What is Giant Bamboo?
Giant bamboo is a unique type of bamboo that grows much taller than most of the other species of bamboo (and there are more than one thousand unique species!). Giant bamboo is not a species in and of itself; the term refers to multiple species, some of which can grow over 100 feet tall and more than 7 inches in width. The most well-known giant bamboo varieties are Japanese timber, Chinese timber, as well as Moso bamboo. Japanese timber commonly grows to around 40 feet in height, but has been recorded as reaching heights of as much as 70 feet. The Chinese timber bamboo grows to around 50 feet in height, while the Moso bamboo is the largest of the three, commonly growing to an astounding 75 feet in height. The Chinese timber bamboo is pictured below, and is a beautiful species with its green and yellow striping.
Giant bamboo has also been recorded growing at rates much faster than those of smaller bamboos – sometimes as much as 40 inches in a twenty-four hour period! The bamboo also reaches its full height within just a few months, unlike most plants. Giant bamboo emerges from the soil in the spring, and by the end of the summer they have reached their maximum height. When these bamboos begin to grow, they are unusually soft at first and can range in color from brown to yellow to purple to red. They are also enclosed by a sheath when they first emerge, which eventually sloughs off as the plants grow.
Giant bamboo is found naturally in Asia, India, Madagascar, and the Amazon basin in South America. It is also grown domestically all over the world, and especially in California.
Like most bamboos, many are finding bamboo to be a very renewable resource, and giant bamboo is no exception to this rule. Because it grows so quickly, and is easy to replace, it is increasingly being used outside of Asia in a variety of different areas. It is interesting to note that a grove of bamboo will produce four times as much timber as a forest of pine trees will.
More on Moso Bamboo
Moso bamboo is the largest of the giant bamboos, and is also edible. It has been imported quite a bit to the United States, and is used for construction, textiles, food, etc. The name Moso is actually a Japanese word, which replaces the Chinese name of Mao Zhu, which means “hairy bamboo”. It is named as such because before Moso bamboo reaches maturity, it is covered with a soft outer layer that almost feels like velvet to the touch. Below is a picture of Moso bamboo before it has reached maturity, when it still has its hairy outer layer on.
Another odd physical characteristic of Moso bamboo is the fact that the leaves start growing about thirty or forty feet above the ground, and these leaves are quite small in comparison to the size of the actual culm (the word “culm” refers to the shoot after it has reached maturity).
Moso bamboo needs to be grown in a warm climate with plenty of water in order to grow well. Manufacturers harvest Moso bamboo after it has grown for about five years, making it a highly renewable resource in the construction industry (most other hardwoods used in construction are not ready for harvest until they have been around for between forty and sixty years). Moso and other species of bamboo have been used heavily in the textile markets. If you have ever seen ads for bamboo sheets, bamboo blankets, organic sheets, or organic blanket, chances are that Moso or a closely related species were used for this fabric.
Value of Giant Bamboo
Giant bamboo is among the most unique plants in the world, and the tallest grass on the planet. It has much value for our society today, thanks to the variety of uses for it. The construction industry is just beginning to benefit from these gentle giants, and as it becomes more widespread, giant bamboo certainly has the potential to change the world for good.
McCombe, Jessica. “Information on the Moso Bamboo Tree.” EHow. Demand Media, 07 June 2010. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.