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Products > Otatea acuminata
Otatea acuminata - Mexican Weeping Bamboo
Image of Otatea acuminata
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Bamboo
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae) (Grasses)
Origin: Mexico (North America)
Evergreen: Yes
Bloomtime: Infrequent
Synonyms: [O. acuminata ssp. aztecorum, Yushania aztecorum]
Height: 15-20 feet
Width: Clumping
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Seaside: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25° F
Otatea acuminata (Mexican Weeping Bamboo) - A graceful clump forming bamboo with arching culms that can reach to 20 feet tall, but most often seen at around 15 feet tall by an equal width. The canes, which are solid when young , can grow to a diameter of 1 to 1 ½ inches and are densely clothed with long, very thin, light green leaves that are somewhat pendulous, lending the plant a soft appearance.

Plant in full to part sun where it is somewhat drought tolerant once established in coastal gardens, but looks best with regular to occasional irrigation. Hardy to 22F and even lower for short durations (took 18° F in our Christmas 1990 freeze without damage).

Otatea acuminata is native to Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Nayarut, Jalisco, Michoácan and Guerrero provinces of Mexico. This species was described by American botanist and bamboo authority Dr. Floyd Alonzo McClure, who placed the new genus Otatea as a subgenus within Yushania with two New World species, Yushania acuminatum and Y. aztecorum. This work was published in 1973, three years after Dr. Mclure had passed away. The subgenus was elevated to generic status in 1980 by the Argentine botanist Cleofé Calderón and American botanist Thomas R. Soderstrom, who was then curator of grasses at the Smithsonian and Soderstrom later merged Otatea aztecorum into Otatea acuminatum as a single species. Subsequent treatment in 1984 by the Mexican botanist Rafael Guzmán Mejia Guzman treated Otatea aztecorum as a subspecies of Otatea acuminatum, but the current treatment has again synonymized them both as Otatea acuminatum.

The name for the genus comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word 'otatl', meaning "bamboo" and in Mexico plants in the genus are often referred to as Otates. The specific epithet is from the Latin word 'acumino', meaning to "sharpen" or "make pointed" in reference to the narrow leaves that taper to a point. This bamboo was reportedly first introduced into the U.S. from central western Mexico around 1958 by the California Arboretum Foundation, now The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Before the plant was officially named, San Diego plantsman Bill Teague received a division of it from the Arboretum in 1966 and began propagating it and then distributing it to fellow collectors and nurserymen throughout southern California. We first received this plant as Yushania aztecorum and began growing it in 1982.

Like most bamboo, this plant is monocarpic, meaning that it only flowers once and then the plants decline and die. In Eduardo Ruiz-Sanchez, Victoria Sosa, M. Teresa Mejía-Saules, X. Londoño, and L. G. Clark's 2011 article titled "A Taxonomic Revision of Otatea (Poaceae: Bambusoideae: Bambuseae) Including Four New Species." in Systematic Botany (v.36, n. 2) it was noted that this species flowers every 17 to 30 years and the flowering period can last 2 to 3 years. Plants from our first crops and those at Abe Nursery in Carpinteria flowered in the early 1990's, producing viable seed that produced most of the plants in cultivation in southern California gardens through 2020. This 1990 generation of plants began flowering thirty years later in 2020 and we are now offering seedlings from this more recent flowering event, which will hopefully give us 30 more years of having this beautiful bamboo in our gardens. 

This information about Otatea acuminata displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.