Interesting Facts About Bamboo

interesting facts about bamboo

There’s no denying that bamboo is one cool-looking plant. But did you know that bamboo is literally a cool plant? This plant can cool, purify and add more oxygen to the air! It’s a sustainable powerhouse that can revolutionize the building industry, help the planet and reduce our carbon footprint.

Below, we’ve put together a list of our favorite fun facts about the world’s most interesting plant. Let’s explore all the amazing things you can do with bamboo, learn where bamboo grows and discover where to buy bamboo products.

What Is Bamboo?

While often mistaken for a tree variety, bamboo is actually a giant grass. It’s a perennial flowering plant in the subfamily Bambusoideae of the grass family Poaceae and is the only one to diversify in forests. Bamboo grows with a shallow yet dense root network like a typical lawn. Unlike other grasses, most bamboo varieties are naturally evergreen — instead of green grass blades, bamboo grows woody culms.

Bamboo is known for its flexible yet strong structure and remarkable sustainability. Many bamboo species have hollow structures, but not all of them, like the water bamboo. It grows in several climates and is an immensely hardy plant, surviving various growing conditions. It is a fast-growing plant with diverse applications, from construction to clothing, food and instruments.

Why Is Bamboo Not a Tree?

Although bamboo is a tree-like grass, it belongs to the Poaceae family, meaning it is the tallest grass around. The fact that bamboo can thrive in forest and even jungle settings certainly adds to the confusion, particularly seeing as though certain species grow countless feet into the air. The width of particular bamboo also lends to the notion of bamboo trees, but there are key differences between bamboo and trees:

  • Their seeds and life cycle: Bamboo have monocotyledonous seeds — which are rare due to limited flowering — and much shorter life cycles than trees, which grow from dicotyledonous seeds.
  • Their reproduction: Typically, bamboo grows from underground stems known as rhizomes, while trees rely entirely on seedlings to propagate.
  • Their growth patterns: Bamboo grows from a single shoot, while trees go through secondary growth to develop a woody trunk.
  • Their structure: Bamboo has a cylindrical stem joined by nodes, while trees have a central trunk that further diverges into branches, branchlets and leaves.

Where Did Bamboo Get Its Name?

The first English use of bamboo dates back to roughly the 1590s and was derived from the Dutch word “bamboe.” This can be traced back to the Portuguese word “bambu” and then to the Malay or Kannada word, samambu. Around the world, bamboo is referred to by different colloquial terms such as “poor man’s lumber” in China and “the friend of the people” in India.

Where Does Bamboo Grow?

With a presence in five continents — Asia, Africa, Australia and North and South America — bamboo grows all over the world in temperate, subtropical and tropical climates. You can grow bamboo nearly anywhere. This plant grows in every continent except Europe and Antarctica, and while the plant isn’t indigenous to Europe, bamboo is now grown in the warmer southern part of the continent.

How to Grow Bamboo

If you’d like to try planting bamboo, do it in a sunny area with moist, well-drained soil to ensure it thrives. Spring is the best time to plant bamboo in the Northern Hemisphere, so the grass variety has time to develop a good root system before autumn. Allow any dropped leaves to accumulate on the ground as nutrient-rich mulch for your bamboo grove.

Because the bamboo root system is dense and can spread quickly, it’s best to avoid planting it near your neighbors or property systems, like sewage lines. Only plant bamboo where it can spread safely, and you can easily control the forest perimeter with regular mowing.

10 things to know about bamboo

10 Things to Know About Bamboo

Whether you’re new to bamboo or a bamboo enthusiast, everyone can learn something new about the world’s most exciting grass. Check out the following little-known facts about all the things you can do with bamboo, one of the most incredible plants on the planet.

1. Bamboo Is the Fastest Growing Plant

Move over, Jack and the Beanstalk, the growth rate of bamboo is no fairy tale. It isn’t just a fast-growing plant — bamboo is the fastest-growing land plant on Earth. Because of its growth abilities, bamboo is an incredibly sustainable resource that prevents deforestation. Many bamboo species quickly rejuvenate after a harvest, compared to waiting a few decades for a return of hardwood forest tree growth.

Is there anything that compares to the growth rate of bamboo? Yes — but not on land, and technically not a plant! That rare distinction belongs to a unique ocean creature that is neither plant nor animal. The Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly known as giant kelp, is a large brown alga that can grow to 175 feet long in ideal conditions at a rate of 1 to 2 feet per day.

