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What Is Bamboo? A Deep Dive Into Bamboo and Its Benefits

We all adore the beauty of a thick and well-maintained bamboo forest. A bamboo plant is an excellent example of non-timber plants that cover the earth's tropical regions. The bamboo forest covers a wide range in the tropics serving environmental advantages in preventing pollution in soil and air.

In addition, bamboos have the benefits of being used as food, biofuel, and architectural designs aesthetically and as construction material.

The Origin of Bamboo

Bamboos originate from a diverse group of evergreen perennial flowering plants in the subfamily Bambusoideae grass family Poaceae. The origin of the word "bamboo" is not clear, but the probability is it comes from the Dutch or Portuguese language.

Bamboo is seen as a tree, but it is grass with a hard, woody hollow stem in a real sense. Unlike trees, bamboo originates from the grass family with the perennial evergreen feature that grows yearly, maintaining its green color.

Bamboo species are grown worldwide and used for different purposes. The bamboo plant blooms well in acidic soil, having a perception of traditional Chinese culture and religion viewing it as a need to remain straight.

Is Bamboo A Type of Grass?

Yes. The bamboo grass appears as a round, hollow fibrous stalk that grows vertically and long. It has leaves that grow from the top of the stalk but only grow much when the plant is fully mature.

An advantage is a bamboo grows in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. As much as the bamboo plant is classified as grass, the largest timber bamboo is sometimes called bamboo trees just because of their appearance.

The bamboo stem ranges a few centimeters to 40 meters, while stem diameters range from 1mm to 30mm. These stems have joined regularly with nodes to form equal attachments from a stem to another.

What Are the Common Bamboo Species?

Bamboos exist as evergreen grass that is tolerant to cold. Therefore, the bamboo you can plant at home is influenced by cold tolerance in your region during winter. The running bamboos that are very cold-hardy include Golden Grove Black bamboo and Kuma bamboo, while the cold-hardy clumping bamboo is Chinese Mountain and Umbrella bamboo.

If you are in to grow bamboo, consider the warmer climates as they offer more species. Warm climate types of clumping bamboo include Chinese Goddess Hedge bamboo and Fernleaf Silverstripe, while the running includes: Black bamboo, Red Margin, Golden Giant, and Japanese Timber.

The unique feature of the bamboo plant is its color variation. You can find the bamboo plant in shades of green, yellow, brown, black, red, and hues of blue.

The mind-blowing part is that bamboo species are striped with pink, yellow, green, black, or combinations of those colors.

The bamboo stems are textured with large bulging nodes and vertical striations. The beauty in leaves is the diversification in color from tones of green to patterns of yellow, white, cream, or hues of blue. Therefore, we can agree that this plant is outstandingly beautiful.

Being the most prominent member of the grass family, it is technically grass but a very tall grass with woody stems; this species is held in high regard and symbolic meanings in the Chinese culture.

What Are the Types of Bamboo?

Bamboo plants are typically classified as clumping bamboo, running bamboo, or reeds.

Reeds are rarely planted in yards as they grow by themselves unintentionally, if ever, so you can expect to deal with either clumping or running bamboo.

Running bamboo sends out rhizomes, which spread into other areas, causing the plant to become invasive. Clumping bamboo grows in tight clusters and rarely spreads out over larger areas.

Let's look at these types in a bit more detail.

1. Bamboo Culm

Bamboo is an evergreen plant in most cases that originates from the grass family. Its features are tall and woody like grass characterized by a jointed stem referred to as a culm. In most cases, the culms are hollow, but some species have them in solid form.

Each culm begins and ends with a solid joint called node characterized by a bulging circumference at the end of the culm segments. Internodes are the segments between the nodes.

The leaves and branches grow from the nodes. In culms, too, the branches are segmented into internodes and nodes.

2. Clumping Bamboo

Clumping bamboo has rhizomes that grow upwards, generating new culms by new rhizomes emerging from buds on an existing rhizome. When the accumulative process occurs, the grove expands gradually around the perimeter, further described as a clumping habit.

It is easier to maintain the bamboo without containment methods because several bamboo species expand only a few inches around the main plant. Depending on the maturity of the bamboo, the expansion reaches a boundary in which root pruning will be done.

The advantage of clumping bamboo is it can last when grown in a pot before it's root-bound and requires re-potting.

Bamboo Shoots And Culm Growth

For a new culm to emerge, the buds that grow into shoots must play a role. Bamboo shoots grow gradually as some species grow in 90cm per day. It may take 30 days for a fresh bamboo shoot to reach its full height.

In commonly cultivated bamboos, the shoot grows during the spring season through early summer. Then, the shoot elongates into a new culm as new branches and leaves grow from the nodes of the culm. In the process, the old leaves from older culms drop to make room for new ones. Since the foliage gets renewed, spring is considered the autumn season for bamboo.

Unlike trees where the trunk's diameter gets wider with age, a bamboo culm remains the same thickness for its entire life. The diameter of a new shoot governs the thickness of the new culm. If you have a 1" diameter shoot, the new culm will be 1" diameter. A 6" diameter shoot will produce a 6" diameter culm ... and so forth. As well, the culm never grows any taller throughout its life span.

3. Running Bamboo

On the other hand, running bamboos have rhizomes spread horizontally under the ground making new buds and roots emerge from the nodes of the rhizomes.

