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All About Bamboo, The Plant Not the Company

“Our concept of strength is, it doesn’t move, it doesn’t break. The Chinese concept is, you’ve got to bend with things. If you don’t bend, you break. Bamboo’s strength is in its ability to bend, and that’s the miracle.” Dan Smith, owner of Smith & Fong, the largest manufacturer of bamboo plywood in the United States.

Bamboo is a grass. And it is among the fastest growing plants on the planet, with certain species of bamboo growing three feet within a 24-hour period (or one inch every forty minutes). One Japanese species rockets skywards at a rate of a metre a day. That’s a lot of growing! Hence why many people despair when they discover bamboo growing in their garden…

There are 1,500 different species of bamboo, occurring naturally in every continent except Europe and Antarctica.

Some bamboos can reach a lofty 35 metres in height while others are only half a metre tall. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. Bamboo is of the most notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, bring used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product.

The Strength of Bamboo 

This incredible plant may, in fact, be some of the strongest stuff on our planet. It has a higher resistance strength than steel and it withstands compression better than concrete. In fact, when bamboo grows, it has been known to break through concrete.

Its qualities in resistance and compression are essential to keeping this plant from falling over. Bamboo needs the compression strength to hold up its own weight and its tensile strength to bend in the wind without breaking. Although bamboo is a common building material in many tropical countries, it is generally considered to be ‘a poor man’s timber’, and in the West, it is mainly decorative. However, as the world is looking towards eco-friendly materials and products that are more sustainable, bamboo is beginning to win over its sceptics.

Bamboo Flowers

Bamboo is a perennial. They flower en-mass, the whole population coming into bloom simultaneously. This doesn’t happen every year and it may occur just once a century.

The flowering of a bamboo is an intriguing phenomenon. Not because bamboo produces any spectacular flowers…but a phenomenon because it is a unique and very rare occurence in the plant kingdom. Most bamboos flower once every 60 to 130 years, depending on the species! The long flowering intervals are largely a mystery and still astounds many botanists today with no definite explanation.

Who Eats Bamboo?

Giant and Red Pandas almost exclusively eat bamboo…They even eat the woody parts! Throughout the summer and fall, the pandas will munch away on the juicy bamboo leaves and then they will switch to the woody stalks in the late winter. It’s all about keeping a balanced diet with these guys. In fact, pandas are so focused on eating well that they will eat up to 25% of their body weight in bamboo every single day.

As a direct result of all this eating, the bamboo actually grows faster than before because it rapidly repairs its damaged leaves. So, their food source is never low. It’s like your fridge at home refilling itself every time you eat from it…oh , to dream!

Lemurs and bamboo rats also share in this bamboo eating obsession, if there is anything left after the pandas have had their fill. The beautiful golden monkeys of China have been known to feed on bamboo but they only eat small portions. Even gorillas enjoy the sumptuous taste of this plant, and they have been documented consuming the sap from bamboo plants which is fermented and alcoholic. It seems the bamboo plant just keeps on giving.

Humans also dine on bamboo shoots. We wouldn’t recommend just eating them straight from the garden, however, as bamboo releases cyanide and must be cooked first. The plant is thought to have many medicinal benefits.

Fun Facts

  • A grove of bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees.
  • Bamboo can also tolerate extreme weather conditions that other plants cannot. It was actually the first plant to re-green after the atomic blast in Hiroshima in 1945.
  • Bamboo is a viable replacement for wood. It can be harvested in 3-5 years in comparison to 10-20 years for most softwoods.
  • Bamboo can be made in fibre for clothing.
  • Bamboo can be used as feed for livestock, with foliage being up to 22% protein.

So, why do we call ourselves Bamboo Nine? Because bamboo is all of the things mentioned above; it is reliable, flexible, trusted and it has stood the test of time. We want our business to reflect that. Just like bamboo, we are willing to go the extra mile. It’s in our nature.