CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A rare environmental phenomenon is budding across central Virginia. Local bamboo plants are going through a flowering phase in their life cycles, which turns the plants from bright green to a brownish tone.

Dr. John Hayden, a local professor and biology expert, said he traveled around Virginia this summer and noticed the gloomy shift in the plants’ coloration.

Close up image of the flowering bamboo (Image courtesy of Joey Thompson)

“My first impression was that that they were dying,” Hayden said.

Hayden said he consulted with colleagues and learned the plants were covered in seedlings.

“It has not happened with this kind of bamboo very often,” Hayden said. “Maybe almost never, at all, previous to this year.”

The flowering could symbolize large-scale reproduction, according to Hayden.

“The idea is that by waiting a long time and then making many, many, many seeds, there are more seeds than all of the birds and all of the mammals can consume at any one time,” Hayden said.

Therefore, the invasive, non-native plant can keep spreading.

Hayden told 8News that the intervals between flowering can be as long as 130 years, so it’s both exciting and potentially concerning. As an invasive species, bamboo tends to alienate all other surrounding species.

“The bamboo plants themselves do very little to support native wildlife,” Hayden said.

However, it’s also possible the flowering could have a positive impact.

“It may well be the case that the original bamboo patch — the one that’s flowering now — those plants may mostly die at the end of seed production,” Hayden said.

Either way it’s something the expert has never seen before, so central Virginia could be witnessing history.

“We don’t really know what to expect,” Hayden said.