Most buds may be dormant but later develop into a new culm or rhizome. New rhizomes will run horizontally in soil to produce more culms and rhizomes again.

Bamboo Rhizome And Root System

The root system of bamboo is similar to a culm as it grows horizontally in the soil. However, the underground culm is a rhizome with the only distinct feature of producing shoots and roots at the nodes instead of leaves and branches.

Surprisingly, bamboo is a very shallow-rooted plant as the rhizomes only reach the first 6 inches in the ground. Even though the rhizomes produce feeder roots, they do not grow more than 20 inches deep. Rhizome development takes place for most bamboos between late summer to early fall.

The rhizomes grow into two unique characteristics, either in a clumping formation or a running habit. So if you want to know if the type of bamboo is clumping or running, you mostly look at the rhizome growth.

What Are the Benefits of Bamboo to the Environment?

1. Absorbs Carbon-Dioxide

As much as all trees absorb carbon dioxide, bamboo is excellent in this task by absorbing just more of it and maintaining high oxygen levels by releasing 30% more oxygen into the air. In these cases, bamboo can be used as an excellent means of absorbing greenhouse gases to produce clean oxygen.

2. Fast-Growing

Since some bamboo species can grow to over 90cm per day in height, making bamboo is a fast-growing plant. Difference to other plants, which take long years to attain height and maturity, it only takes a bamboo 1 to 5 years to reach its maturity. It is a shorter period compared to hardwood trees that can take 30-40 years. For the sake of planting trees, it is the only woody plant that can keep up with human lifestyles and deforestation.

3. Renewable Resource

Even after cutting down bamboo, it grows shoots from its rhizomes; thus, it does not require additional cultivation and planting. It is a plant that is easy to maintain because it does not require pesticides, chemicals, or fertilizers to grow. Its fallen leaves act as manure by providing nutrients that get recycled back to the soil.

It utilizes every part of itself to avoid possible waste. The good thing is after the bamboo has reached its lifespan, it can still be of use and be recycled back again.

4. Prevents Soil Erosion

The soil erosion experienced after a hardwood forest is harmful compared to when a bamboo forest is cleared. This is because hardwood trees do not regenerate themselves for growth compared to bamboo that grows even after harvesting. As a result, new shoots emerge from the roots preventing soil erosion.

Bamboos are Versatile In Growing Conditions – Bamboo is highly versatile and can grow in all sorts of climate zones and soil types where other crops fail. It can even grow in local soil.

5. Useful Construction Material

The undoubted strength of bamboo is proven in its molecular structure and has been used as a construction material over the years. For example, you can use bamboo poles to erect building materials as they offer stability.

Bamboo strips and woody bamboos can replace wood in application to building floors, furniture, cooking utensils.

What Are Some Health Benefits of Bamboo?

Bamboo has a natural bio-agent that has an anti-bacterial nature known as bamboo Kun. The Kun effectively eliminates and prevents over 70% of bacteria that attempt to grow on it. Be it in natural or fabric form, the Kun works best to clear the bacteria. It is the reason why bamboo does not require any pesticides or chemical fertilizers to grow healthy. Pests or pathogens do not consume it because of the bamboo Kun.

For a long time, bamboo has been used by Asians as folk medicine in treating infections due to its anti-bacterial properties. The antibacterial properties also help speed the healing of wounds.

1. Bamboo Is Deodorizing

Bamboo charcoal is highly porous and can absorb large quantities of odor-causing bacteria. You can also use it to filter harmful chemicals in the water.

An ever-increasing list of items requiring natural deodorizing properties is being made with bamboo. It includes bamboo shoe insoles, bamboo deodorant, bamboo bed sheets, bamboo linens, bamboo socks, bamboo shirts, to even bamboo charcoals placed in your gym bag or closet. In addition, it doesn't require chemical scents because a population of people is allergic to chemical scents. So you can use it as an option.

2. Breathable And Absorbent

The benefit of using bamboo fiber is that it is excellent in moisture-absorbing keeping your skin dry and cool. In addition, it allows for breathability by not clinging to your skin, even when moist.

3. Insulating Properties

The bamboo fiber has insulating characteristics that make it great for sustaining body temperature. It works by cooling you down when it's hot and keeping you warm when cold.

4. Healthy Food Source

In the Asian culture, bamboo shoots have been a staple food source for many years. The shoots are low in fat and calories and also an excellent source of fiber and potassium. One serving of bamboo shoots provides you with 10% of your recommended nutrient intake.

 Crispy, crunchy bamboo shoots can be served in your favorite soups, salads or as a great complement to your main dish. They exist in fresh and canned versions.

As an Asian cuisine, you can serve bamboo as a salad or consume it with soup dishes. It would help if you cooked bamboo in high temperatures to destroy the toxins called taxiphyllin before consumption.

Conclusion

Which of these aspects of bamboo did you find fascinating? We hope that you now know what is bamboo and all the benefits it provides.

Remember that Bamboo has become one of the most creatively used materials to manufacture everyday items.

In many Asian cultures, bamboo is used in literally everything from cooking utensils to even musical instruments. As a result, it has become a readily available and accessible resource with flowing benefits.

Mary Kashinsky

Hi there, my name is Mary. I love reviewing bamboo products and writing about sustainable solutions & greener lifestyle options as a hobby. When I’m not in front of the screen, I read, relish traditional food, practice yoga, travel and enjoy life!

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