Bamboo is one of the most versatile wood producing plants on earth. Technically, it is a type of fast growing grass that is commonly mistaken for a tree. Animals first used the plant as a major food source more than 30 million years ago. Since bamboo matures quickly, it is used as a building material in some parts of the world.
The natural environment for bamboo includes southern China, Thailand, Vietnam, and the tropical latitudes of the Americas. Currently, 1,250 species are known. Bamboo grows primarily at low-lying elevations, but it has been found as high as 12,000 feet. Temperatures needed for growth vary.
Bamboo survives in every environment except where it is cold for long periods of time. Once planted, the grass is hard to get rid of. The only way to kill off bamboo is to plow the area where it is growing. When planting, you can limit the spread of your bamboo by planting it in a big pot or spreading large plastic bags around the planting area to contain them.
Bamboo has been used by man for 7,000 years. Ancient Asian civilizations used the plant for basic everyday items. Later uses included furniture, construction, paper production and flooring.
Houses built with bamboo are strong and durable. Such structures are able to withstand earthquakes that destroy other structures.
Today, bamboo is also used as a landscape accent around homes and in the popular Asian-themed gardens.
Western scientists did not study bamboo until the 1920's even though the grass started to become a part of western culture in the late 18th century. India leads in the commercial production of bamboo and in the number of species. Until recently, China banned export of bamboo, meaning it had to be spirited across the borders. Most countries have strict rules over what plants can and cannot be taken across boarders.
Bamboo is one of the fasted growing grasses on the planet. It is both a natural air and soil purifier and people plant it to prevent water run-off in flood prone areas. The sturdy plant grows up to 60 meters tall.
Bamboo has a growth cycle of 7 to 8 years. To prepare areas for new bamboo plantings in the dry season, remove dead or dying stocks to allow more light to reach the new bamboo. This helps the plant spread new shoots. During the first year, young bamboo grows through photosynthesis. During the second year, the shoots will harden. During the third year, leaves will appear. At this time, you can harvest the bamboo.