Archive for the ‘Bamboo Products’ Category
A fast-growing clumper with well-defined culms, Buddha Belly stands out as one of the most popular varieties of ornamental bamboo. While its irregular shape makes it less than ideal for poles and other uses, Buddha Belly Bamboo looks gorgeous in any garden.The botany of Buddha Belly Bamboo
Buddha Belly and Buddha’s Belly are common names for the species of bamboo known as Bambusa ventricosa. Bambusa is a large genus of clumping bamboo. Typically, Bambusa varieties have multiple branches coming off of each node.
Most species of Bambusa, including Buddha Belly, are native to Southeast Asia, China and Melanesia. More specifically, Buddha Belly is indigenous to Vietnam and the Guangdong province of southern China. It can also grow happily in subtropical regions around the world.
And Ventricosa, the speciation, means wide in the middle and tapering at the ends. This accurately describes the distinctive culm shape that earned this strain of bamboo its common name.Why is it called Buddha Belly?
Under most circumstances, the culms of Bambusa ventricosa grow more compact, with shorter internodes that bulge out in the middle. So unlike most of the more common bamboos, with their stick-straight canes, the bulbous culms of this variety look like chubby little bellies. And when you think of chubby bellies in Southeast Asia, it’s hard not to think of the laughing Buddha.
Buddha’s Eightfold Path promises to bring deliverance from suffering. And Buddhism is the most popular religion in this part of the world. Furthermore, bamboo is already recognized to be something of a magical plant. So naming an already attractive variety after the Buddha just makes sense.Why is Buddha Belly so popular?
Of course, nearly every variety of bamboo has a look of tranquil elegance. But to the untrained eye, most types of bamboo look very similar. Buddha Belly’s distinctive shape is what gives the plant its unusual appeal. Also, in addition to the bulging bellies, the canes will sometimes grow in a zigzag, rather than simply upright. Neither straight nor narrow, this plant has real character.
Also, this species of bamboo grows quickly, but not aggressively. This is an ideal combination. Furthermore, it’s an excellent candidate for bonsai. (See Growth Habit, below.)
And naturally, it doesn’t hurt to have a great name. Invoking the name of Buddha adds an air of majesty to the plant. At the same time, the mention of his belly brings a sense of levity to the situation.
Bamboo, in general, already holds a high place in Asian culture and religion. And its association with Buddha is nothing so unusual. The fact that bamboo has such strength and resilience, but also flexibility, gives it a sort of Taoist connotation, too. It’s important to be able to bend in the breeze and flow like water. Also, bamboo is hollow, reminding us of the Buddhist principle of emptiness.
For more great examples of bamboo in Eastern legend and folklore, check out our extensive article on Bamboo Symbolism.
One of the most highly sought after subspecies is the Yellow Buddha Belly Bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa kimmei). The young shoots come up green, but gradually turn to yellow, sometimes producing some beautiful stripes. The Yellow Buddha can easily get up 40 or 50 feet tall, but the bottom few feet are usually bare, leaving the handsome culms visibly exposed.Growth Habit
One of the most important things to understand about bamboo, when you plant it in your garden, is how it grows. Some running bamboos are incredibly aggressive and must be vigilantly contained. Other clumping varieties are pretty tame. And some are downright unpredictable.How fast does Buddha Belly grow?
Part of what people like about Buddha Belly, besides it bulbous culms and irregular shape, is just how fast it grows. It is a clumping variety, as opposed to a runner, with those out-of-control rhizome roots. But even so, it is an unusually vigorous clumper.
So give this plant some room to spread out. If you’re looking for a privacy barrier, the Buddha Belly will fill out quickly. Or if you’ve got the space, give it a central position in the garden and make a showpiece out of it. It looks stunning at night with some good lighting.How big will it get?
Your standard variety of Buddha Belly can get up to about 30 feet tall in the best conditions, with 2.5 inch culms. But there are also a number of subspecies to be aware of.
Giant Buddha Belly (Bambusa Vulgaris cv. Wamin) will reach full maturity after several years. At that point the whole clump can be about 15 feet in diameter with poles as much as 45 feet tall.
Another subspecies is known as Dwarf Buddha Belly, and this one is much more compact, as the name implies. Still, it’s a fast grower and can reach full size after just a few years. A mature plant will get up to about 12 feet tall. A bit more manageable, but equally attractive, this variety is very popular, especially in warmer climates.Can I keep my Buddha Belly in a pot?
Yes, this variety does pretty well in a container. But like most large plants, they are more comfortable in the soil where the roots can stretch out and drain well. A potted plant will require more attention, and it won’t grow nearly as tall as a Bambusa planted directly in the earth.
If you prefer potted plants, and you have time to give them extra care and attention, Buddha Belly also makes for an ideal bonsai specimen. (See below.)How much water does it need?
Under normal conditions, you’ll want to give your Buddha Belly a deep watering about once or twice a week, depending on the weather. If you’re bamboo is in a pot, just be sure it has good drainage. It should be able to dry out thoroughly in between waterings.Will Buddha Belly survive in cold, freezing temperatures?
Buddha Belly and Giant Buddha Belly are somewhat cold hardy, and a mature plant will be more cold resistant than a young one. In some cases they can survive temperatures as low as 20º F.
Dwarf Buddha Belly bamboo is going to be less cold hardy. For this reason, the dwarf variety is more popular in places like Florida and Southern California where it’s not likely to freeze. But a little overnight frost probably won’t kill it.Why is my Buddha Belly growing without bulbous culms?
In some cases, you might find that your Buddha Belly culms are growing like ordinary bamboo, without the characteristic bulging or zig-zagging. But don’t worry. Master bamboo gardeners have developed some tricks to help encourage this desirable trait by inducing stress.
One way to promote bulging culms is to prune the tops of the poles at least once a year. Without their tops, the bamboo will also tend to do more zig-zagging.
Stressing the plants with water deprivation is also a very effective method. Of course, you have to be careful not to over-stress and kill the plant. Generally, the leaves will start to curl when a bamboo is in need of water.Buddha Belly Bonsai
One more reason that Buddha Belly is so popular is its adaptability for bonsai. Whenever you take a tree and miniaturize it in a small Chinese pot, you have a pretty great effect. Some trees can’t handle this kind of stress, but Buddha Belly, as mentioned above, thrives under stress.
Maintaining a bonsai means pruning the tops as well as the roots on a regular basis. This keeps the plant or tree small and prevents the roots from getting bound. With some trees, it also has the effect of making thicker bark and smaller leaves.
If you have the patience to do this with a Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo, you’ll surely be delighted with the results.Can I grow this bamboo indoors?
Ordinarily, growing bamboo indoors is a very bad idea. Bamboo is a grass and wants to be outdoors in the sun and the breeze. But Buddha Belly is quite adaptable. Although it prefers full or partial sun, it can grow acclimated to an indoor climate. Keep it close to a window with good lighting and fresh air.Can I propagate my Buddha Belly?
In general, it’s a bit more difficult to take cuttings from a clumping bamboo than a running bamboo, but it can certainly be done. Buddha Belly is a fast grower, so you usually end up with more bamboo than you need anyway.
For best results, try and break a small clump, with at least two or three culms, off of the main root ball. You will need a sharp saw to make a clean cut. Do this during the growing season and when the soil is damp. Keep the roots of the cutting intact, and transplant quickly into fresh soil.Further reading
To learn more about some of the most popular varieties of bamboo, take a look at these other informative articles.10 Best bamboo varieties for your garden 11 Cold hardy bamboos for snowy climates Dendrocalamus strictus, also known as Bambu Batu
In the arena of natural alternative resources, two towering crops dominate the field. In some ways strikingly different, but with a great deal in common, hemp and bamboo have each risen to prominence in recent decades. And because of their similarities, the temptation to draw comparisons between hemp and bamboo is often irresistible.
