> the plant
Bamboos are a group of woody perennial evergreen plants in the true
grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Some
of its members are giants, forming by far the largest members of the
grass family. They come in many forms from bushlike cattle fodder to
towering culms over 120 feet high. The stems are jointed, with
regular nodes; each node bears one leaf, and may also have one to
several side branches. They are thus, unlike most other grasses,
extensively branched; in large-growing species a single stem may
carry many thousands of branchlets.
A single stem of bamboo (culm) from an established root system
typically reaches full height in just one year, but then persists
for several years, gradually increasing the number of side branches
Some species of bamboo rarely flower, some of them only every 10-100
or more years. Some of these species are monocarpic, the plant dying
after the seed matures. Furthermore, all the individuals of the
species will flower at the same time in a large geographical region.
This is thought to have evolved to reduce the effect of predators of
the seed, who would be unable to depend on a predictable food
Bamboos include some 76 genera and 1500 species. They are broadly
divided into “sympodial” (clumping bamboos) and “monopodial”
(running bamboos), this defines the growing behavior of the rizome
(bamboo’s rootlike structure). Clumping bamboo species tend to
spread underground slowly. Running bamboo species are highly
variable in their tendency to spread; this is related to both the
species and the soil and climate conditions. The reputation of
bamboo as being highly invasive is often exaggerated, and situations
where it has taken over large areas is often the result of years of
untended or neglected plantings.
Bamboos tolerate extremes of habitats from drought to flood and grow
from sea level to 12,000 feet in elevation. They occur from
Northeast Asia, south throughout East Asia west to the Himalaya, and
south to northern Australia. They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa,
and in the Americas from the southeast of the USA south to Chile,
there reaching their furthest south anywhere, at 47°S latitude.
plantations and harvest
Established bamboo will send up shoots that generally grow to their
full height in a single season, making it the fastest growing woody
plant. Several subtropical bamboo species can grow 30 cm (1 foot)
per day, with some species having been documented as growing over
100 cm in one day. For the species most widely cultivated in
gardens, 3-5 cm per day is more typical.
Bamboo forests are self-renewing after harvest and will grow to
mature stands in 5-7 years vs 10-20 years for most softwoods. Bamboo
generates a crop every year. Plantations are selectively harvested
without destruction to the grove. Bamboo forests can provide five
times more cellulose (usable fibre) per hectare than pine forests.
Unlike plantation timber, no chemical sprays or fertilisers are
required to keep the bamboo forest healthy and productive.
Bamboo is the fastest growing canopy for the regreening of degraded
lands, and its stands release 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands
of trees. Some bamboos even sequester up to 12 tons of carbon
dioxide from the air per hectare.
When bamboo is harvested for wood, care is needed to select mature
stems that are several years old, as first-year stems, although full
size, are not fully woody and are not strong.
If correctly harvested and processed, bamboo will out-perform
the very best timbers in strength, hardness and dimensional
stability. It has a high impact resistance and it’s strength,
rigidity and dimensional stability are twice that of wood. Its
surface is smooth and consistent, as is the fibre of bamboo – no
knots or variations in densities. Aside from a small variation
at the node point, the strength is consistent the entire cut
• Moisture content 8-14%
• Hardness 4.7 on Brinell Hardness Test (compared to Oak at 3.7
and Pine at 1.6) (carbonising process reduces hardness slightly)
• Density 0.72g / cm3
• Stability dimensional change co-efficient of 0.00144
• Rigidity bending modulus of elasticity 940,00 PSI
Significant variations exist between bamboo species (the
above figures are for strip flooring made from Moso species).
Bamboo's long life makes it a Chinese symbol of long life, while in
India it is a symbol of friendship. Its rare blossoming has led to
the flowers' being regarded as a sign of impending famine.
Several Asian cultures, including that of the Andaman Islands,
believe that humanity emerged from a bamboo stem. Malaysian legends
include the story of a man who dreams of a beautiful woman while
sleeping under a bamboo plant; he wakes up and breaks the bamboo
stem, discovering the woman inside. In the Philippines, bamboo
crosses are used as a good luck charm by farmers. In Japan, a bamboo
forest sometimes surrounds a Shinto shrine as part of a sacred
barrier against evils. Also, bamboo is considered second in the rank
in the order of "Matsu (pine wood), Take (bamboo), Ume (plum)" and
this order is used when ordering a sushi course or getting a room in
a traditional Ryokan inn. Hawaiian bamboo ('ohe) is a kinolau or
body form of the Polynesian creator god Kane.
Bamboo has for centuries been used in Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese
herbal medicine. Tabasheer, the powdered, hardened secretion from
bamboo is used internally to treat asthma, coughs and can be used as
an aphrodisiac. In China, ingredients from the root of the black
bamboo help treat kidney disease. Roots and leaves have also been
used to treat venereal disease and cancer. Sap is said to reduce
fever, and ash will cure prickly heat. A village in Indonesia
reports that the water form within the culm is used to treat broken
bones effectively and that the tabasheer is used to promote
fertility in their cows. Current research points to bamboo's
potential in a number of medicinal uses.
Bamboo related industries already provide income, food, and housing
to over 2.2 billion people worldwide. Thomas Edison successfully
used a carbonized bamboo filament in his experiment with the first
light bulb. This light bulb still burns today in the Smithsonian
Museum in Washington DC. He also used a bamboo as for the
reinforcement of his swimming pool. To this day, the pool has never
leaked. An unrivaled utility, uses including paper, scaffolding,
diesel fuel, airplane "skins", desalination filters, aphrodisiacs,
musical instruments, medicine, food and was Alexander Graham Bell's
first phonograph needle.
The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan
(INBAR) is an international organization established by treaty in
November 1997, dedicated to improving the social, economic, and
environmental benefits of bamboo and rattan. INBAR connects a global
network of partners from the government, private, and not-for-profit
sectors in over 50 countries to define and implement a global agenda
for sustainable development through bamboo and rattan.