Bamboo is a giant species of grass, and also the fastest growing woody perennial evergreen plant in the world. Bamboo is classified by type, species and variety. All bamboo plants come from the grass family Poaceae and the subfamily Bambusoideae. There are about 1,200 types of bamboo varieties in the world, and their identification relies on the kinds of flower each variety produces.
The rapid growth of bamboo forests makes bamboo one of the most easily renewable natural resources available to us today. An eco-friendly alternative to traditional hardwood logging, bamboo can yield approximately three times the amount of durable building material as a hardwood forest can. If done properly, bamboo can be harvested on a regular basis without damaging the natural balance of the bamboo forest’s ecosystem.
Bamboo shoots begin to grow in the spring. They sprout from the ground and grow for about 3 to 4 months, during which period they produce stems and leaves. Unlike most hardwood plants, bamboo plants undergo only a single growing season. After their first and only 3- to 4-month growing period, bamboo plants do not increase in height or girth again. Over the course of its remaining years (anywhere from 8 to 10 years on average) the bamboo plant will grow new leaves, harden, and shed its early layers of sheathing.
As all members of the grass family, bamboo is a colony plant. This means a plant will use its energy to produce additional plants, thus increasing the size of the overall bamboo colony. Every growing season, new bamboo canes emerge, even as old ones are dying. An interesting fact about bamboo plat growth is that the main bamboo shoots, or culms, emerge from the ground already as thick in diameter as they are ever going to be. Each season, the culms that emerge from a bamboo root system will grow taller and thicker than earlier culms.
Bamboo Root Systems
There are two different kinds of root systems when it comes to bamboo plants. These systems are known as rhizomes. The first kind of rhizome is known as a runner root system. These tend to spread very rapidly and uncontrollably. When planted in a home garden, bamboo plants with a runner root system can be problematic if not cared for properly. The other kind of root system type is known as clumpers. Bamboo with clumper root systems tend to be found in tropical climates. Though clumpers can spread quickly if they are not pruned, they are much less invasive than runner root systems.
The Infrequency of Bamboo Flowering
Bamboo plants flower very rarely. Bamboo species can go without flowering for anywhere from a few years to 120 years or more. Because flowers are the easiest and most accurate method of bamboo species classification, the rarity of bamboo flowering has made classification somewhat problematic at times. Certain species of bamboo undergo what is known as “mass flowering”, an event in which a bamboo species flowers at the same time, en masse, regardless of the plants’ geographical location. This phenomenon remains largely unexplained, though many theories abound. Most scientists agree however that there mass flowerings in bamboo appear to be controlled by a kind of evolutionarily arrived at time internal “alarm clock”.