Before launching California’s first all-bamboo boutique in 2006, I helped to open and operate two of California’s first hemp stores back in the early 90s. So I’ve had more conversations about the miracles of hemp, the benefits of bamboo and the dangers of pesticide-rich cotton than just about anybody. And I’ve had the pleasure of handling and using more hemp and bamboo products than most anyone I know.
I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of hearing an astonishing number of misconceptions. But one thing is for sure, I never get tired of talking and writing about it. And when I do, the question always comes up: which one is better?Hemp or bamboo: Which is better?
Proponents of hemp and bamboo have both made some pretty bold and superlative claims over the years. Of course, I share their enthusiasm. But sometimes these claims wander into the territory of exaggeration.
Any in case, we hear it said that one is a miracle crop, and one can save the planet. Hemp grows like a weed, and yet bamboo is supposed to be the fastest growing plant on earth. So which one is better?
It’s not an easy comparison to make, and I’m generally reluctant to do so. At the same time, it is a question that comes up often. And it can make for some pretty interesting conversation. So let’s have a look at some of the benefits and properties of both hemp and bamboo.HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES Ancient History
Before we start splitting hairs and sorting fibers, let’s examine the rich and fascinating history of each plant. I’ve heard it said that cannabis hemp was the first non-food crop to be cultivated by man. And I’ve heard the same claim regarding bamboo.
In fact, both plants are edible—hemp for seed and bamboo for tender young shoots—but this wasn’t the primary reason for their cultivation. Rather, its their versatility and ease of use that made them so desirable.
Like many so many things, hemp and bamboo both originated in China. The same is true of printing, gun powder and Confucianism, but not cotton. But as their uses date back many millennia, its difficult to say which came into widespread use first.
Evidence of hemp yarns and textiles in China traces back to about 5000 BC. And according to Professor Tengwen Long, there are signs of hemp flowers from an archeological site on the Oki Islands dating to 8000 BC.
Bamboo appears to be equally ancient. Asians from the late stone age were probably using bamboo for weapons and building materials several thousand years ago. But if I had to guess, I would think that hunters would have discovered bamboo as the ideal material for spears back when they were still stalking mastodons in the ice age. Long, straight and simple to sharpen. So easy, even a neanderthal could do it! (Can we put that on a t-shirt?)
Either way, it’s not a contest over which came into use first. Clearly, both plants have a long history and played an important part in early human civilization.Hemp’s Colorful Past
Part of what makes hemp so interesting, or controversial, is its consanguinity with what we call marijuana. While some varieties of cannabis are ideal for material use, to make fibers and textiles, others are cultivated for their psychoactive resin.
Today we refer to the former as hemp, and the latter as marijuana. But originally, feral cannabis plants of Asia had both properties. There was no real distinction. It seems like those from the mountainous regions of India and Afghanistan may have been a bit more resinous. And the cannabis plants from the prairies and grasslands were a bit more fibrous.
As hunters and gatherers became more and more agrarian, they learned to domesticate their crops. As they did so, they selected and cultivated different strains for different characteristics. It was around this time that fibrous hemp and sticky ganja split into their separate branches on the family tree of cannabis.
Even so, the distinction was rarely 100 percent clear. As farmers began cultivating hemp on an industrial scale, using heavier machinery, the absence of resin became very desirable. The sticky stuff would gum up the machinery and slow down production.
Meanwhile, those who favored the THC-rich resin for medicinal and recreational purposes were not consuming the sort of strains we have today. Since the psychedelic revolution of the 1960s, the “domestication” and hybridization of psychoactive cannabis has achieved truly mind-blowing results.Hemp Prohibition
As you can see, it’s impossible to discuss the history of hemp without digressing into a nuanced exploration of marijuana and its kaleidoscopic side effects. And that requires a further explanation of hemp prohibition, which went into effect in the 1930s.
In 1937, the US government passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which effectively outlawed both hemp and marijuana in one decisive stroke. Reefer madness and other propaganda efforts of the early 20th century convinced lawmakers and the American public of the need to eradicate marijuana. So that was it for cannabis sativa.
But most historians agree that the elimination of an entire industry was no accident. When hemp farms and factories across the country all ceased to operate, it was a great boon to the lumber paper making industry, the burgeoning petrochemical industry and king cotton.Historical Significance
As far as the comparison between hemp and bamboo, they each have a long history that stretches back into prehistoric times. But hemp’s relationship with marijuana certainly makes it interesting. Depending which side you’re on, this could count in hemp’s favor, or it may count against it.
In any case, it does underscore the need for clarification. The fact is that hemp and marijuana are easy enough to differentiate. Most industrial nations, throughout Asia and Europe, continued growing industrial hemp even while prohibiting marijuana. Regulators in those countries had no difficulty restricting industrial hemp to cannabis varieties with less than 1% THC (the primary psychoactive compound).
Furthermore, many of us feel that hemp deserves an extra boost simply to make up for nearly 80 years of prohibition. Hemp was already achieving marvelous things in the 1930s. If America had continued to cultivate, manufacture and innovate with cannabis hemp through the latter two-thirds of the 20th century, who knows what incredible products would be available today.SUSTAINABILITY & ECOLOGY OF HEMP & BAMBOO
The long history of these plants and their remarkably widespread use have everything to do with the way they grow. Hemp and bamboo both grow easily and prolifically. Unlike felling trees for lumber, utilizing these plants does not result in deforestation. In fact, greater reliance on hemp and bamboo can save trees and forests.
Also, as an alternative to cotton, hemp and bamboo both grow very easily without pesticides and herbicides. Cotton is one of the most chemical-intensive crops cultivated by man. When grown in monoculture, cotton becomes very susceptible to pests and disease.
But let’s no paint with too broad a brush. It’s important to remember that there are thousands of varieties of bamboo, and that dozens of countries are growing bamboo under all sorts of conditions. Similarly, hemp is cultivated and processed in many different ways. Also, organic cotton continues to grow in popularity. But even the term “organic” can mean a lot of different things when it comes to commercial agriculture.
Overall though, hemp and bamboo are both very fast growing and resistant to pests. Hemp is an annual crop. That means it is planted early in the year, harvested late in the year and replanted the following year. In most cases farmers will rotate hemp with things like beans, wheat, or alfalfa, to keep the soil healthy.
Replanting hemp in the same field for more than three of four consecutive seasons can make the crop susceptible to pests and disease. Otherwise, the plant is very resilient. For this reason hemp can easily grown without toxic pesticides or herbicides. In fact, it grows like a weed. Most crops will get taller than a house by the end of the growing season.
While hemp may be considered a weed, bamboo is actually a perennial grass. This means you don’t have to replant it. In most cases, gardeners have the opposite problem. Bamboo’s rhizome roots spread so quickly that it can be difficult to contain. But after harvesting bamboo, it grows right back. Like the grass that might grow in your front yard, it comes back stronger and healthier after a good trimming.
Also, bamboo naturally grows this way, in huge swaths. In other words, a natural bamboo forest will look almost identical to a cultivated bamboo farm. The bamboo grows thick, crowding out other weeds and plants, and its fallen leaves are enough to nourish the soil.
So, like hemp, bamboo grows big and strong, without the need for fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. In fact, bamboos are among the fastest growing plants on earth. It’s common for commercial varieties to grow a foot a day in the growing season. And tropical varieties, in ideal conditions, can grow 2 or 3 times that much. Only certain types of seaweed grow faster.
