It grows one third faster than the fastest growing tree. Some species can grow up to 1 meter per day. One can almost "watch it grow". This growth pattern makes it easily accessible in a minimal amount of time. Size ranges from miniatures to towering culms of 60 meters. A critical element in the balance of oxygen / carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Bamboo is the fastest growing canopy for the re-greening of degraded areas and generates more oxygen than equivalent stand of trees. It lowers light intensity and protects against ultraviolet rays and is an atmospheric and soil purifier.
Bamboo is one of the strongest building materials. Bamboo's tensile strength is 28,000 per square inch versus 23,000 for steel. In the tropics is it possible to plant and grow your own bamboo home. In a plot 20m x 20m, in the course of 5 years, two 8m x 8m homes can be constructed from the harvest. Every year after that the yield is one additional house per plot.
Bamboo can be selectively harvested annually. Bamboo provided the first re-greening in Hiroshima after the atomic blast in 1945. Thomas Edison successfully used a carbonized bamboo filament in his first experiment with the light bulb. Versatile with a short growth cycle. There are over 1000 species of bamboo on the earth. The diversity makes bamboo adaptable to many environments. It can be harvested in 3-5 years versus 10-20 years for most softwoods. Bamboo tolerates extremes of precipitation, from 30-250 inches of annual rainfall.
Bamboo and its related industries already provide income, food and housing to over 2.2 billion people worldwide. There is a 3-5 year return on investment for a new bamboo plantation versus 8-10 years for rattan. Governments such as India, China and Burma with 19,800,000 hectares of bamboo reserves collectively, have begun to focus attention on the economic factors of bamboo production.
In Limon, Costa Rica, only the bamboo houses from the National Bamboo Project stood after their violent earthquake in 1992. Flexible and lightweight bamboo enables structures to "dance" in earthquakes.
Bamboo is a high-yield renewable natural resource: ply bamboo is now being used for wall panelling, floor tiles; bamboo pulp, for paper making, briquettes for fuel; raw material for housing construction; and rebar for reinforced concrete beams.
Bamboo is exquisite component of landscape design. Its anti-erosion properties create an effective watershed, stitching the soil together along fragile river banks, deforested areas, and in places prone to earthquakes and mud slides. The sum of stem flow rate and canopy intercept of bamboo is 25% which means that bamboo greatly reduces rain run-off, preventing massive soil erosion.
Bamboo has for centuries been used in Ayurveda medicine and Chinese acupuncture. The powdered hardened secretion from bamboo is used internally to treat asthma, coughs and can be used as an aphrodisiac. In China, ingredients from the root of the black bamboo help treat kidney disease. Roots and leaves have also been used to treat venereal disease and cancer. Sap is said to reduce fever and ash will cure prickly heat. Current research point to bamboo's potential in a number of medicinal uses.
Bamboo is a mystical plant as a symbol of strength, flexibility, tenacity, endurance, luck and compromise. Throughout Asia, bamboo has for centuries been integral to religions ceremonies, art, music and daily life. It is the paper, the brush and the inspiration of poems and paintings. Among the earliest historical records, 2nd century B.C. were written on green bamboo strips strung together in a bundle with silk thread. Instruments made of bamboo create unique resonance.
Bamboo shoots provide nutrition for million of people worldwide. In Japan, the antioxidant properties of pulverized bamboo bark prevents bacterial growth and its used as a natural food preservative.
Taiwan alone consumes 80,000 tons of bamboo shoots annually constituting at $50 million industry.
Bamboo is an exquisite component of landscape design. For the human environment, bamboo provides shade, wind break, acoustical barriers and aesthetic beauty.