Bamboo – The Tallest Grass
Bamboo is the tallest grass that can grow as tall as a tree. Some kinds of bamboo grow to a height of 130 feet. There are more than 1,000 kinds of bamboo. Most are found in East Asia and Southeast Asia. Some kinds grow in the southern United States. They grow in mild to warm and humid areas.
The stems of bamboo are called culms. They are hollow and grow in clusters from an underground stem called a rhizome. Some grow as much as 0.3 meter per day.
It is one of the world’s most useful plants. People use bamboo to build rafts, bridges, and houses, make furniture, paper, pipes, walking sticks, fishing poles, garden stakes, chopsticks and many other things. Bamboo sprouts and shoots are used in cooking.
Flowering of bamboo is an intriguing phenomenon, because it is unique and very rare phenomenon in the plant kingdom. Most of the bamboos bloom once in 60 – 130 years. Long flowering intervals remain a mystery for botanists.
The mass flowering of bamboos attract predators, mainly rodents. Tens of millions of hungry rats come to eat fruit. After they have eaten bamboo fruit rats start eating crops in the fields. Bamboo flowering is almost always accompanied by hunger and disease in the neighboring villages. In the state of Mizoram in North-East India terrible event takes place regularly every 48 – 50 years when the bamboo species Melocanna baccifera begin to bloom. This phenomenon last happened in 2006 – 2008, and received the name mautam, or “bamboo death”.
There is the famous bamboo forest Sagano in the Japanese city of Kyoto. The forest covers an area of 16 square kilometers. Bamboo of the forest is still used for the production of various products: dishes, boxes, baskets, mats.
Bamboo is the symbol of happiness and purity for the Japanese.
Bamboo is the main food for pandas.
The bamboo bridge across the Min River in the southwestern part of China was built in the III century AD. It the oldest construction made of bamboo.
In ancient Chinese culture bamboo was the symbol of good fortune and longevity, its hollowness a symbol of a modest personality. Bamboo became a common subject of painting and poetry. The earliest collection of Chinese poetry, Shijing (Book of Songs), included five poems about bamboo.