So in terms of renewability and sustainability, I’d say it’s a draw. Both plants grow voraciously without the need for heavy spraying. And both crops can recapture sizable amounts of carbon, critical in the battle against climate change. Hemp has the advantage of rotating nicely with other food crops. While bamboo—if managed responsibly—can be harvested from natural forests in the wild, with minimal disruption to habitat.VERSATILITY OF HEMP & BAMBOO
Even those who don’t fully appreciate the sustainability and renewability are pretty amazed when they set foot in shop filled almost entirely with products made from a single plant. Whether it’s a hemp store or a bamboo store, you can find everything from socks and underwear to furniture, toiletries, housewares and paper products.
I can’t think of many plants that can serve as the primary material for a whole department store. But I’ve done it twice, once with hemp and once with bamboo. If there’s another crop that can rival these two for versatility, I ‘d sure like to know about it.Natural Fiber Clothing
For many, the most surprising and impressive use of hemp and bamboo is for fabric and textiles. But in fact, people have been spinning and weaving with hemp fibers for thousands of years. For centuries, hemp provided the ropes and riggings for all the major sailor fleets around the world.
Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, hemp and linen were the two most widespread textile crops. The first American flags were hemp, and our Founding Fathers famously grew hemp.
The advantages have always been the same. Hemp grows very easily, and it requires only the simplest machinery for processing. Containing some of natures longest and strongest fibers, hemp makes the sturdiest rope and some of the most durable fabric. For a heavy-duty canvas or denim, hemp is ideal. But it can also be woven into something softer, or blended with cotton for a lighter hand.
The use of bamboo is equally ancient. But bamboo fabrics are actually a very recent development, from the last couple of decades. And when it first appeared, natural fiber enthusiasts were just blown away. Having grown accustomed to the somewhat rough feel of hemp fabric, the sumptuous softness of bamboo came as a sheer delight.
Indeed, the comfort of bamboo socks, underwear and t-shirts well surpasses those made from hemp. And the drape of a bamboo sundress or nightgown is something heavenly. And then, for real luxury, the bamboo towels and bedsheets are just unbeatable.
There’s a reason, however, that bamboo fabric came so late on the scene. There is a processing stage to extrude the cellulose out of bamboo and reconstitute it into thread. This viscose extraction relies mainly on caustic soda, which is basically lye. And while it’s far from the worst of industrial bi-products, its use and disposal are something of a concern.
I’m convinced that compared to cotton, the sustainability of farming bamboo still makes it a superior resource, despite the viscose process. And even organic cotton goes through a processing stage. But compared to hemp, I’m not so sure.
In the end, it’s hemp for durability (jeans, backpacks, rope and twine) and bamboo for softness (undergarments, t-shirts, towels and bedsheets). After all, as much as we admire the versatility, we aren’t looking for a single plant to do everything.Bamboo Building Materials
As a building material, I won’t hesitate to recommend bamboo. Hard, flexible and hollow, bamboo poles are incredibly easy to work with. I’ve made my own stools and picture frames. And with some basic carpentry skills, you can produce all manner of furniture and accent pieces.
Still, let’s not ignore hemp as a building material. In 1941, Henry Ford built a car from hemp plastic, stronger than steel. Hemp ethanol also fueled the car. It wasn’t long after after this that industrial hemp basically disappeared. Another victory for big oil and US steel.
I’m not sure how they measure up against bamboo, but keep an eye out for hemp houses. And after all, the greenest construction should incorporate as many different sustainable materials as possible.Nutritional Properties of Hemp
Bamboo shoots are a delicious treat that people have been enjoying for millennia. Young and tender, they are also loaded with protein, minerals and fiber. But still, they are no match for the precious oil inside a hemp seed.
Not to be confused with CBD oil, hash oil, or other psychoactive cannabis oil products, hempseed oil has some incredible nutritional properties. Naturally rich in minerals and antioxidants, hempseed oil also contains an ideal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This makes the oil an excellent supplement for better skin and a healthier heart.
You can find all manner of natural skin care products, including soaps, shampoos and lotions made with a hempseed oil base. They’re wonderful for nourishing and moisturizing the skin.
Hemp nut has also been gaining popularity in health food stores. These are hemp seeds with the hard shell removed. Roasted hemp seeds are still tasty with a little salt or seasoning, especially if you like something crunchy. But the high protein (approximately 25 percent by weight) meat from inside the hull is much softer and easier to enjoy once the shell is removed. Try it as a delicious additive on salads or in your granola.Magical Properties
The fact that cannabis sativa is the source of both industrial hemp and psychoactive marijuana makes it something of a magical plant. Even as we focus on the plant’s properties as a natural resource, it’s impossible to overlook its therapeutic qualities.
And it’s difficult to say which property was discovered first. I’m sure that botanists and anthropologists stay up late at night quibbling over this question, long after the well-worn Allman Brothers LP has begun skipping on the turntable.
But seriously, there’s always been and there always will be a tremendous demand for anything that can provide the kind of effects produced by THC, alcohol and other mind-altering substances.
The same cannot be said of bamboo. But it’s clear that this plant holds a unique and magical place in Asian culture. Because of its remarkable abundance and usefulness in providing food, tools and shelter, bamboo appears constantly in artwork and folklore.
Just try to imagine an Oriental landscape brushwork without a dash of bamboo in the background, or the foreground. It’s unthinkable. And you can be equally sure that the artist was painting with a bamboo brush.
What I find truly enchanting, however, is bamboo’s role in Eastern mythology. It seems that every Asian culture has its own story about the part that bamboo played in the creation of the world or the birth of mankind. There’s something endearing about the idea that the first man and woman sprung from the hollow space inside a bamboo pole.
Furthermore, bamboo’s characteristics of resilience, flexibility and emptiness conform nicely to the virtues of Eastern philosophy. It is important to be strong but not rigid. One must be able to bend in the breeze without breaking. And it’s essential to keep the ego in check while connecting with the empty void inside.Conclusions
As eager as we may be to compare one plant to another and select a clear winner, the process just isn’t that simple. The fact is, hemp and bamboo both have tremendous benefits and advantages as natural resources. And if we compare them to the leading competitors—namely cotton, lumber and petroleum—they both come out way ahead.
But if we are looking for one wonder plant and panacea that can do it all, then we’re still stuck in the wrong kind of thinking. And what we need, more than anything, is a new kind of thinking. Hemp and bamboo are both fantastic alternatives, and we should be using them more and more. But equally important to what we use, is how we use it.
If we go cutting down tropical rain forests to set up giant bamboo plantations, then we’ve learned nothing. If you buy a new pair of hemp pants every week and stuff them in your closet with a hundred other outfits you never wear, then you’re not helping.
Sustainability is more than something you can point to in a certain crop or a single product. Sustainability is a way of thinking, living, and prioritizing. It means taking care of yourself, in order to help your community, in order to improve the earth. Just think about it, and make responsible choices.
If you have a local farm with seasonal produce and respectable farming practices, support it whenever possible. If you can avoid shopping at Walmart or buying palm oil, then by all means, do so. Or if you can patch a hole and make a pair of pants last another year, do it.
