Are bamboos grasses?« Back to Questions List

Bamboos could be thought of as giant grasses or tropical plants. They are actually oversized members of grass family and are faster spreading species found widely in the mountains of South China. It also grows in the Andes mountain range of South America where winters are cold. Eating bamboo shoots are not the only way we use bamboo. The stems of bamboo are quite useful in making containers, water pipes, weaving baskets and chairs. Thin sections of split stems could be very useful in making paper pulp, ropes, flutes and hand tools. Big stems could be used for building houses and bridges too. Apart from humans, bamboo shoots are desired meal of giant pandas and gorillas. 

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The main components of a bamboo plant include rhizomes, roots, culms, branches, leaves, and flowers. Bamboo is a very shallow rooted plant. The rhizomes that grow underground horizontally in the soil produce roots and shoots at the nodes. They produce feeder roots that grow further down into the soil. The rhizomes travel underground with the aim of colonizing new territory of bamboos. As rhizomes spread through the soil they collect and store the primary nutrients for growth. The storage of energy is one important reason for bamboos to exhibit rapid and massive growth. The rhizomes will create an interconnected system of plants, all of which draw on the rhizomes for nutrients.


As the rhizomes spread underground, they will eventually travel upwards to create a new culm. Culm is the main stem of bamboo that contains the main vascular system for the transport of water, nutrients and food. It is a kind of jointed stem that supports the branches and leaves. It is most visibly distinguishable features of a bamboo plant varying in size, shape, color and smell. 

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Bamboo shoots sprout from underground runners. They grow remarkably fast as much as even three feet in a single day. The tallest species reaches about 120 feet. Their stems are so tough and are full of silica. Their stems are known to have more tensile strength than
steel. Tensile strength indicates the maximum strength that a material can endure when it is stretched or pulled before breaking. The stems also possess higher compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete. Compressive strength is the capacity to resist forces that try to compress the material together tending to reduce their size.

Bamboos blossom very rarely. It might flower may be once in 20 years. A particular Japanese species blossoms once in 120 years. The plant generally dies once it flowers.


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