Originally posted 8/7/2015 by Issac Spear
Bamboo, scientifically named, Bambuseae, is a plant of the grass family that originated in China and now grows all around the world. Five thousand years ago in China when it was discovered, bamboo was used as a building material. Since then, many more uses of the plant have been discovered. The most common uses of bamboo today are construction, dishware, clothing, food, medicine, paper, and instruments. As a building material, bamboo was widely used to build houses. Bamboo is more flexible than wood and has a very high tensile strength, meaning it can resist heavy tension. Before the age of advanced weaponry, bamboo was used to make weapons.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, and it can grow in almost any extreme climate. It grows in patches around and in Awbury Arboretum and has to be kept under control constantly. Our summer TLC woodshop crew got the opportunity to cut and dry bamboo from the Arboretum grounds and we are planning to use it for fencing and plant stakes in our Uptown Farm.
Bamboo’s ability to grow rapidly, comes from its root system, which is a rhizome dependent system. A rhizome is an underground stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes. The roots expand through the ground at alarming rates, and one bamboo stalk can be the catalyst for an entire bamboo forest. The process of bamboo reproduction is simple one seed grows into a stalk, the stalk produces more seeds quickly and more stalks grow and root system goes deeper into the ground. The roots go so deep and so much bamboo can grow from a single seed, that the only way to eliminate bamboo is to dig beneath the roots and burn the entire plant. One type of bamboo is able to grow in 29 C temperatures, while another subspecies is able to grow in the hot tropics.
Bamboo is very important for the giant panda on China. It makes up 99 of the animal’s diet, and without bamboo, it would not have a reliable food source. Bamboo, historically, represents uprightness, mental fortitude, and friendship. The Confucian model of a gentleman uses bamboo as a mascot, because it is a strong yet elegant plant. Bamboo stalks grow leaves, and sometimes flowers. The blossoming of the flowers is rare, and is seen as a sign of famine in many eastern cultures. Bamboo is a very interesting plant because of its versatility, rapid growth, and ability to grow almost anywhere.