And if you have to choose between ordering a bamboo product on Amazon or a hemp product from a local mom and pop, or vice versa, just think about it. In the end, those decisions will make more difference than whether you can get this many tons of fiber from so many hectares of land.Further reading
To learn more about the multifaceted world of alternative resources and natural fibers, check out some of our other articles.What’s so great about bamboo? Bamboo symbolism in legends and folklore Q & A: 12 Common questions about bamboo Sustainable Ag and the trouble with monoculture
What are we supposed to think when something that’s been around for five thousand years suddenly turns trendy? Yoga reaches the west, and it’s like something brand new. The paleo diet gets resurrected from the ice age, and it’s the culinary panacea. (Although I’m personally more fond of fermented foods, which also harken back to the stone age.) And then, of course, we have bamboo. It’s the coolest thing to come off the farm since frozen peas.
No doubt, bamboo is anything but new. Asians have been cultivating bamboo for food, shelter and everything else since before westerners had even developed written language. Old school indeed.
But not everything crosses the globe as fast as the avian flu. Like yoga, meditation and kimchi, it seems that bamboo needed a few millennia to marinate and ferment on the Asian continent. Only then would it be ready for mass consumption in the east.
And it stands to reason. The Asians have always had a strong reputation for their patience and their ability to take the long view. Not like the Americans, with our insatiable appetites for instant gratification.
“Beware the sleeping dragon, for when she awakes the Earth will shake.” Winston Churchill was referring to China when he issued this warning. But he could have just as easily been referring to any Chinese export, be it Buddhism, Beanie Babies, or bamboo.
Certainly, it hasn’t taken long for bamboo to rise from its epic slumber. And in just a decade or two, it has sent a tremor through the foundations of the lumber, cotton and hemp industries. She appeared like a dragon, and today bamboo is everywhere.Why bamboo?
The history of bamboo and its long list of benefits could fill an encyclopedia. Its uses, its properties, and its revered status in Asian are the stuff of myth and legend. Quite literally. But it’s all very factual at the same time. So let’s review the data.Bamboo for sustainability
One of the biggest buzz words surrounding bamboo in the course of its recent resurgence has been “sustainability.” Here’s another concept that’s turned a bit trendy, and thank goodness for that.
Instead of simply reaping and pillaging the earth’s resources as quickly and thoroughly as possible, for the purpose of instant gain and maximum profit, sustainability emphasizes another model. Before the era of instant breakfasts and mass production, hunters and farmers understood their relationship with the earth to be more of a give and take.
After a relentless century or two of taking and taking, sustainability proposes to make giving great again. Prioritizing sustainability means taking the long view. It means recognizing the need to preserve our planet’s resources and harvest them in a way that ensures that they won’t run out.
Clearcutting forests to graze livestock or mono-crop palm trees is not sustainable. But cultivating plants that are readily renewable and give something back to the soil is.Bamboo for cleaner air and a healthier earth
Bamboo is a perfect example of giving something back. Unlike most commercial crops, bamboo can be cultivated without a massive disruption to the local habitat. Bamboo naturally grows in vast forests. It takes very little from the soil, and its fallen leaves are enough to replenish the nutrients.
Moreover, bamboo is an excellent crop for carbon sequestration. In the same way that that the plant grows quickly, it also captures carbon dioxide more quickly, converting it into precious oxygen. What’s more, bamboo acts as an excellent carbon sink, storing the carbon underground. That’s because even as bamboo is harvested, the plant and its elaborate root system live on. (When tree are cut down, by contrast, great quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere.)
In the fight against global warming, this is key. And as policy makers become increasingly aware of this fact, they are encouraging more farmers, especially in developing countries like India to use bamboo.
In fact, bamboo is so beneficial that conservationists are planting it across Africa and Asia to promote better soil health. Even when farmers aren’t harvesting bamboo for its myriad uses, the plant still makes itself useful. Bamboo’s robust root network, for example makes it ideal for holding the earth together, preventing erosion and landslides.
In other cases, bamboo can also loosen up degraded soil. In places where the landscape has been denuded, bamboo is proving effective in reviving the soil and restoring its fertility.An alternative to monocropping
Most modern, commercial agriculture today is done with monocropping. That means taking hundreds or thousand of acres and planting them all with a single crop. Whatever used to live in that space—plant, animal or insect—is forcibly removed or exterminated. There’s a great loss to biodiversity for one thing. But that’s only the beginning.
Next, because the farm is devoted to just a single crop, the soil is going to be seriously depleted of certain nutrients. Also, any pests that enjoy nibbling on that crop are going to be having a field day. Typically, the solution to these two issues has been the heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. In other words, they spray the vast acreage with toxic chemicals to kill off weeds and bugs and replenish basic ingredients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.
In contrast to this all-too-common practice of industrial agriculture, cultivated bamboo forests can thrive and maintain most of their natural biodiversity. As mature bamboo stalks are harvested, generally those older than five years, the rest of the forest continues to flourish. There is no unnatural susceptibility to pests, or impoverishment of the soil, or need to eliminate native habitats.Renewability
One great advantage of bamboo over other crops is its perpetual growth habit. Bamboo is a grass, after all. And a bit like the grass in your lawn, you can mow it and watch it grow right back. In fact, cutting your grass actually encourages it to grow more, faster and stronger. Likewise with bamboo.
In some cases, homeowners find this property of renewability to be something of a nuisance. The tenacity of a well-established bamboo plant makes it almost impossible to remove. (See our article on Bamboo Containment and Removal.)
While it might devastate your flower beds and even upend your plumbing, the indomitability of bamboo makes it a dream come true for farmers. Imagine, the cycle of planting and harvesting, planting and harvesting, has been reduced to just harvesting and harvesting. Bamboo doesn’t need to be replanted or rotated.
Bamboo truly grows like a weed. It’s not uncommon for some varieties to stretch a foot or two a day, or more, in the growing season. Not only is that good news for the farmer looking forward to another bumper crop. Bamboo’s high metabolism also makes it a boon for the atmosphere.
Compared to a stand of trees, an equal area of mature bamboo will produce about 35% more oxygen. That makes bamboo an excellent tool in the battle against greenhouse gases and climate change.So can bamboo save the planet?
In the unending quest for instant gratification, a lot of people are looking for the silver bullet, the quick fix that will stop climate change in its tracks. But the kind of thinking that got us into this mess will not be the kind of thinking that gets us out of this mess. There is no single solution.
Planetary health is like your personal health. You can’t simply take a multivitamin every day and go from sick to healthy. And you can’t just rely on one plant to save the earth.
Of course, take your vitamins, and grow more bamboo, but that’s only part of the solution. Obviously, if we remove all the corn from the midwest and replace it with bamboo native to China, we will have learned nothing. As much as anything, we need a new way of thinking.
Where monoculture is the problem, the only solution must be a polyculture of many different plants and resources. The holistic cure for the earth will include the use of more sustainable crops like hemp, bamboo and flax. It will also require a rich mixture of renewable energy sources. Solar can’t do it all. Wind, geothermal and other innovations will have to play an important part in the healing process.Versatility: the many uses of bamboo
I don’t believe that bamboo can save the planet single-handedly, but it certainly can do a great number of things. So when people see that bamboo is stronger than oak, softer than cotton, faster growing than hemp, and almost impossible to eradicate, it’s easy to see why they might look to it as the all-in-one answer.Bamboo for lumber
When we think about the uses of bamboo, the first thing that probably comes to mind is its great potential as a timber alternative. Although technically a member of the grass family, bamboo looks and feels a lot more like wood.
When harvested mature and properly cured, it can be even harder than oak. So you’ve no doubt seen bamboo flooring used for a beautiful and functional effect. Also, bamboo cutting boards have become almost ubiquitous. And if bamboo can withstand the pressure of a thousand foot steps or the chopping of a cold steel cleaver, then what can’t it do?