2. Bamboo Is a Superior Air Purifier

While all plants help our ecosystem by converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen through photosynthesis, bamboo takes it to the next level. A bamboo grove cools the air around it and releases plenty of oxygen output into the atmosphere. This makes bamboo an oxygen-boosting superplant that can help reduce our carbon footprint and fight climate change.

Additionally, bamboo is naturally antibacterial, making it an optimal material to create a wide range of materials, from textiles to charcoal. Hanging out among living bamboo plants will also make you feel better. The high oxygen output from bamboo gives your brain an oxygen boost, increasing feelings of calm and joy. A few days spent in a bamboo forest will reduce blood pressure, tension, stress and headaches.

3. Bamboo Is an Eco-Friendly Alternative to Traditional Wood

Bamboo needs much less water to thrive than most crops and doesn’t require toxic chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides. It’s a sustainable superpower that reduces waste, conserves water, reduces soil toxins, purifies the air and replenishes itself more quickly than any other tree crop.

Beyond its replenishing nature and regrowth rate, bamboo is a superior flooring surface, building material and lumber alternative for a few reasons:

  • Hardness: On the Janka Hardness Scale, a tool that determines the hardness of wood and its ability to withstand wear, bamboo has a rating between 1,300 and 1,400, making it harder than most oak flooring.
  • Affordability: This is a long-lasting, beautiful and less expensive alternative to other flooring choices. Often, cost-effective bamboo has a better return on investment.
  • Strength: In the world of woodworking, maple is one of the hardest and densest woods, making it a preferred choice for furniture and hardwood floors. However, bamboo is harder than maple, plus it’s lightweight and strong.

4. Bamboo Can Be Stronger Than Steel

One common misconception about bamboo is associating its lightweight, flexible nature with weakness. The truth is that bamboo is anything but weak. Thanks to their tightly packed molecular structure, some bamboo poles have a stronger structure than steel-reinforced concrete and steel.

This plant has a tensile strength — the resistance against splitting or breaking under pressure — of a whopping 28,000 pounds per square inch (psi), making it one of the strongest available building materials. By comparison, steel measures 23,000 psi. Due to their strength, larger bamboo poles are used in construction to build frames, scaffolding, fencing, housing and more. Bamboo can even reinforce concrete as a renewable and cost-effective steel bar replacement.

5. Bamboo Is Healthy and Delicious for People and Pandas

When tender, new-growth bamboo is harvested for eating. It’s possible to purchase fresh, canned or dried bamboo shoots as a cooking ingredient, especially for dishes such as stir-fry and soups. Additionally, you can enjoy the mildly sweet flavor of bamboo leaf tea, hot or cold.

The plant is a yummy delicacy rich in health-boosting nutrients and benefits:

  • Dietary fiber: Reduces blood pressure and hypertension
  • Potassium: Lowers fluid retention and supports nerve function
  • Tyrosine: Regulates hormones and facilitates metabolism
  • Thiamine: Plays a crucial role in heart, muscle and nerve function
  • Vitamins A: Supports the immune system, eye health and vision
  • Vitamin E: Prevents inflammation and provides antioxidant properties
  • Vitamin B6: Improves mood, brain health and sleep quality

Not to be outdone by humans, pandas eat a tremendous amount of bamboo, as it’s essentially their sole food source. An adult giant panda spends most of its day foraging to find and consume about 40 pounds of bamboo, using its powerful jaws and teeth to crunch the fibrous plant into consumable pieces. Because a panda digests its food more like a carnivore than an herbivore, the animal needs to consume a large quantity of bamboo to absorb the nutrients.

6. Bamboo Protects Against Landslides and Earthquakes

With a dense network of interwoven rhizome roots, bamboo firmly holds topsoil in place. The plant’s unique anchoring structure makes it superior for erosion control. Throughout Africa and Asia, strategically planted bamboo forests are grown to protect slopes, creek walls, riverbanks and dam walls. The root structure is so strong that during an earthquake, people will be safe inside of a bamboo grove.

In the Philippines’ natural disaster-prone Eastern Visayas region, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) promotes planting bamboo as a riverbank-compatible plant to help mitigate landslides in the affected areas. That’s because bamboo can stabilize vulnerable regions, prevent mudslides and protect against natural disasters.

