A plant that is found almost everywhere in the world, be it the African desert or the Himalaya Mountains is the Bamboo plant. Tough, strong and a boon to mankind, bamboos have always been a plus point in every aspect. In Asia, besides using it for construction purposes, young bamboo shoots are even eaten, they are used as chopsticks to consume food, table mats, floor mats and as they are considered auspicious they are even revered.
Bamboo is one of the most versatile plants and grows up to 24 inches in one day. It reaches 60 feet and prehistoric sizes were recorded at 75 feet. Bamboos vary in sizes according to their specie, and there are over a 1000 species of Bamboos in the world. All display similar growing styles, i.e. they are hollow in the centre, have nodes spaced out every few inches and grow roundish. Colours too differ according to the specie. While mostly green is the main colour, one can also find shades of yellow. Poaceae is the main family of Bamboos, Bambusoideae is the sub-family and then they branch out in subfamilies, clans and tribes. The family is basically evergreen, reason why they survive in all kinds of weather and climate. They overpower other seeds and hence grow in clusters making forests. Bamboos grow to their full size in one season itself i.e. it takes around 4 to 5 months for it to growth to its full height. There is no flowering and leaves do not form during this period. In the next year leaves sprout and the fungus and mould grow on the outside of the bamboo at the culm.
As against tall bamboo stalks, there are short bamboo plants known as decorative bamboo. They are known to be a good omen and are often gifted. Due to the small size, minimal care and little water required for its everyday maintenance, they have become corporate gifts, wedding takeaways and home decor. Bamboo, a plant of the family Gramineae, is the longest grass in the world. The length can vary, and some bamboo plants are as short as 30 centimetres, while giant timber bamboo can grow to a height of over 40 metres or 100 feet.
It consists of a hollow culm or stem, with nodes or joints between segments of the stem, and oval leaves. The culm, branches and leaves stay green throughout the bamboo’s life, even during winter. The bamboo’s lifespan is not very long – only about 20 years, and it flowers once every 7 to 120 years, depending on the species. Interestingly, all the bamboo of a particular species will flower at exactly the same time, regardless of their geographical location.
Being a very versatile plant, bamboo grows in a lot of different climates – it can be found on all the continents except Antarctica. Moreover, it is incredibly flexible; it will bend in strong winds, but it rarely breaks. With a tensile strength superior to mild steel, and a weight-to-strength ratio better than graphite, bamboo is the strongest growing woody plant on Earth. A testament to its durability is the fact that a stand of bamboo plants near ground zero at Hiroshima in 1945 survived the atomic blast and sent up new shoots within days. It is also perhaps the fastest growing plant with some varieties growing at the rate of 5 cm per hour or 1.5 metres a day.
The bamboo plant has a wide variety of uses, ranging from being purely decorative to being an important source of fuel. It is utilised as wood in construction work, furniture, utensils, fibre and paper. Bamboo charcoal makes a good fuel, and because it is three times as porous as wood, and releases more energy. Bamboo shoots are also delicious to eat and the leaves provide fodder for animals like the panda. In ancient Chinese culture it was believed that a gift of living bamboo brought good luck. Thus, a fairly recent use of the bamboo plant is as a popular Feng Shui gift.