In fact, bamboo has become a popular material for all manner of construction. Historically, bamboo has long been the first choice for scaffolding. You’ll still see it if you walk past a construction site anywhere in Asia. Compared to steel, it has comparable tensile strength and superior flexibility, and is remarkably easy to come by.
But today, modern architects around the world are taking bamboo to the next level. In Colombia, Simón Vélez has accomplished unthinkable things and built unbelievable temples and structures from bamboo. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, prefab bamboo houses have hit the market and revolutionized the way people think about green construction.
Straw bale is great and all. But once you’ve seen the sublime elegance of a bamboo home, you’ll gladly to save the hay for the horses.
And even if you saw some bamboo flooring in the hardware store ten years ago, you won’t believe what they can do with it today. The variety of grains is astonishing, and the quality just keeps getting better. Whether you’re looking for new floors, kitchen cabinets, or wainscoting for the man cave, bamboo can do it. And all without cutting down a single tree.
As the look of bamboo lumber continues to grow more refined, the face of bamboo furniture is also looking more sophisticated. Sure, the old-school bamboo and rattan poles strapped together still look cool, especially if you’re going for the tropical theme in a sunroom. But if you want something more clean and modern, the Gilligan’s Island ensemble isn’t going to cut it. Luckily, companies like Greenington Furniture in Washington are taking modern bamboo furnishings to a new heights.Bamboo over cotton
Another recent bamboo innovation has taken the textile industry by storm. In the mid to late 90s, it looked like hemp was poised to become the next wonder fabric. But then along came bamboo, producing a marvelously soft fabric with unlimited applications.
Hemp continues to provide an excellent alternative for canvas and products that require durability, like jeans, shoes and backpacks, for example. But if you’re looking for a soft t-shirt, nightgown, or pair of undies, you can’t beat bamboo.
This remarkably soft material is also extremely absorbent, anti-bacterial, odor-resistant and temperature regulating. Some of the best and most popular uses of bamboo fabric include socks, t-shirts, towels and bed sheets. Honestly, there are few things I enjoy more than a high quality bamboo towel. A blend of half and half bamboo and cotton seems ideal for towels, for some reason.
And 100% bamboo bed sheets are the pinnacle of luxury. They’re silky soft without being slippery smooth and sliding off the bed like satin. They also manage to feel warm in the winter and stay cool in the summer, thanks to bamboo’s superior breathability.
Unlike hemp, bamboo textiles have not been around for thousands of years. This is a relatively new development. The process of making fabric from bamboo involves taking the entire plant—leaves, stalks and all—and pulping them in caustic soda. Caustic soda, also known as sodium hydroxide, is basically the same as lye, a standard ingredient in both commercial and homemade soap.
As the bamboo is reduced to a pulp, the cellulose is reconstituted into rayon type of material. Tencel©, viscose, lyocell and modal are all comparable cellulosic fibers. But from my experience, bamboo has a much different feel from any of those rayon shirts I was wearing back in the 80s. While rayon had a more synthetic feel, like nylon or polyester, bamboo is soft and breathable. It’s the perfect material on a hot day, or for a humid climate.
And once again, the way bamboo grows much it a far more sustainable and superior resource than conventional cotton, which is extremely pesticide and herbicide intensive. Commercial cotton cultivation requires a monoculture, row after row of cotton. And when cotton grows like this, it becomes very susceptible to pests like the the boll weevil. It is also very demanding on the soil.
Also, compared to other cellulose materials, which may share some of bamboo’s properties, bamboo’s sustainability simply cannot be surpassed. Today, most viscose and rayon fibers are produced from wood pulp. And we know that bamboo will grow back faster than any tree.Additional uses of bamboo
Besides bamboo flooring and bamboo socks, which have gone fairly mainstream, their are a host of other uses, ranging from the every day to the more obscure. If you go out for sushi or Thai food, for example, there’s a very high likelihood that you’ll be eating off of bamboo chopsticks. And since Asia and the rest of the world go through close to a billion pairs of chopsticks a day, it’s essential to make them from a renewable material. Better still to eat with more durable, reusable chopsticks or utensils.
Another item we use so often that we barely think about it, is the toothbrush. It’s not a single-use item, but most of us probably go through four or five toothbrushes in a year. And since the majority of toothbrushes are plastic, that means that mountains of discarded toothbrushes are forming all over the world.
Bamboo toothbrushes have grown very popular in the zero waste circles and among those of us looking for more sustainable forms of dental hygiene. The sleek bamboo is attractive, feels good in the hand, and will naturally biodegrade in a reasonable amount of time.
What’s more, many bamboo toothbrushes are now using bristles made from bamboo charcoal. Charcoal bristles?! Yes, it may sound a bit counter-intuitive, but bamboo charcoal has fantastic cleansing properties. Not only does it whiten the teeth, but it is also antibacterial and leaches toxins. They’re even making some excellent bamboo charcoal water filters for personal use.
One more item that’s really gaining traction, is the bamboo bicycle. In the developing world, it’s a concept that just makes perfect. Where material like steel is both scarce and expensive, bamboo makes an ideal substitute. In Ghana for example, a number of programs are working get more bamboo bicycles in the hands of students and young people. Those who could not afford the transportation to get to and from school are now zipping through cities and villages to get to class on their sturdy, lightweight bamboo bikes.
Meanwhile, in Europe and North America, high performance bamboo bikes are all the rage. Flexible, lightweight and esthetically pleasing, these bicycles make a bold pro-environmental statement, but also look very cool. Whether you’re looking for an off-road mountain bike or a sleek speedster for the city, there’s a bamboo bike to suit your needs.
The more you think about it, the list of things you can’t make from bamboo just gets shorter and shorter. And again, we’re not suggesting that we start making everything from bamboo and stop using anything else. There’s nothing balanced or sustainable about that. But if we can substitute a durable bamboo product for a single-use plastic item, or do something to scale back on the global use of agricultural spraying, then yes, by all means.Rich in history and tradition
As we’ve seen, the versatility and sustainability of bamboo makes it something of an incredible plant. It’s certainly a natural resource that deserves to play a larger role on the world stage. But more than that, there is something truly special about bamboo that verges on the magical.Bamboo’s long legacy
Even before the dawn of recorded history, Asians were certainly making use of bamboo. It is and has always been one of the most prolific plants in that part of the world. Also, one of the easiest to harvest and work with. Harvesting the young shoots to eat requires no tools. And the simplest of handsaws is enough to harvest the mature poles. And other tropical grasses provide the string and strapping to attach the poles. No doubt that primitive Neanderthals were making use of this plentiful resource and fashioning bamboo spears to hunt down their mastodons.
Historians have traced the cultivation of bamboo back about 7,000 years. That’s makes it one the oldest—if not the oldest—to be purposefully planted by man. Not surprising, given that it can be used for food, shelter, and weaponry, not to mention firewood.An enchanted grass
A quick look at the fables and folklore of the east, and bamboo immediately stands out. Through China, India, Japan and southeast Asia, there are dozens of myths and legends in which bamboo features prominently. It is not unusual for bamboo to serve as the source of all life in some creation stories. Sometimes mankind sprouts from a bamboo shoot, and sometimes the creator bestows bamboo to man as the ultimate blessing.
Regardless of the exact role it plays in literature, it’s clear that bamboo holds a position of supernatural importance in Asian cultures. In artwork, both ancient and modern, a splash of bamboo in the foreground or off to the side, conveys a certain mood. More than likely, the painting was done with a bamboo brush.