7. Bamboo Boasts More Than 1,600 Diverse Species

When you think of bamboo, you probably picture a tall green plant made of hollow cylindrical poles. That’s certainly accurate, but more than 1,600 bamboo species exist worldwide in hot and cold environments.

The appearance of bamboo plants varies widely, from variegated to striped to multicolored. A few varieties, such as the Phyllostachys heteroclada “water bamboo” plant, aren’t hollow at all, growing with solid stems to grow in wet soil. Additionally, bamboo comes in wildly different sizes and shapes, from the Amazon rain forest’s diminutive bamboo that grows no larger than a pencil to Asia’s colossal canopies of timber bamboo.

While the green color is common, bamboo comes in a rainbow of colors, including the following striking hues:

  • Black: The ebony-hued Phyllostachys nigra is a rare beauty.
  • Gold: Stems of the Phyllostachys aurea turn a bright golden yellow with ample sun exposure.
  • Blue: “Tropical blue bamboo” Bambusa chungii has distinctive pale blue and white stalks.
  • Red: It’s hard to miss the vivid red canes of the “Red Dragon” clumping Fargesia Jiuzhaigou variety.

8. Bamboo Is the Ultimate Gardening Resource

Seasoned gardeners know that bamboo is the magic ingredient for a thriving garden. The dropped bamboo leaves create a nutrient-dense mulch that enriches your soil and feeds the bamboo and surrounding plants. Furthermore, bamboo mulch is an excellent weed barrier and a helpful addition to compost bins.

Thin bamboo poles are strong, lightweight and supple — bamboo stakes hold up climbing crops and support top-heavy plants to ensure a plentiful harvest and prevent broken limbs. Use bamboo poles to create a wide variety of functional and aesthetically pleasing garden additions:

  • Stakes
  • Tomato cages
  • Trellises
  • Borders
  • Bee houses
  • Privacy screens
  • Fencing
  • Hanging planters

9. Bamboo Is One of the Most Sustainable Building Materials on the Planet

With its harvest capacity and continuous, rapid growth, bamboo is far more sustainable than other woods and grown resources and materials. Bamboo forests, the ultimate green alternative to traditional hardwood trees, can be harvested every three to five years versus 10 to 20 years for most woods. Additionally, bamboo doesn’t require replanting, positioning bamboo as a significant contributor to preventing deforestation worldwide.

Therefore, bamboo is the sustainable, eco-friendly choice for construction projects, flooring, garden structures, resorts, parks and other commercial spaces.

10. Bamboo Is Prominent Throughout History

Bamboo has a rich and diverse history with many uses leading up to today. Moreover, it has seen relevance in various cultures and key historical events and advancements. Bamboo, a versatile grass, has played a pivotal role in numerous civilizations, dating back thousands of years, and continues to make history today as a highly environmentally friendly and sustainable resource.

There have been several distinct historical moments where bamboo was particularly relevant, leading to September 18 being named World Bamboo Day by the World Bamboo Organization (WBO). Some noteworthy historical moments include:

  •  Bamboo was used to make paper: During the Tang Dynasty, in the third century, paper was typically made from hemp and bark, but bamboo eventually offered a superior form of paper, which was also a more abundant material.
  • Bamboo was used in the first version of a gun: Guns and weaponry have evolved over time, and the first gun was very different from today. In 10th century China, they used pieces of bamboo filled with black powder and shrapnel made from small rocks and pottery shards — creating a fiery combination of a shotgun and flame thrower.
  • Bamboo is used in flooring: Bamboo started being used to create an alternative to hardwood floors that provides the same strength and durability and grows much faster than traditional hardwood flooring materials.
  • Bamboo has been used in construction: Bamboo has been used in housing, to build bridges, ladders and scaffolding in China and could be a prominent building material of the future that is environmentally friendly and economically viable. It also offers potential use cases, including multistory buildings, dwellings, foundations and more.
  • Bamboo beer exists: Although Southeast Asia has used bamboo in drinks before, in 2012 in Central Mexico, bamboo beer or Bambusa was invented. The process includes adding bamboo leaves during the fermentation to provide a unique and exciting taste.

