Bamboo is one of the most beneficial and versatile plants in the world. Bamboo-created products range from flooring and roofs to hats and clothing to food and medicines. In fact, there is an Asian saying that “A man is born in a bamboo cradle and goes away in a bamboo coffin. Everything in between is possible with bamboo.” The following, although not comprehensive, is designed to give you an idea of the benefits of this extraordinary plant.
A hardy plant, bamboo grows in a variety of climates from East Asia through Northern Australia, India, Africa, America, Argentina and Chile. Only Continental Europe is not known to have any native species of bamboo. That being said, most products are made for moso bamboo, cultivated in China and other areas in Asia.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world – some species of the plant can actually grow 35 inches within a 24-hour period.
Bamboo is one of the least expensive plants to cultivate, able to grow with little or no fertilizer, water and heavy harvesting machinery.
Chinese bamboo is often grown on small, family-owned plots, some of which have been cultivated for hundreds of years. For rural farmers, it is an important means of support. Other countries with significant bamboo resources and exports include India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. India
Economists estimate that there are more than ten million bamboo farmers, providing 35 million jobs and generating a market value of over 10.5 billion dollars.
The root structure of bamboo enables it to stabilize steep slopes and riverbanks, preventing mudslides and reducing erosion.
Like grass, bamboo regrows after harvesting. This is a sharp difference with a hardwood tree, which if cut down, takes several decades to grow back. A forest can take as much as a century to regrow.
Bamboo can be harvested after three to six years. After the first harvest, it can be harvested every single year for the life of the plant.
Bamboo requires few nutrients and can grow in soil that is unfriendly to other plants and because it can reclaim the land, other plants are enabled to thrive. It roots leach heavy metals from the soil, hold the soil together and draws water closer to the surface.
Bamboo has many different application from homes to furniture production to paper making to food and fuel. Its versatility, environmental and economic benefits mean that manufacturers are constantly researching new uses for this marvelous resource.
In China, its long life is a symbol of friendship while in India it is a symbol of friendship.
In Chinese culture, the bamboo, plum blossom, orchid and chrysanthemum are called the “Four Gentlemen” or the “Four Noblemen.” They represent the four seasons and the four aspects of the junzi, the “gentleman” or “superior one,” described by Confucius in his writings. Chinese poets endowed the bamboo with uprightness, tenacity, integrity and elegance. Another important cultural concept associated with the bamboo in China is its “hollow heart,” – a heart that is open to accept anything of benefit.
Bamboo also plays an important role in the myths and symbolism of other cultures including Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.