In Chinese art there is a motif of the “Four Gentleman”. Referring to the Confucian model of a perfect gentleman, they cite four plants: the plum blossom, the orchid, the bamboo, and the chrysanthemum. These plants embody the highest standards of sublime beauty and refined elegance.
Chinese herbalists also look to bamboo for a variety of medicinal benefits. Shavings of young bamboo shoots are called Zhu ru. Cold and sweet to the taste, they are traditionally used to treat acute fevers and a number of other conditions, including deep coughing and vomiting. Bamboo leaves also contain flavonoids which can work as antioxidants to reduce inflammation, promote circulation, and inhibit allergy reactions.
And if you’ve ever walked through a forest of bamboo and listened to the canes knocking in the breeze, you know there’s nothing else quite like it. This grass that grows like a tree, with poles as strong as steel but hollow on the inside, is a truly wondrous thing. It’s no mystery why so many cultures and stories have associated it with something larger than life.
And today, as our earth faces threats and dangers which also appear larger than life, it’s time to turn to bamboo. This enchanted plant that’s been with us since time immemorial, a constant companion of our species, can play a vital role as we adapt the way we think, act and consume. Like bamboo, we are mere passengers on the mothership earth. It’s time for mankind to bend in the breeze and acknowledge that we too can be humble on the inside.Further reading
If you’re mesmerized by the powerful potential of bamboo and want to know more about its colorful history and its manifold uses, please check out more articles from our blog.
Here’s a short list of some of our most popular articles.8 Best books about bamboo The 20 best bamboo gardens in the world Bamboo symbolism in legends and folklore Bamboo Q & A: Ask the experts
Did you know that 380 million tons of plastic were produced in 2018? That brings the total quantity of plastic up to about 6.5 billion tons since its introduction in the mid 1950s. Yeah, that’s a lot of dixie cups.A PLASTIC APOCALYPSE
Generous estimates say that first world countries manage to recycle about 25 percent of their plastic waste. If it’s disposed of responsibly, the remaining waste should end up in the landfill.
But I would encourage you to visit your local landfill and see for yourself just how responsible it is. Like the holocaust museums in Germany, they are something every citizen of this planet should be aware of.
Civil society has found a way to make it look like our garbage simply disappears at the end of every week. But that’s not actually how it works. Talk about burying the truth.
Meanwhile, we know for certain that astronomical quantities of plastic and packaging are ending up elsewhere. How do we know that? Because there are multiple islands of litter floating around the sea, and they are larger than some countries. And I don’t mean Malta or Liechtenstein. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, though difficult to measure, is at least the size of Texas or France, and some estimates say many times larger.
But the plastics don’t just sit there, floating about harmlessly like a few olives in a salty martini. If only.
For several decades now, birds and marine life—not trained to be on the watch for harmful particulates—have been consuming this toxic debris at a brisk and predatory pace. Biologists estimate that 90 percent of birds now contain particles of plastic. And by 2050 there will likely be more plastic in the seas than fish. Let me say that again: More plastic than fish.URGENT ACTION NEEDED
You would have to be numb and heartless not to recognize this as the global crisis that it is. And I would have to be somewhat naive and Polyannaish if I told you not to panic. By all means, if there were ever a time to panic, this is it.
We should be panicking in the streets. We should be panicking at the mall. We should be panicking in classrooms. We should be panicking in the halls of Congress.
Perhaps you feel helpless. Perhaps you don’t think there’s anything you can do as a single individual that could make a difference. But we need to do more than just panic. And we can. These ginormous garbage patches are nothing more than a conglomeration of single individual pieces, and we as individuals need to start doing something. Now.REDUCE YOUR WASTE
A lot of people are talking about zero waste these days, and that’s a good thing. But don’t be put off by the fact that you will never actually be able to reduce your waste down to nothing. The point is, there are dozens of simple things you can do to drastically reduce your waste.
Two of the biggest sources of waste are packaging and single-use plastics like cups, straws and utensils. And these are some very easy things to scale back on with just a minimal adjustment of your personal habits.REUSABLE BAGS & CONTAINERS
We’ve known for years about bringing our own shopping bags to the grocery store. This is basically square one. It might take a few trips to get into the habit, but your best bet is simply to keep some extra bags in your car at all times.
Nowadays, you can find flimsy tote bags just about anywhere. But if your goal is to reduce your waste, then you’ll want heavy duty canvas (non-plastic!) bags that are going to last. Check out this set of three cotton canvas grocery bags from Amazon. Or this set of organic canvas and jute tote bags.
Shopping bags are the first step. Now what about produce bags? If you’re still putting your bananas into a disposable plastic bag at the grocery store, I need to tell you something: STOP! Please. Bananas already come individually wrapped. Nature’s packaging is perfect. Don’t mess with it.
But you might still want to bag your grapes, your lettuce and your broccoli. You could easily go through 5 or 10 of those bags every week, and they disintegrate quickly so they’re almost impossible to reuse. But you can find lightweight reusable bags for that too. A set of 9 cotton mesh produce bags can eliminate the need for hundreds of disposable bags each year, in your household alone!
When you’re really ready to step up your game, you can start bringing your own jars and containers for the bulk dry goods section, for pasta, grains, cereals and so on. When you think about it, almost every single thing you eat comes in a package, but it doesn’t have to, and it sure doesn’t have to be a single-use package.
More and more grocery stores are expanding their bulk sections and zero waste stores are increasingly offering a wide range of bulk goods and cleaning products. Just bring a container and refill it with granola, honey, shampoo, tooth paste, you name it.
I’m partial to glass jars, and a set of 6 32-oz. jars will definitely get you started on converting your pantry into something closer to zero waste. For smaller servings I usually just save and re-use old jelly jars.REUSABLE UTENSILS
When it comes to disposable living, one of my biggest pet peeves has to be the single-use plastic utensil industrial complex. Throwaway forks, throwaway containers, and my greatest nemesis, throwaway straws.
Make a habit of keeping a set of bamboo utensils in your car, in your purse, in your desk, or all of the above. Our family has been using re-usable To-Go Ware utensil sets for years and we love them. They are durable, easy to clean, and come in a nice carrying case that includes fork, spoon, knife and a pair of chopsticks. They also make sets for the kids, ideal for the lunch box.
But for true minimalism, you have to love the bamboo spork. The pinnacle of efficiency, with its sleek design and low profile, nothing can rival the functionality of the bamboo spork. You can even find them at Bambu Batu with a handsome cork carrying case. And yes, they make perfect gifts. More sporks means less waste, so give generously!
Finally, stop throwing away those pesky plastic straws after one use. Instead, you can order a set of 8 stainless steel straws that basically last forever. The set even comes with nice little brush keep the straws clean.
You might ask, with 8 billion people, what difference can I make with my one little straw and my one little spork? But if 8 billion people all ask the same question, and come back with the right answer, then of course we can make a difference. So go ahead, get started today, and be a part of the solution.
Learn more: For more tips on earth conscious consumption, check out the following links.The best zero waste shops in California The best bamboo towels The best bamboo sheets Bamboo Q & A
Disclosure: Bambu Batu is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that helps pay for the maintenance of the site. When items are purchased through our links, Bambu Batu receives a small commission at no additional cost to the customer. It’s a free and easy way for you to support a small, family-owned business like ours.
The world of bamboo is vast and fascinating. With so many varieties, so many uses, and so much to know about this remarkable plant, we never seem to run out of questions, myths and misconceptions.
So let’s cut to the chase and answer 12 of the most common questions about bamboo that we hear all the time from our readers and customers.1. Why is bamboo called a grass?
