Bamboo (scientific name: Bambusa vulgaris) is a perennial species plant belonging to the family of Grass (Poaceae). Poaceae is a family of around 10,000 species and Bamboo consists of 91 Genera and 1,000 Species. It is a woody plant having characteristic Culms. Also known as woody grass, Bamboo is a fast-growing plant. Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant in the world.
Where does Bamboo Grow?
Bamboo is generally thought to be only grown in places like southeast Asia but it can be found everywhere depending upon the type of species. Bamboo is native to south-east Asia (Indochina and Yunnan) and some parts of America but now it is being cultivated in many different parts of the world and is even naturalised in some.
It is assumed that millions of years ago, Bamboo was a popular building material for first humans that resided in the areas of south-east Asia. According to the artefacts found from those areas, Bamboo was preferred over stones as a building material. In America, over five million acres of land was once covered by Bamboo plants but later on, with the immigration, that land was then utilized for farming due to being highly fertile soil.
Bamboo is best known for growing under humid conditions but it can tolerate extreme weather conditions as well like drought and low temperature (up to -29° C). It is most commonly found in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions.
- Bamboo has the competence to grow rapidly due to a Rhizome dependent system (explained later under Roots of Bamboo plant). It can grow up to 1 mm in height every 90 seconds and can reach up to 910 mm within 24 hours.
- Bamboo takes about 60 days to grow fully to its height and after this 60 days of the period, Bamboo never grows in height or diameter again. During the 60 days of the growth period, culms of Bamboo plant emerge from the ground and grow vertically along with the emergence of leaves. There is no secondary growth in Bamboo as seen in other plants.
- Bamboo plant has a typical lifespan of 10 years.
- Bamboo is characterised by lemon-yellow coloured culms (stem) having nodes and internodes and dark green coloured leaves. The wall of the culm is very tough, slightly flexible and not easy to break.
- Culms grow 10-20 m in height and 4-10 cm in thickness.
- Possibility of flowering is very low with no seeds. Fruits are very rare in the Bamboo plant.
- Although Bamboos are naturally evergreen some species of Bamboo are deciduous or semi-deciduous.
Roots of Bamboo plant
Bamboo has a very unique root system. Similar to the ariel culms, there is culm like structure present underground as well. These are known as Rhizomes which are characteristics of Bamboo root system. These Rhizomes grow horizontally inside the soil and further give rise to Roots that are not too long. It is similar to the culm present underground giving rise to roots from its internodes instead of leaves.
The root system of Bamboo plant is very shallow and hence it is best cultivated in humid soil. Roots do not penetrate more than 50 cm below the surface of the soil. Rhizome development, in most Bamboo species, takes place from late summer to early fall during its developmental stage.
Depending upon the type of development of Rhizome, Bamboo is divided into two types, that is, Clumping Bamboos and Running Bamboos.
This unique characteristic of Rhizome growth is similar to its name. In this type, the Rhizome starts growing vertically and emerge from the ground and ultimately grows into a culm. Next Rhizome (Newer) grows from the bud on the previous Rhizome(Older) and the process goes on. Clumping Bamboo have Pachymorph rhizomes.
This leads to the formation of a clump. The clump is nothing but a group of plants or trees that grow together and due to Rhizome development, these Bamboos gives the appearance of a clump. This is the reason why Bamboos grown in pots appear to be concentrated while they are just one plant giving rise to multiple stems.
In this type of Bamboo, the Rhizome only grows horizontally in the ground and never emerge out on the surface. Although new buds arise from the internodes of Rhizome these buds also never grow as a culm and mostly remain dormant except for few.
The main problem that arises in running Bamboo is its spread as the horizontally growing Rhizome usually utilises all the available space and grow in that whole area. Therefore various methods are available for keeping these running Bamboos from spreading vigorously. Since the Rhizome grows horizontally into the ground, it can also destroy roots of other plants grown in its vicinity.
It is also not possible to grow Running Bamboos in the pots at home as the area of pot is not sufficient for the growth of its Rhizome.
Uses of Bamboo Plant
Medicinal uses of Bamboo
- It is used as a medicinal plant in some countries. for example, people in some parts of China use the shoots of black Bamboo to cure various kidney-related diseases.
- Black Bamboo is also used for cough and mucus treatment in children.
- The roots of Bamboo are used to treat Cancer.
- People from small villages of Indonesia use water from the culms of Bamboo to treat bone diseases.
- Leaves of Bamboo are useful in treating Spasmodic disorders. Leaves are known to cure various stomach and digestion-related problems.
- In India, leaves of Bamboo are commonly used for Diarrhoea. Leaves of Bamboo are also helpful in stimulating menstruation and regulating the menstrual period.
- Shoots of Bamboo are often served as an appetizer serving the same role as parsley in some regions.
Bamboo as a Building material
- Bamboo is commonly used as a building material for building houses and schools etc due to the tough and inflexible nature of its stem.
- It can also be used as a scaffolding material for bridges, houses other structures.
Musical Instruments made from Bamboo
- Due to its hollow stem, when tapped, Bamboo produced a distinct sound and hence is used as a musical instrument.
- The famous Philippine banda kawayan is a Band based in the Philippines that uses instruments made from Bamboo to play their music.
- Bamboo is used to make Fluet, slit drums, marimba, angklung, panpipes and bumbong. Bamboo is also used to make the bamboo version of clarinets, saxophones, and tubas. Recently, Bamboos are being used to make Guitars and Ukuleles.
Ornaments made from Bamboo
- Bamboo is used to make jewellery like earrings, bracelets, necklaces etc.
The Bamboo used for decoration
- Bamboo is also used as a decorative in houses. For example, Lamps, Trays, Vases, Picture frames etc can be made from Bamboo which gives a tropical look to the house.
Furniture made from Bamboo
- Bamboo is very commonly used in making house furniture. The patio furniture, in particular, is usually made out of Bamboo stem.
- Earlier, toys used to be made from Bamboo stem.
Bamboo as a food material
- Bamboo is often used in various cousins.
- It is served as a salad and consumed as a soup.
- It contains a toxic material in its stem and therefore needs to be cooked at boiling temperature before consumption.
- Bamboo produces 30% more oxygen compared to other plants.
- A certain type of Bamboo plant holds a Guinness world record for being the fastest growing plant in the world.
- Various animals have Bamboo as a part of their diet. For example, Panda’s diet is based exclusively on Bamboo.
- Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel. It is one of the strongest material on earth.
- Bamboo is known to improve the quality of alcohol. Some liqueur manufacturers of China are using Bamboo containers instead of primitive oak containers to store their alcohol. The alcohol gets mixed with the Bamboo sap which increases its health properties and also gives a distinct flavour to the beverage. The bamboo also absorbs some amount of alcohol which is seen as a loss by some. Bamboo Beer is commonly consumed as a popular beverage due to its unique taste.
- The Popularly known lucky Bamboo plant is not a Bamboo plant but instead a plant belonging to the same family as Lily flower.