B is for Bamboo; A story worth the reed…

Did you know: Thomas Edison’s first successful lightbulb used carbonized bamboo as a filament?

Bamboo has to be one of the most iconic grasses there are, even if a majority of those recognizing bamboo didn’t realize it was a grass. A member of the Poa family, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world with one cultivar growing an astonishing 3’ a day! This highly adaptable monocot has been around for about 40 million years and has since evolved over 1,400 species within.  Bamboo has been so successful that a native species of it can be found on almost every continent in almost every climate, only excluding those with extreme colds.

Having established itself so well in so many places, bamboo has also developed so many eco-friendly benefits and could honestly be a blog in itself:

  1. Reduces Erosion
  2. Wood replacement. Can out yield pine 6:1 and only takes about 3-5 years for maturity as opposed to 10-20 for most softwoods.
  3. Stronger to build with than steel. Mild steel tensile strength is 23,000 psi, bamboo has a strength of 28,000 psi!
  4. Oxygen release: a grove of bamboo release 35% more oxygen than a tree equivalent and is generally about 8 degrees cooler than the surrounding temperatures.
  5. Naturally anti-bacterial/anti-fungal! Bamboo Kun prevents over 70% of bacteria that try to grow on it.

However, being one of the most recognized in anything will provide a fair share of admirers as well as haters – even with all its benefits! It is my opinion that those who say they hate it only do so because they were ‘bamboozled’ and planted the wrong type. Like with most rhizomatous grasses, there are two growth habits of Bamboo; it has a spreading species (leptomorph rhizome) and an easier to manage clumping cousin (pachymorph rhizome).

* Fun Fact Interjection: Bamboos rarely flower or seed. It could be 60 or more years before they flower and when they do all plants of this species, no matter where in the world they are, will flower at the same time!) *

In the US, Fargesia bamboo are the clump forming species and Phyllostachys bamboo will spread vigorously. I do not blame any home owner for their distaste of spreading bamboo. I have seen landscapers try to get rid of them with a skid steer by removing a few inches of the soil only to have bamboo return within a couple of months or less. If it says it’s a Phyllostachys, I would recommend you have a way to contain it unless you do not mind your back yard looking like the Sagano Bamboo Forest in Japan!

To any homeowner thinking about bamboo, here are some nice benefits to having it around your home:

  1. No need to fertilize. The minimal leaf fall from the bamboo is enough to fertilize and keep this plant happy.
  2. Clump forming Fargesia is non-invasive!
  3. Quickly grows to establish itself as a natural hedge or boarder.
  4. NO SNAKES! Bamboo is not ideal for snakes since they enjoy warm quiet places. Bamboo generally cools the surrounding air and is noisier than they prefer. Plus, the reeds are too smooth for them to climb up.
  5. Comes in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Their reeds can be black, blue, brown, gold, green, grey, orange, purple, red, white, and even variegated!
  6. Young shoots are edible and the leaves can be made into a tea. Bamboo is a great source of Potassium and fiber.
  7. Bamboo coal can be used as a fuel source as well as a natural deodorizer.
  8. Bamboo fiber can be used in textiles. It is breathable and absorbent and is starting to be used in more clothing applications.

Guest Blogger

Joshua Clawson,

Account Executive at Johnson Nursery

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