Mention the word Bamboo in some parts of the world (Tasmania is one) and the reaction you get from the majority of people is “no, wouldn’t touch it, it pops up all over the place and you can never get rid of it”! OR “you can’t grow Bamboo in Tasmania – it’s too cold”!!
Ally, my wife & I (Geoff) were once in that band of disbelievers having struggled for months digging our way to all points of our suburban block, chasing what appeared to be a never ending chain of sub-surface tendrils that gripped mother earth like octopus tentacles. The cold climate part was something we hadn’t considered.
Until we learned that Bamboo has two types, we vowed never to touch the stuff but how our lives changed once educated. Simply, there are Bamboos that run and there are Bamboos that DON”T RUN. It’s the Clumping Bamboo whose reputation suffers at the hands of it’s marauding sibling. Read on to discover how Clumping Bamboo has been given an undeserved bad wrap and why, for many, many reasons, it truly is a MIRACLE PLANT.
Saving the Planet
Tasmania has a bit of a reputation as a ‘tree hugging’ conservation centric kind of a place and I kind of like that, given what man has managed to do to planet earth in his short tenure. Scientists are ‘still out’ in deliberations over whether or not we’ll pay the ultimate price but are as one, in calling for a decrease in our polluting & destructive ways.
Whilst it’s true that Bamboo cannot provide the apparently needed wave of a magic wand and turn the planet from ecological disaster to everlasting utopia, there’s a whole bunch of ways it can contribute to the rehabilitation of a pretty sick patient.
“We have all over-used the planet. The result is too much CO2 in the atmosphere. This is leading to Global Warming. So the climate needs fixing.
The need to limit Global Warming to 2°C was agreed by World leaders in December 2015. But the action is too slow. We must act now.
The effects of Climate Change are already with us and getting worse – CO2 is now over 400ppm and needs to be less than 350 ppm in order to achieve between 1.5 and 2°C.” ref: https://savingourplanet.net
Bamboo is said to produce up to 35% more oxygen than does an equivalent stand of trees, at the same time storing more CO2 – the #1 scoundrel in the controversial phenomenon that is Global Warming. Whether or not you support the notion of Global Warming or its seemingly more accepted bed fellow Climate Change, I don’t believe any responsible person can deny that producing more oxygen at the expense of CO2, is a GOOD thing!
Pardon the pun but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Bamboo has been used for building houses for centuries, some claim it is stronger than steel and whilst I believe that to be the case in some instances – it might be a tad misleading – “Bamboo may be strong, but there are steels that will almost certainly be stronger. Bamboo fibers may be stronger than the bamboo itself, or even stronger than some steels, but will probably still not approach the strength of the strongest steels.” ref: https://engineering.stackexchange.com/questions/10477/steel-vs-bamboo-strength-types-weight-and-in-various-directions-orientations
There’s no denying however, that some species of Bamboo produce culms (poles) that are absolutely construction friendly and can take a BIG load off what’s left of our forests. It takes a Bamboo culm less than 2 yrs to reach its maximum height in some species and it is ready to harvest as a mature pole in five years. Compare that to any timber much less hardwood which can take 20-25yrs for a fast grower up to 100yrs for some better quality species. Then consider that when you cut the hardwood tree down, that’s it – you need to plant another. Bamboo on the other hand, keeps on giving and produces multiple new culms each season – INDEFINITELY!
Not all that glitters is gold
When we consider that Bamboo production requires no pesticides, chemical fertilizers, irrigation techniques nor replanting, it really starts to make sense, as an alternative to fibre crops like cotton, which is a standout amongst the most seriously sprayed crops on the planet and quickly exhausts the supplements in the dirt. Bamboo sequesters nitrogen and its growth does not add chemicals to nature.
Care must be taken however, when considering processed ‘Bamboo’ fabric as an eco friendly substitute for traditional clothing and bedding materials. In 2018, the fact is that most Bamboo textiles are produced with cellulose extracted from Bamboo which is chemically re-shaped to form a viscose rayon. The only mechanical method of producing fine Bamboo fibres, known as retting, isn’t widely practiced due to extra time and labour factors. Therefore, if you are buying Bamboo textile products for purely ecological reasons, be very careful to read the manufacturer’s label and avoid products that mention rayon or viscose.
Outside this potential trap for ecological sympathisers, Bamboo can rightly claim to be head and shoulders above just about any other agrarian related source of raw material for all the reasons we mentioned on our Home Page.
Whilst it’s true that planting a Bamboo clump in your backyard probably WON’T save the planet, the more backyards that grow Bamboo, whether it be for decorative purposes, as a screen to achieve privacy, a hedge that doubles as a windbreak and noise barrier or perhaps for a food source, the more likely the earth is to say – THANK YOU!