There have been over 1,000 different species of bamboo identified; some estimate there may be over 2,000 species of this plant. Bamboo is a woody, perennial grass/evergreen that can range in size and type, from small annuals of about one foot in height to tall timber bamboo that can shoot to over 100 feet. Bamboo are abundant in the tropics, and bamboos have one species native to North America. Like most grasses, bamboo grow and flourish until they flower, which is not frequently. After the flowering phase, they produce seeds and die soon after. Bamboo is made up of many layers of fibers. Bamboo is not considered “true wood” but the plant is very strong because it contains silicon dioxide and an agent called lignin.
Bamboo is the primary diet for giant pandas, but many other animals also consume this plant, including humans. Bamboo shoots (the underground sprout of bamboo) are widely used in Asian cuisine, and they can be added to salads, stews, stir-frys and other dishes for an interesting texture and appeal. Bamboo contains many essential vitamins and nutrients, including fiber, and has been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Aside from being very useful for culinary purposes, bamboo is used in many parts of the world as a primary construction material. According to Palomar.edu, some “bamboo stems have the same tensile strength as certain types of steel and are used to reinforce concrete.” Some bows and arrows have been constructed from bamboo. The site also adds some strong “swords made from bamboo culms are used in the ancient Japanese martial art of kendo. The objective is to score points by striking your opponent’s head, arms and torso in strategic places. The opponents wear heavy, protective armor.” Palms and bamboos have been used in abundance in many countries where timber is in limited supply. Bridges, water pipes, and houses as well as other buildings, scaffolds, and other construction materials have been fashioned from bamboos. As a matter of fact, bamboos have been used to make over 1,000 useful objects. Some useful items that have been made from bamboos include, but are not limited to:
- cooking utensils and cutting boards
- furniture, houses, and building materials
- jewelry and other artistic creations
- musical instruments
- yarns and fibers
Bamboo has been said to be the fastest growing plant on earth. Bamboo can grow six or more inches a day. It has been shown to shoot up an impressive 40+ inches in a 24-hour period, with a maximum growth rate of one meter or more per hour for short time periods. Many bamboos only flower every fifty to more than one hundred years, so they are a very long-lived plant. For this reason, as well as it’s many uses and other benefits for the body and the planet, it is quickly becoming the material of choice for ecologically-friendly consumers.