Bamboo is one of the most renewable materials in the world. In addition to being a sustainable resource, it is also cost effective. Because of the sustainability movement, bamboo has become a very popular material. It is an increasingly used alternative in many areas. It outperforms all types of wood in terms of durability, strength and renewability.
Origin of bamboo
Bamboo's origin dates back some 40 million years, but its use dates back to about 5,000 BC, the Neolithic Stone Age in China, where the first bamboo products, such as arrows and building materials, appear.
It is therefore thought to have originated in China, although there is no evidence of this.
Etymology of bamboo
The word bamboo comes from the Malay "Mambu", the language of a people who inhabited the Malay Peninsula (currently made up of territories belonging to Myanmar or Burma, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand).
The Portuguese introduced this plant to Spain in the 16th century under the name "bamboo".
What is bamboo?
For years, bamboo has been considered a tree, but scientifically speaking, it is not a tree but a plant. It is a grass (Poaceae) like corn, rice or wheat and belongs to the subfamily Bambusoideae. It includes more than 115 genera and 1,400 species and is fast growing. In some cases, it can grow up to 30 cm per day.
Bamboo thatch is known as "culm". It is a woody thatch divided into rings (nodes) and hollow parts (internodes) and grows in branched clusters from an underground stem (thick rhizome). Leaves grow from the nodes of young culms and leaf-bearing branches grow on more mature culms. It flowers and lives between 12 and 120 years. Reproduction is largely vegetative.
Bamboo morphology: culms, nodes, internodes, rhizomes, shoots and roots.
Characteristics of bamboo
Bamboo has been used throughout history not only because of the strength of the material, but also because it is a very environmentally friendly material. It is an ecological and multifunctional plant. The color of the wood is green when cut and yellow to brown when dried.
It is elastic and light, but its strength-to-weight ratio is higher than that of steel. It is also one of the most flexible industrial materials; some bamboo composites are more flexible than glass fiber reinforced plastics. It also has high compressive and tensile strength, slightly lower than steel. Because it takes only three to five years to mature, is natural and extremely strong, it is considered a durable material for any type of structure.
Bamboo absorbs more carbon dioxide from the air than any other plant and produces 30% more oxygen, which greatly reduces the effects of greenhouse gases. In addition, it can grow healthily without the use of fertilizer. The leaves of bamboo provide all the nutrients it needs to grow by falling to the ground.
Due to its special absorption process, bamboo has natural cooling properties. It does not retain body heat and stays warm in cold weather. It is an excellent soil erosion inhibitor and is also very easy to grow.
Areas where bamboo grows
It grows naturally on all continents except Europe and Antarctica. The most important regions are Southeast Asia and South America, and to a lesser extent Africa and Oceania. The regions where it is most abundant are the tropics and subtropics. It also grows in forests as secondary vegetation, but in northwestern India it is the dominant vegetation.
The most suitable climate for the hardiest bamboo is mild temperatures, but it also tolerates extreme conditions. Some species thrive in climates where the temperature is below -20°C, in the Andes or the Himalayas.
Uses of bamboo
Bamboo is a multifunctional plant, so it has different uses:
Cooking: Used as food. In Asian cuisine, the sprouts can be eaten in salads or soups. In addition, kitchen utensils such as cutting boards, trays, bowls or serving utensils are made, which are antibacterial and environmentally friendly.
Household: Furniture, decorative items, bedding and bathroom accessories. Bamboo sheets are becoming increasingly popular as they have natural thermoregulation, anti-mite and anti-bacterial properties in addition to offering great comfort.
Construction: it is used to construct all types of buildings, currently more than a billion people live in houses made of this material. It is also used to reinforce roads in India and bridges in China.
Medicine: In China, black bamboo shoots help to treat kidney diseases. The roots and leaves have also been used to treat venereal disease and cancer. In Indonesia, culmo water is used to treat bone diseases.
Weapons: Bows and arrows.
Musical instruments: Flutes and drums.
Industry: Bamboo charcoal is used as a natural "nanotube" to conduct electricity. It is spread on the surface of a glass or silicon substrate to form the tube. In Asia, in rural areas, bamboo is used for irrigation. Its naturally hollow stem and durable structure are very suitable for water transport.
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