All About Bamboo

There’s a reason so many people are enamored with bamboo—more like hundreds of reasons—and that’s why it gets an entire page!

Bamboo is a unique plant that’s been around for thousands of years, and it’s touted as being everything from a building material to a food source. In fact, the history of bamboo being used in daily life can be traced back 7,000 years to the Shang Dynasty in China, so it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s is going to stick around for a while.

Why Do We Bamboo?

It’s a hard-working, eco-friendly, sustainable plant that has the potential to help us seriously turn things around for the planet. With a little help from humans, it can help repair and replenish the earth for future generations. Check out what bamboo can do:

10 Mind-Blowing Bamboo Facts

There are more than that, but you’ll eventually have to get up for a coffee break, and we know you’ll want to hop over to our Agroforestry page to see how you can join in on all the bamboo fun!

1. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth, with some species growing up to three feet per day! In fact, only kelp in the ocean grows faster.

2. It’s not always green. Huh? (Mind = blown!) Then why are all the pictures we see of bamboo green? Your guess is as good as ours, but natural bamboo occurs in a range of colors including red, black, yellow, and blue. And, hold onto your seat…sometimes it even has stripes.

3. Bamboo isn’t a tree. Although it can grow exceptionally tall and may appear tree-like, it’s actually a grass that’s classified by rhizome type. The rhizome is the underground part of the stem, but it’s NOT the root. Roots grow on the rhizome. There are two main types to consider:

Monopodial (running) and Sympodial (clumping)

Sympodial Rhizomes

If you’ve ever heard bamboo described as “invasive,” this is likely the type that was being discussed. Monopodial-type rhizomes extend horizontally at shallow depths under the soil and can spread over very large areas. (Not great if you have neighbors who are picky about their azalea gardens.)

Sympodial Rhizomes

These types of bamboo have shorter root structures, which make them unable to spread like their “running” counterparts. Based on the species, these plants generally require smaller growth areas to reach maturity, and each year, they slowly enlarge as new culms (stems) appear.

Just to throw a wrench in things, bamboo (like almost everything else in this world) isn’t as simple as that.

With more than 1,450 species, it makes sense that every bamboo plant can’t fall easily into just two categories, right? There’s another option:

Mixpodial Rhizomes

This type of bamboo forms exactly as it sounds—as a combination of both monopodial and sympodial bamboos. Mixpodial rhizomes extend both horizontally, AND they can form buds on the stem bases, producing a bushy effect. This is where bamboo goes when it can’t decide whether it’s a runner or a clumper.

4. It’s strong enough to use as a building material—and it’s also a food source (and not just for pandas). Go ahead, we’ll wait while you check on Pinterest; there are tons of recipes for it. Bamboo stir-fry and mushrooms, anyone?

5. Speaking of strength, bamboo is stronger than steel! Although modern cities have moved to steel construction, bamboo remains a popular building material—and with good reason. The tensile strength of steel is 23,000 pounds per square inch. The tensile strength of bamboo is 28,000 pounds per square inch

6. It only flowers and seeds every 100 years. And when it does, ALL the bamboo plants of that species—across the entire planet—seed at the exact same time.

7. Pandas have a diet made up of 99% bamboo—but they only eat 42 different species. Depending on which part of the bamboo they are eating, pandas need up to 88 pounds of bamboo per day! (stems: 37 lbs., leaves: 22 lbs., shoots: 88 lbs.)

8. Clumping bamboo can give your brain an oxygen high. Yup, hang around a grove of clumping bamboo, and you’ll get 30% more O2 and likely start to feel relief from headaches and tension.

9. Bamboo is naturally antifungal and antibacterial. Plus, it has deodorizing properties! All of these make it ideal for linen, textile, PPE, and home goods industries.

10. It’s flame retardant and has anti-static properties. Bamboo fabric lacks a free electron, which means it is not a conductor of static electricity. This also keeps it from clinging to skin. (Super comfy and cool!)

There are many reasons to love bamboo! This is a great starter list, but since we bamboo as much as we do, we’ll be adding a lot more!

Endless Bamboo Bennies

The benefits of bamboo are countless, for both people and the planet. Aside from being one of the most adaptable renewable resources out there, it gives us a way to help restore equilibrium to the planet.

Ready to leverage the amazing bennies of bamboo? Visit our Agroforestry page to learn what you can do to support local efforts. Or jump into the thick of ecoadventure by visiting our Ecotourism page.

Credit to the American Bamboo Society for its wealth of knowledge and updated statistics. 2021

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