Bamboo in Bosque de Paz Print E-mail

Bambusa tuldaBamboo is the general name for more than 1 200 species of this giant grass that exist in the world. Bamboo forests can be found most numerously in China, Japan, and the East and Southeast Asian regions, but they can also be found in Northern Australia, India, sub-Saharan Africa, and the tropical regions of the Americas.  

Bamboo forests differ greatly from hardwood forests, especially in terms of the growth cycle of the bamboo plants themselves.

Bamboo forests have been used by humans as a source for food and building materials for many centuries, and they are still used today, especially in Asia and tropical South America, for the same purposes today. In addition to their material importance, bamboo forests are culturally symbolic in countries like China and Japan. In China, bamboo is a symbol of longevity, and bamboo groves are a common sight in Buddhist temples. In Japan’s Shinto religion, bamboo forests are often the site of shrines and altars, as bamboo forests are believed to ward off evil spirits.

Bamboo is also a source of food: the new sprouts of several species of giant bamboo are part of the daily diet in many Asian countries.

Dendrocalamus asperBambusa vulgaris

The growth cycle of Bamboo Forests

While hardwood forests can take hundreds of years to form, bamboo forests grow very rapidly and can produce fully mature bamboo plants, the stalks of which can reach up to 25 to 30 meters, within 3 to 7 years. This is because bamboo is not a wood tree at all, but a type of giant grass, and as such bamboo plants grow to their full height and girth within a single growing season that lasts 3 to 4 months. After the bamboo plant’s shoots die, they fall and are replaced by new ones. Each consecutive shoot that sprouts from the main plant root system is thicker and taller than the one before and it will achieve its full growth potential during a single growth season.

Guadua angustifolia The South American variety in Ecuador: Caña Guadua

The best known variety in Latin America is the Caña Guadúa (Guadua angustifolia).

Sadly, due to the tendency to ´modernize´ and consider the elements of nature as inferior, guadúa is not valued to its full extent. In many parts of Ecuador, bamboo groves have been destroyed as if it were a harmful weed, in order to expand the agriculture area and cattle farming.

Bamboo offers an excellent economic and ecological alternative for timber, whose price will rise to an astronomic high in the coming years, due to the massive deforestation worldwide. Bamboo is fast growing and the first mature stems can be harvested eight years after planting.

Bambusa vulgaris serving as river protection The uses of bamboo

Bamboo has many uses: construction of houses, assembling furniture, for scaffolding, as well as being used as posts in agriculture, weaving mats, making plywood and panels, flooring, etc.

Furthermore, bamboo is used for several environmental services: protection of water sources (reforestation of watersheds), barriers against erosion, prevention of landslides (bamboo anchors the soil with its spreading root system).

Bamboo in Architecture: Structural Characteristics

Bamboo is a unique building material in that it is both rigid and dense.  

While tensile strength remains the same throughout the age of bamboo plant, the plant fiber strength increases as it gets older. To utilize bamboo to its utmost potential, several conditions are important to consider. One factor is that bamboo grown on slopes is stronger than bamboo grown in valleys, and that bamboos that grow in poor dry soils are usually more solid than those grown in rich soils. Bamboo also shrinks diametrically and that should be taken into consideration.

There are certain limitations in the use of bamboo in construction due to the nature of the plant. The starchy interior is attractive to insects, and if not treated, can rot and fill with insects. Bamboo architecture is growing in popularity. It has gone from the building material of the poor to the choice of architects and artists with rapid ambition. While the world isn’t yet ready for whole cities made out of bamboo, it is certainly ready for homes made of it, and it seems to be coming in the near future.

the basic structure of this house in Bosque de Paz consists of BambooBamboo is a good source of material for any kind of structure

Varieties of bamboo planted in the Botanical Garden of Bosque de Paz.

Bambusa vulgaris (yellow-green chinese bamboo)

Phyllostachys pubescens

Dendrocalamus asper (giant bamboo)

Phyllostachys nigra


Dendrocalamus latiflorus

Phyllostachys aurea

Dendrocalamus longispiculata

Guadua angustifolia (spineless or with spines)

Dendrocalamus oldhamii

Guadua angustifolia bicolor

Bambusa tulda

Guadua aculeata

Bambusa ventricosa

On the bank of the Guallupe River a large number of bamboo plants of different species have been planted since 1997. The planting of a big number of 10 more species is planned for the next years, in order to create a dense bamboo forest by 2014.

The Botanical Garden with its Bamboo collection is open for visitors.

A giant solution to a giant problem

Source: ICRAF - Kenia 

The complete article can be read here.

Bamboo absorbs water faster than most plants and in some parts of the world is used to clean sewage. Even more importantly, it soaks up heavy metals. It is a potential answer to polluted waters in Kenya, including those of Lake Victoria whose shores are dotted with large urban centres that discharge domestic and industrial waste into its waters. It is nature’s fastest-growing woody plant, with some species achieving the phenomenal growth rate of one metre a day. Its culms (poles) are the strongest, lightest natural material known to man. A square metre of flooring derived from this ‘wonder plant’ will sell for as much as US$100, while in South Asia it is used to reinforce concrete and for scaffolding on skyscrapers.

No other woody plant matches bamboo’s versatility in environmental conservation and commerce. It is a viable replacement for both hardwoods and softwoods. With a growth rate three times that of eucalyptus it matures in just 3 years. Thereafter, harvests are possible every second year for 4 decades.

India has almost 8 million ha of commercial bamboo that provide 60% of the country’s massive paper requirements and much of its commercial timber needs. And every year, over 2 million t of edible bamboo shoots – rich in vitamins and low in carbohydrates, fats and proteins are consumed around the world, mostly in Asia.

Bamboo rhizomes anchor topsoil along steep slopes and riverbanks, very effectively controlling erosion. Bamboo leaves, sheaves and old culms that die and fall to the ground decompose and create a thick humus layer that enriches the soil. Studies in Southeast Asia and Kenya have also shown that natural bamboo forests have excellent hydrological functions that promote soil health. Some species of bamboo absorb as much as 12 t of atmospheric carbon dioxide /ha, a valuable asset to deploy against global warming.