoideae
Supertribe Bambusodae
Tribe Bambuseae

The stems or "culms" of Bamboo, can range in height from a few centimeters to 40 meters, with stem diameters ranging from 1 mm to 30 cm. The stems are jointed with regular nodes; each bearing one side bud. Unique from other grasses, they are extensively branched. A single culm of bamboo from an established rhizome (root) system grows fast (up to six feet a day), reaching full height in one growing season. The bamboo then lives for several years, gradually increasing the number of side branches and branchlets only, but not its height or width. Bamboo forms a very hard wood, especially when more than several years old, and is light weight and durable. In China, the shoots of bamboo are edible. Since long ago, the fiber of bamboo has been used to make paper
in China.


node bud

node's bud, 3x mag.



fibers, 3.5x mag.


cross section

cross section, 6.5x mag.


mealy bug

Palmicultor lumpurensis, "Mealybug", 4x mag.


Palmicultor lumpurensis, (Bamboo Mealybug) is a bamboo-specific mealybug that was first officially reported in 2002 in Central Florida. The mealybugs are multi-stage insects and are easily identified when they are surrounded by sticky white webbing, usually found on new culm tips or branches. Mealybugs won't kill a bamboo plant, but they can get unsightly.


set up



Photo Techniques

For all of my shots I used a Nikon D-70 camera and switched between a 55mm macro lens and a 38mm thimble lens. I used reflective illumination, full transillumination, and partial transillumination techniques. In the above set-up I used a styrofoam cup covered in black tape over a tensor light, in place of a fiber optic light.


Works Cited

Tropical Bamboo. “Maintenance / Care.” 8 Nov. 2006

Wikipedia. “Bamboo.” 8 Nov. 2006

Wikipedia. “Dracaena sanderiana.” 8 Nov. 2006



I am currently a third year student, eager to learn from your feedback. Please feel free to contact me.
All images copyright © by Kathryn Lebbon 2006


Return to index of articles by students on the 'Principles and techniques of photomacrography' course, November 2006,
Biomedical Photographic Communications (BPC)
program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

Article hosted on Micscape Magazine (Microscopy-UK).