A Few More Fun Facts About Bamboo

bamboo fun facts

Impress guests at your next social gathering with a few more unusual bamboo facts:

  1. Bamboo was used in the first firecrackers: Around 200 BC, the Chinese created the first firecrackers when they discovered bamboo made a loud popping noise when exposed to fire due to air pockets releasing between nodes.
  2. Bamboo produces flowers: It’s rare to see, but bamboo does flower. The bloom cycle for bamboo ranges from as little as three years to 150 years at the most. When a bamboo variety flowers, every plant of that same species, across the globe, flowers and seeds simultaneously.
  3. Bamboo was used in the first light bulbs: Thomas Edison used filaments made from bamboo in his first light bulbs, one of which exists today at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
  4. Bamboo was able to survive Hiroshima: After the Hiroshima bombing of 1945, many believed that nothing would grow again for many years to come. However, the story of the trees that survived the bombing is extraordinary. In Japan, they refer to them as “Hibakujumoku,” which means “a bombed tree.” Bamboo was one of the handful of plant species that sprung up again.
  5. Bamboo has an imposter: Lucky Bamboo, a popular decorative house plant, looks a whole lot like bamboo, but it is actually more closely related to asparagus. The scientific name is Dracaena sanderiana, and it is a flowering plant, often gifted to bring good fortune and is part of the family Asparagaceae. All the same, it is a delightful slender plant with social and cultural relevance dating back thousands of years in Eastern Asia.

Where to Buy Bamboo Products

If you’re looking for the very best bamboo products on the market, we’ve got you covered! Forever Bamboo has everything you need to transform your residential and commercial spaces with bamboo:

  • Poles: Design the garden of your dreams using versatile bamboo poles left intact or halved. These beautiful poles come in 5-foot, 8-foot or 10-foot lengths to create trellises, accents, stakes and more.
  • Thatch: Forever Bamboo carries the largest inventory of commercial-grade Tahitian, Fijian and Mexican palm, African Reed and artificial thatch products in the U.S. at incredible prices.
  • Matting: Forever Bamboo’s bamboo matting comes in different patterns, colors, textures and sizes and is 100% eco-friendly, causing no environmental damage when you dispose of them.
  • Fencing: Turn your uninviting chain-link fencing into a tropical paradise with bamboo fencing. This plant allows you to add privacy without removing your existing metal fence.
  • Paneling: Transform your flat interior and exterior walls with our gorgeous textured bamboo paneling, which is available in 8-foot and 50-foot lengths and 4-foot heights.
  • Slats: Use distinctive Moso bamboo slats as wainscoting, wall coverings and accents. Available in four colors, our slats can match every aesthetic.
  • Tiki huts: Forever Bamboo’s DIY kits have everything you need to assemble Tiki huts and Palapas, including detailed instructions, hardware, lodge poles, roof framing and thatch covering.
  • Umbrellas: At Forever Bamboo, we have one of the industry’s most extensive selections of thatch Tiki umbrellas. Shade your oasis with our African Reed and Mexican Palm umbrellas and covers.
  • Furniture: Let our vast collection of long-lasting bamboo furnishings cover your tropical decor needs — we offer stools, chairs, loungers, tables, shelves, privacy screens and furniture sets.

Interesting Facts About Bamboo Products

Unlike most building materials for furniture and other materials, bamboo products are:

  • Versatile: Multiuse bamboo is used to make lumber, furniture, paneling, fencing, paper, clothing, utensils, flooring, roofs, jewelry and so much more.
  • Lightweight: These products are lighter than traditional lumber, making them safer for construction projects and transport.
  • Strong: With a higher tensile strength than steel, most bamboo products are more durable and long-lasting than items built from other materials.
  • Finish-free: Unlike most wood products, bamboo requires no toxic finishes like painting or sealing to preserve its beauty and functionality.
  • Eco-friendly: This plant’s sustainability adds more oxygen to the air and regrows faster than traditional lumber-producing tree forests.
  • Biodegradable: These products are biodegradable, can be converted to mulch and other bamboo products and add no toxins to the environment.

Find Superior Quality Bamboo Products at Forever Bamboo

When you build, decorate or enhance your space with bamboo, you can rest assured you’re using one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. Feel good about your contribution to the earth as you create a beautiful environment in your home, garden and business using top-quality bamboo products from Forever Bamboo.

Shop our wide selection of bamboo poles, thatch, matting, fencing, paneling, slats, blinds, umbrellas and Tiki huts to design your tropical oasis. Let our expert staff answer all of your bamboo questions and help take the guesswork out of materials and measurements. Contact us online to learn how easily our eco-friendly bamboo products can transform your next project!