During the annual period of bamboo shoot growth in spring, free-ranging giant pandas feed almost exclusively on the shoots while ignoring the leaves and full- height culm. Little is known about the nutritional changes that occur during bamboo shoot growth, if nutritional changes differ among species, or how these changes might influence forage selection. Our objective was to examine the nutrient and mineral composition during three phases of shoot growth (<60, 90–150 and >180 cm) for seven species of bamboo (Phyllostachys (P.) aurea, P. aureosulcata, P. bissetii, P. glauca, P. nuda, P. rubromarginata, Pseudosasa japonica) fed to captive giant pandas at the Memphis Zoo. Total dietary fiber content of bamboo shoots increased (p < 0.0001) from an overall species average of 61% dry matter (DM) at < 60 cm to 75% DM at shoot heights > 180 cm, while crude protein, fat and ash exhibited significant declines (p < 0.05). Phyllostachys nuda had the overall greatest (p = 0.007) crude protein (21% DM) and fat (4% DM) content, and lowest overall total fibre (61% DM) content compared to the other species examined. In contrast, Pseudosasa japonica had the overall lowest crude protein and fat, and relatively higher fibre content (9%, 3% and 74% respectively). Concentrations of Zn and Fe were highest in shoots <60 cm (10–50 μg/g DM) and decreased (p < 0.05) during growth in all species examined. Concentrations of Ca, Cu, Mn, Na and K varied among species and were largely unaffected by growth stage. Due to their higher concentrations of nutrients and lower fibre content in comparison to culm and leaf, bamboo shoots should be a major component of captive giant panda diets when available.