Found only on the Pacific atoll of Tuo-Kua, the sprinter bamboo was first described by German naturalist Georg Haas in 1899, during the German Empire protectorate period. He noted that it grew exceptionally fast, recording rates of up to a meter a day, and recommended it for export to be used as a source of cheap lumber.

The First World War interrupted any such plans, and the atoll was taken over by Japan as a result. A Japanese botanist, Masaharu Sekito, studied the bamboo and came to the same conclusion as Haas, recommending it for export. Specimens were taken accordingly and shipped to Truk and Tokyo.

However, they failed to thrive and soon died in both cases, leading Dr. Sekito to speculate that some crucial natural substance was required for their explosive growth. Sporadic attempts to exploit the sprinter bamboo took place until the outbreak of war in the Pacific.

Ultimately, the most noteworthy use the sprinter bamboo was put to was in the torture and execution of Allied POWs who were interrogated on Tuo-Kua. Placed over green shoots of sprinter bamboo, they were subjected to an accelerated version of bamboo sprout torture that earned garrison commander Yoshinori Fukushima execution postwar as a Class II war criminal.

Sadly, like much of the unique island flora or fauna of the Pacific, the sprinter bamboo did not survive the war. The isolated garrison at Tuo-Kua, cut off from resupply by island hopping, ate all the remaining shoots as they starved. Already rare as a result of large-scale naval base construction, the bamboo was extinct by 1944.

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