Bamboo is truly a wonder of nature. It’s a sustainable resource that’s able to give food, clothing, and shelter to billions of people around the world. Bamboo is also used to make an incredibly vast number of useful products. Best of all, bamboo helps to protect the environment while it grows. Here are 12 amazing facts about bamboo.
1. Bamboo is a grass. You might think that bamboo is a tree because it can grow so large and has a tough, woody stem like a tree trunk. However, bamboo is actually the largest member of the grass family. There are a wide variety of bamboos growing around the world, with at least 1,450 known species. Bamboo types can be separated into two groups: running bamboo and clumping bamboo. Running bamboo features roots that continue to expand outward aggressively. It grows mostly in temperate climates such as in Japan and China. This is the type of bamboo that can get your neighbors upset if new shoots start popping up on their side of the fence. Clumping bamboo stays in neat clumps as it grows, so you don’t have to worry about it invading the surrounding area. Clumping bamboo mostly grows in the tropics and includes the largest bamboo species.
2. Bamboo can grow up to 1 meter (over 3 feet) in 24 hours. This fantastic rate of growth has been witnessed on occasion with the moso variety of bamboo that is common in China and Japan. A bamboo shoot emerges from the ground at the full diameter that it will have. It then quickly grows straight up as a bare pole for several weeks until it reaches full height. After this, secondary branches will begin growing from the nodes and these will bear leaves. New bamboo stalks must be allowed to mature for 3-5 years before the woody material is hard enough to harvest and use.
3. Bamboo creates more oxygen than trees. An area of bamboo forest will produce up to 35% more oxygen than an equal area of hardwood forest.
4. Bamboo is naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. A naturally occurring bio-agent called bamboo kun gives bamboo a resistance to destructive microbes such as bacteria and fungus. This allows bamboo to be easily grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The anti-bacterial property of bamboo also carries over into fabric made from bamboo viscose, which makes bamboo towels, sheets, socks, and yoga clothing very popular.
5. Bamboo has a tensile strength higher than steel. Bamboo is incredibly strong, with a tensile strength of 28,000 pounds per square inch. The strength of bamboo makes it a great construction material. It has been used to build suspension bridges in China for at least 1,000 years. Bamboo poles can also be used in place of steel to make reinforced concrete.
6. Bamboo has been used in a number of inventions. The first lightbulb made by Thomas Edison used a carbonized bamboo filament. Bamboo was also the material used for the needle of the first phonograph. The first helicopter was also based on a bamboo toy, and many early airplanes used bamboo due to its excellent strength to weight ratio.
7. Planting bamboo on your property can have many benefits. The shade provided by a stand of bamboo can make the surrounding area feel up to 15 degrees cooler. A wall of bamboo can also be planted as a wind break and a visual shield. Bamboo’s roots helps to prevent soil erosion through rain water run-off.
8. Bamboo is a nutritious source of food. Fresh, pickled, or cooked bamboo shoots have been an important part of Asian cuisine for centuries. Bamboo shoots are low in calories, while providing an excellent source of dietary fiber and potassium. Bamboo is also a preferred food source for pandas, elephants, chimps, and gorillas.
9. Bamboo is used to make an amazing number of products. Just some of the items that can be made with bamboo are: scaffolding, support beams, walls, roofs, flooring, blinds, furniture, pipes, cups, buckets, eating utensils, chopsticks, toothpicks, paper, bio-fuel, fishing rods, flutes, and kendo swords.
10. Villagers in Thailand built a 450 meter floating bridge from bamboo in 6 days. The bridge crossing the Song Kalia River was built as a temporary replacement for a wooden bridge that collapsed.
11. Ancient books were made with bamboo. Before the invention of paper, bamboo strips were used as a material to write on in ancient China.
12. Bamboo is a traditional medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, bamboo shavings are used to treat cold and flu symptoms. The shavings are ingested to fight nasal congestion, fever, and convulsions. A similar medicine is also made by using bamboo sap in both liquid and solid forms to treat similar symptoms. Bamboo leaves are also used as a traditional remedy to treat fever in China and Japan.