Botanists classify bamboo as a grass because of its perennial, flowering, monocotyledonous growth habit. Like all grasses, bamboo has stems that are mostly hollow except at the nodes, and grows with leaves that form a sheath around the stem. The grass family, Poaceae, includes about 12,000 species, with approximately 1,500 species of bamboo belonging to more than 100 different genera.2. Which bamboo is non-invasive and easy to contain?
Most bamboos propagate themselves with underground roots called rhizomes. We call these types of bamboo “runners” because of how the rhizomes spread quickly and aggressively. Other varieties of bamboo have a more compact growth habit and we call them “clumpers”. Most species of the Bambusa genus are clumpers, including the very popular Oldhami. Alphonse Karr is another popular clumper.
For more suggestions, check out this article on the 10 Best bamboos for your garden. We also have an article on How to contain and control your bamboo, because even the clumping varieties will spread over time.3. Which bamboo grows the fastest and tallest?
Bamboo is famous, in some cases infamous, for how fast it grows. Some varieties can grow up to two feet a day, but that’s under optimal conditions (usually in the tropics) and only during the new growth season. The genus Phyllostachys includes some of the most vigorous species of running bamboo. The tallest and thickest varieties of bamboo are generally referred to as timber bamboo; some are runners and some clumpers. Phyllostachys vivax and Olhami are among the most popular timber bamboo.
Again, check out our article on the 10 Best bamboos for your garden.4. What species of bamboo is Lucky Bamboo?
Sorry to burst your bamboo-loving bubble, but Lucky Bamboo is not actually a bamboo at all. Rather, it is a species of the temperate houseplant, Dracaena. But don’t fret, almost all varieties of bamboo are lucky by their very nature!
You can read our article on Dracaena sanderiana for more details.5. Will bamboo grow in Canada and cold climates?
Good news! Even if you live in Canada, Minnesota or the heights of the Rocky Mountains, you can find an assortment of cold hardy bamboo species that will thrive in your area. The most cold hardy varieties belong to the genus Phyllostachys (mostly runners) or the genus Fargesia (mostly clumpers).
Definitely take a look at our article on the Best cold hardy bamboos. You can check your local nursery, or you may want to order specific varieties of bamboo online.6. Will bamboo grow indoors?
Generally, bamboo does NOT grow well indoors. Being a grass, bamboo requires a lot of fresh air and sunlight. Some bamboos prefer shady places in the garden, but not inside the house. You can keep bamboo in a sunny window for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, but it will not thrive. White flies, spider mites and other pests can become a problem. If it has to be indoors, better to stick with Lucky Bamboo. (See above.)7. Why is bamboo eco-friendly?
Bamboo’s incredible rate of growth and self-propagation makes it an incredibly renewable and sustainable resource. And its versatility makes it an ideal substitute for timber, cotton, even steel. Unlike most crops, bamboo grows naturally in dense “mono-crop” settings without the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Furthermore, an area of bamboo can produce 35 percent more oxygen than the same area of trees, making it an excellent remedy for carbon pollution.8. Can you eat bamboo?
Absolutely. Asians have been enjoying the nutritional benefits of fresh bamboo shoots for thousands of years. Not every species of bamboo has tasty shoots, but a few of the more popular edible varieties are Bambusa oldhamii, Phyllostachys edulis, and Phyllostachys bambusoides.
To learn more about the history and nutrition of eating bamboo, you can read our article on Edible bamboo shoots.9. What kind of bamboo do pandas eat?
There are roughly 40 different species of bamboo that make up the diet of the giant panda bear. None of these includes Moso bamboo, which is the Chinese variety used most widely for commercial purposes, including bamboo clothing and bamboo flooring.10. When does bamboo flower?
Different species of bamboo have different flowering schedules, which can vary dramatically. Many varieties only flower once every hundred years or so. Interestingly, in many cases, almost every specimen of given species, anywhere in the world, will flower at the same time when the blooming cycle comes around. In some cases, the bamboo will die after flowering. Because bamboo typically propagates itself by spreading its roots, the flowering is not so important for survival the way it is in other plants.11. Can you grow bamboo from seeds?
Bamboo can be grown from seed, although it’s not the standard practice. It’s much easier to propagate bamboo by taking root cuttings and dividing established clumps. To grow bamboo from seed is more of a novelty for real bamboo and botany enthusiasts. Growing from seed can result in a slightly different strain, rather than the identical copy you get from a cutting.12. What’s so great about bamboo clothing?
Bamboo has gained increased attention in recent years with the advent of bamboo clothing and textiles. The benefits of bamboo clothing are almost too numerable to list. To begin with, bamboo’s tenacious growth habit makes it incredibly renewable and sustainable. As mentioned above, bamboo grows quickly, requires no pesticides and herbicides, and needs no replanting after harvesting. This is in sharp contract to conventional cotton which is extremely pesticide intensive.
In addition to the ecological advantages of bamboo, anyone can easily feel the difference when they handle a luxuriously soft bamboo t-shirt or bamboo bath towel. Not only is bamboo fabric soft, but it has antimicrobial properties that make it hypoallergenic and resistant to odors. You will also discover the temperature regulating qualities when you wear a bamboo shirt or sleep on a set of bamboo sheets — warm in the winter, cool in the summer!Further reading
To learn a great deal more about bamboo, check out fundamental article: What’s so great about bamboo?
Photo Credit: David Clode (Unsplash)
Imagine a house built entirely from bamboo. Natural yet modern, simple yet elegant, rustic yet secure. Maybe I’ve just watched too many episodes of Gilligan’s Island, but I can already hear the palm fronds rustling in the breeze, the bamboo canes clonking softly, and the bonobo chimps making monkey love in the distance. Almost as arousing as the size of my minuscule carbon footprint.
But is this just one great tree-hugging fantasy, or can you really build a house entirely out of bamboo? Well, it probably depends on your definition of a house, and what you mean by entirely.
If you want to sleep in a grass-roof shack like Gilligan and the Skipper, then, yes. You can do that entirely with bamboo poles. Although you might still want some palm or sedge thatching for a bit more insulation. But if you’re looking for a modern family home with all the amenities, then you’ll have to talk to the Professor.
Today bamboo homes are springing up all over there world. And they are not just ramshackle bundles of thatching and canes. For affordable housing in the developing world, and for stylish sustainability in more upscale communities, bamboo buildings are not what they used to be. And from how-to books, to intensive workshops to full-service architecture firms, bamboo resources are everywhere.The Bamboo Gurus
When it comes to bamboo construction, there are a few names that stand out, genuine experts in the field. So let’s head to Colombia.
Engineer and architect Simón Vélez has been designing incredible bamboo structures and pavilions around the world for decades. A number of his buildings and installations have received prizes, and his name is almost synonymous with bamboo housing. In fact, his book, Grow Your Own House, is one of my favorites on the subject.
Less renowned, but certainly prolific, Estaban Morales is a civil engineer, also from Colombia, with a very impressive resume of bamboo construction projects. Specializing in bamboo, earth and wood building, he has participated in the design and construction of hotels, houses, restaurants, temples and other buildings throughout Colombia and Latin America.©Filosofía Renovable y Arquitectura Mixta
Estaban’s website showcases a beautiful collection of building that he’s worked on, including the Izakaya Restaurant in Mexico, pictured above.The Best Bamboo Buildings in Bali
Anyone who’s ever visited Bali knows that bamboo is everywhere on this Indonesian island. And this tropical paradise features some of the most impressive bamboo construction you’ll ever find.
