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Bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus) is a member of the "true grass" family Poaceae, having 70 genera which divide into around 1,000 species. Being a Poaceae, its vascular tissue is contained in the cylindrical shoot, while its inside is hollow. It is the largest member of the grass family, and is thought to have reached prehistoric heights of up to 75 m (about 250 ft) Bamboo is able to grow up to 48 inches in one 24-hour period under certain specific conditions of soil and climate. The bamboo plant undergoes several stages of growth, reaching it's maximum height within 3-4 months, while branches and leaves sprout from the culm, or the "pulpy wall" of the plant, during the subsequent year. After several years, the culm will harden, but is then subject to deconstruction by certain fungi and mold, which occurs, also, for 3-8 years. After this point, the culm is prepared for harvesting, which is done so for a number of uses.


Native Areas



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Bamboo is native to a number of continents and countries, most popularly in India (which is home to over 130 species), East and Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. It also found in Northwestern Australia, and North and South America - in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and in several South American countries including Brazil and Chile. Bamboo is able to grow in a variety of climates, ranging from cold and mountainous to warm and tropical, explaining its widespread population. A number of species are, notably, found along the slopes of the Himalayan and Andes mountain ranges.


Benefits, Uses, and Random Yet Relatively Interesting Facts



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Photosynthesis

Bamboo also plays a key role in balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is able to produce up to 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees, and is also capable of sequestering up to 12 million tons of carbon dioxide from the air per hectare.


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Giant Panda, straight munchin'. Yum





Animal Diets

Bamboo is included in the diet of several animals, notably as the cornerstone of the diet of China's Giant Panda, which, while facing extinction, consumes vast amounts of bamboo on a daily basis for the grass's sugar. Bamboo is also eaten by the Mountain Gorillas of Africa in the mountainous regions of eastern Africa, including the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. Giant bamboo is consumed in large amounts by Golden Bamboo Lemurs, despite the fact that it contains a considerable amount of cyanide.



Human Uses

Bamboo is used widely by humans in a number of ways, ranging from culinary purposes to use for construction materials.
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Fresh bamboo shoots

  • Culinary
Bamboo is used not only as an ingredient in many dishes, but also to make drinks and as utensils or makeshift cookware. The bamboo shoot is used in a number of Asian dishes, and is mostly found in soups or broths with other vegetables, though its specific uses vary from region to region. For example, in Indonesia, the thinly sliced shoots are boiled with thick coconut milk to make a dish called gulia rebung. Sap drawn from young culms of a shoot can be fermented and used to make a sweet wine called ulanzi. In certain parts of India, ingredients are cooked inside the hardened shoots over an open flame.


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The culm of the bamboo shoot, as seen here, is thick, durable, and can be used as a wood-like construction material.

  • Construction

The use of bamboo in construction has been dated as far back as the 3rd Century B.C., and has been referenced in writings from 960 A.D. As well as the largest, it is also the strongest growing grass, with the ability to support up to 52,000 pounds per square inch, making it just a bit more durable than mild steel and graphite. This obviously makes for great construction use, both for structures like bridges and scaffolding and for actual buildings themselves, though it is usually used for things like flooring, decking, panelling, and tiling. While, again, mostly associated with Asian cultures, bamboo is also used for construction in a number of places in the South Pacific, most notably in the Tiki culture, which is imitated, though certainly in a tacky way, today throughout the United States. Much like wood and timber, bamboo can be compressed to create arching and square shapes. This is achieved through processes similar to that of shaping wood, for example through the application of heat and pressure. Bamboo shoots can also be trained during growth to create certain arching shapes. To make planks, shoots are sliced thinly, boiled, and glued together with other thin strips. Bamboo is so strong a material, that when a house is constructed using only bamboo, it is apparently resistant to both earthquakes and cyclones.

Bamboo in Asian Art and Culture

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The Four Gentlemen, not to be confused with the Three Stooges.


Aside from its practical uses, bamboo is an important cultural mark for several Asian countries, mostly in China, where it is considered a representation of longevity for obvious reasons. Bamboo is considered one of the "Four Noble Ones," which is a collection of four plants (orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and the plum blossom) that represent the seasons. The four plants are often used to represent Confucius's idea of junzi, or gentlemen, and when found in Chinese art, together, these plants represent "the four Gentlemen." The depiction of the Four Gentlemen in Chinese art dates as far back as the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.)





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Also, because of its cool structure and pleasing visual quality, bamboo makes a great aesthetic addition to film, which it has here in Yimou Zhang's "House of the Flying Daggers" (2004)



Some Other Interesting Facts about Bamboo:

  • The bamboo goods industry is expected to be worth $25 billion by 2012.
  • The Chinese use bamboo for medicine because of its potassium and protein content.
  • Thomas Edison successfully used a carbonized bamboo filament in his first experiments with the light bulb.
  • Bamboo survived the Hiroshima atomic blast closer to ground Zero than any other living thing and provided the first regreening after the Hiroshiman blast in 1945
  • In Japan, bamboo forests are often grown around sacred shrine as a protection against "evil."
  • Bali, Indonesia, is home to an international primary school known as the "Green School," which is constructed entirely out of bamboo.

References:

Wikipedia: (<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo>)
Maui Eco Retreat: (<www.mauiretreat.com/index.php?section=54>)
National Mission on Bamboo Applications: (<http://www.bambootech.org/tslink.asp?subsubid=71&subid=16&sname=MISSION&lid=229>)
Jing Blog: (<http://jingtea.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/my-favourite-food-in-china-or-maybe-the-worldfresh-bamboo-shoots/>)



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