November 22, 2014
Abstract Bamboo is a well-known plant that originated in China around 7,000 years ago. The plant is naturally occurring everywhere on the planet except for in places with extremely cold climates. Naming of the plant is not well standardized, but its most common botanical name is Bambuseae. It is technically a grass, and some of the 1200 species can reach heights of up to thirty meters. They are a self-regenerating natural resource, meaning they continue to grow even after they are harvested. Most people are unaware that there are an endless amount of uses for this unique plant. It is widely used for decoration, furniture, utensils, houses, and food. It is sturdy enough to build with, but when the hard outer shell is taken away, the bamboo shoots inside provide great nutrition. An average wood tree can take up to 60 years to be fully-grown. A stalk of bamboo of equal height and weight would take about 60 days to be fully-grown. Many bamboo species take part in mass flowering, a unique occurrence in which all plants flower at the same time, for many years at a time.
Introduction Bamboo is most well known from its relations with the giant panda. It is its major source of nutrition, and depends on the plant to survive. But this endangered animal is not the only species that utilizes bamboo. Humans all over the world use bamboo both as an ornamental plant as well as a food source. Coming from the family Poaceae, it is classified as a “monocotyledonous flowering plant (“Bamboo” 2014).” Many other species in this family consist of Oryza sativa (rice), Saccharum officinarum (sugar cane), and Pennisetum purpureum (elephant grass). Each has a round, hollow stem, alternating leaves, and the fruit is usually a caryopsis (Carr 2000). Bamboo is more closely related to the members of its subfamily Bambusoideae, meaning giant, fast-growing grasses with a woody stems. The woody, hollow aerial stems, called culms, grow in branching clusters from an underground stem called a rhizome.
With more than 1,500 species of bamboo occurring naturally in every continent except Europe and Antarctica, there is a vast range in sizes. The culms of the smallest species can attain heights ranging from 4 to 6 inches, and the largest species can grow more than 130 feet tall (“Nature” 2014). When a stalk of bamboo grows, it does not increase in girth, only in height. Due to a unique rhizome-dependent system, bamboos are one of the fastest growing plants in the world. The fastest species can grow 250 centimeters within a 24 hour period, and the average rate of 3-10 centimeters per day is still unusually fast (Chan 2014). Bamboo is significant in economic and cultural aspects in many parts of Asia as well as the world. It has been used for thousands of years as both a building material and for food.
Origin Because bamboo is so widespread and has the ability to grow anywhere except those places with extremely cold climates, many people are unsure of exactly where its origins lie. If it were to be traced all the way back to its first ancestors, the most common species of bamboo evolved from prehistoric grasses between thirty and forty million years ago. But bamboo as most people know it today is thought to have originated in China, where the first use of bamboo to make everyday items was recorded around 7,000 years ago (“Origins” 2008). The pictographic symbol for bamboo was found on a piece of pottery found buried in the Yangshao relics of Banpo Village, Xi’an in 1954. The symbol was also found on other objects such as oracle bones and ancient bronze. Bamboo was already being used for food, clothing, housing, transportation, music instruments, and weapons as early as the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century B.C.)(“Chinese” 2012). Bamboo was applied to advance technology in ancient China as well. In the Shang Dynasty, a bamboo drill was invented. This technology was eventually used to drill oil wells in