Facts

  • Bamboo, a primitive grass, was here 200 million years before we walked the Earth and might outlive us all. At Hiroshima, it survived closer to ground zero than any other living thing. The plant itself can survive conditions from extreme drought to 6m of rainfall.
  • There are over a thousand species of bamboo, growing in a variety of forms from tiny dwarfs to towering tropical giants. The tropical giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) is the fastest growing plant on the planet, recorded growing 1.2m skywards in 24 hours. 
  • At certain intervals, sometimes as rarely as once every few hundred years, all bamboos of a given kind, even huge stands from rhizomes transported generations before to far-off lands, flower together all around the world and then die.
  • Bamboo also has an important role in protecting the earth, binding topsoil in areas of instability where land is eroding and helping to prevent flooding.
  • In Japan people grow square bamboo poles by placing a square wooden mould over the shoots as they grow.

Where it grows

Gigantocholoa is a tropical to subtropical bamboo. The distribution of bamboo in general ranges from 50°N of Sakhalin in north Japan to 47°S of Chile. It occurs in altitudes up to 4,000m, from the warm humid tropics to the cold areas of northern Japan.

Common uses

  • Bamboo is one of the most versatile plants on earth, useful for its lightweight strength, which comes from its hollow stems, for its ease of working and for its simple beauty.
  • It is used by half the world’s people in thousands of products from huge skyscraper scaffolding to tiny gramophone needles and from slide rules to skins of aeroplanes. It can be used to start a cooking fire in a wet rainforest and its ashes can be used to polish jewels and manufacture electric batteries. It has made bicycles, windmills, musical instruments, paper, scales and walls strong enough to resist flood and tide, and bridges up to 260m long in China.
  • Bamboo is suited to low-technology processing, as well as industrial manufacturing techniques. It is an ideal building material for low-cost, low-impact, earthquake-resistant housing projects. Within its walls short, tough fibres sit in a resilient softer matrix providing nature’s version of fibreglass. It has great tensile strength, splits straight and is very hard. You can grow your own house from bamboo every five years – it begins growing again immediately after harvesting.
  • The young shoots of Gigantocholoa are eaten as a vegetable.
  • Bamboo from the Eden Project has been made into what is thought to be the UK’s first ‘home grown bicycle’, on which adventurer and environmental champion Dr Kate Rawles is riding the length of South America.

Wildlife facts

  • This bamboo is thought to be pollinated by bats, insects and the wind.

Useful Links

Glossary

  • Arborescent: tree-like.
  • Culm: a section of stem separated by a node.
  • Lanceolate: narrowly ovate and tapering to a point.
  • Panicle: branched flower stalk.
  • Rhizome: underground, horizontal stem, not root.

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