John, Cynthia and Elora Hardy, a family of architects and designers, have formed IBUKU, a cutting edge design firm committed to sustainable building with bamboo. In addition to some of the most spectacular private homes, the IBUKU family has collaborated to help build the world’s only all-bamboo campus at the Green School of Bali.
Specializing in environmental awareness and global stewardship, the Green School is the only educational institute of its kind. The school, founded in 2006 by John and Cynthia Hardy, provides K-12 instruction for forward thinking students from around the world.©IBUKU
Pictured above is the Sharma Springs residence, the crowning glory of all IBUKU’s bamboo houses. The tallest bamboo structure in all of Bali, Sharma Springs has six level with commanding views of the surrounding jungle. Inspired by the shape of a lotus flower, this astonishing home is both magical and majestic.
Most recently, IBUKU has launched Bamboo U, offering intensive workshops in bamboo design and construction. If you want to learn, you may as well learn from the best! (See below.)Bamboo Housing Solutions for the Philippines
Now let’s head to the Philippines, where 23-year-old engineering student Earl Forlales is making history with his cutting edge housing solution. Inspired by the bamboo huts that cover his native islands, Forlales developed the Cubo, a simple, modular bamboo house that can be manufactured in a week and assembled in about four hours for a meagre $10 per sq.ft.
Judges from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors awarded Forlales first prize in the Cities for the Future competition in November 2018. His incredible design aims to address the critical housing shortage facing the Philippines. Forlales now has his eyes on some land on the outskirts of Manilla, and we’re all eager to see the Cubos go into full-scale production.Building with Bamboo in Nepal
Bamboo houses are nothing new in tropics of southeast Asia, nor in the shadows of the Himalayas. Habitat for Humanity, an international non-profit organization dedicated to building houses for families in need, recently launched a program to build a series of bamboo homes in Nepal.
Framed partially with concrete columns, these simple, affordable homes rely almost entirely on locally harvested bamboo for their structural integrity. Volunteers, coming primarily from western countries, assembled the homes alongside a team of more experienced local builders. Together they cleaned, split and weaved the bamboo to construct the rustic but solid walls.
Later they mixed a kind of plaster from mud, straw, water and dung, which they used to coat the floors and walls, inside and out. Corrugated metal sheets served as the roof, and the end result was some wonderfully inviting housing, completed in less than two weeks. Check out YR Architecture Design to see the complete story with dozens of photos.Do-It-Yourself Bamboo Homes
Now let’s say you don’t have the ingenuity of the Professor or the wherewithal of Thurston Howell III, and you lack the means to design and construct one of these masterpieces of green-building for yourself. Or you live in a country with much stricter building codes. No problem.
After all, you’re probably not looking to build a house of god, although some of Simón Vélez’s bamboo temples are pretty spectacular. You just want a modest family home with a little bit a of style and the least environmental impact possible. It’s all possible, and you don’t even have to relocate to a developing country in southeast Asia.
Introducing Bamboo Living Homes, based in Hawaii. For 25 years now, partners Jeffree Trudeau and David Sands have been paving the way for bamboo home enthusiasts around the world. Not only are these innovative homes easy on the eyes and soft on the earth, they’re also light on the pocketbook. What’s more, Bamboo Living is the first company in the world to design bamboo houses that meet international building standards.
Their prefab bamboo structure come as small as 100 square feet, making an ideal tea room or meditation space, starting at a paltry $8,300. You can assemble these small models yourself in as little as two days. But from there, the options go through the roof. Bamboo Living offers some 3 and 4 bedroom models with over 2,700 sq. ft. feet, plus porch space of up to 1,100 sq. ft. Check their website and feast your eyes on all the magnificent models and designs.
To date, the company has provided more than 350 bamboo homes on the islands of Hawaii and elsewhere around the world. The style of construction is ideal for tropical habitats, aesthetically and in terms of climate. Every model has the option of single-wall construction for temperate climates or double-wall with space for insulation in hot and cold zones.
If you’re looking for the most eco-friendly and sustainable bamboo house possible, that’s also reasonably priced and permitted by building regulations, look no further. For those of us who live and breathe all things green, Bamboo Living Homes are like a dream come true.
Once the home is built, you can fill it with bamboo furniture and stock the rooms with sumptuous bamboo towels and bamboo bedding. Then, of course, you’ll have to invite your friends over for piña coladas and a three-hour tour.Bamboo Housing by KZ Architecture
Based in Miami, Florida, KZ Architecture designs modern homes and offices with a clear focus on sustainability. Committed to excellence and environmentally sensitive solutions, they have created some of the most sophisticated green homes in the country. Their stunning houses feature modern elegance in combination with superior materials, passive heating and clean energy sources.
Most recently, the company has drawn attention with its award-winning proposal for low-cost homes in the Caribbean, built mainly from bamboo. Designed specifically for high-risk flood and hurricane zones, these innovative homes are resilient, attractive and economical. They feature zinc roofs for passive heating and cooling, barrels for rainwater catchment, and solar energy systems for hot water and electricity.
Elevated on concrete piers, the homes are built to withstand flooding, but the flexible Guadua bamboo frame will also perform well in earthquakes. And not to overlook the importance of outdoor greenery, the plans also include generous spaces for personal gardens and bamboo hedges for both privacy and erosion control.
Affordable to easy to assemble, the 600-800 sq. ft. dwellings come with a price tag under $10,000. This includes all material and labor, as well as water tanks, solar panels, batteries and pumps. And after a grand total of $8,107, residents should have plenty left over for furniture and appliances.
Guadua bamboo is a neotropical genus indigenous to the Central and South America. This clumping timber bamboo makes an ideal building material, being cultivated widely in Colombia, Ecuador and throughout the New World.Bamboo U Design and Construction Courses
When you’re really serious about building your own home from bamboo, you’ll want to sign up for an intensive course at Bamboo U in Bali. Bamboo pioneer John Hardy launched the program in 2015, and now hosts 11-day workshops throughout the year, for aspiring bamboo builders from around the world.
With a couple decades of experience in bamboo construction in Indonesia, Hardy is eager to share his knowledge with other bamboo enthusiasts. He and his family have been creating incredible, one-of-kind bamboo structures with the architecture and design firm known as IBUKU. And by collaborating with others, they hope to see the innovations continue.
Check out Bamboo U online for a list of upcoming courses.Advice for Africans
A new book, entitled Bioclimatic Architecture in Warm Climates: A Guide for Best Practices in Africa, presents a comprehensive, hands-on approach to eco-conscious construction. The thorough study places emphasis on sustainability and bioclimatic design. To promote more sustainable practices, the authors take a close look at cultural aspects, affordability, and urban planning.
Among other things, they strongly encourage the use of more local, renewable construction materials, particularly bamboo. Using local bamboo, as they point out, strengthens the local economy and reduces the dependency on foreign imports. In addition to lowering overall building costs, it also empowers local farmers and community.International Efforts for Bamboo Construction
As more and more bamboo construction projects get underway around the world, one organization has been working to advance this up-and-coming industry as whole. The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization (INBAR) is a multilateral development organization promoting sustainable development around the world.
Since 1997, INBAR has made grade strides in improving living conditions, especially in the Global South, through the use of safe, resilient and affordable bamboo materials. The organisation consists of 45 members, predominantly in Africa, Asia and South America. In 2018, INBAR attended the UN General Assembly for the first time, and was active at a number of UN events.
To guide its work towards a green economy over the next decade, INBAR has identified six Sustainable Development Goals:End poverty in all its forms Provide affordable, sustainable and reliable modern energy services for all Access to adequate and affordable housing Efficient use of natural resources Address climate change Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems
More recently, INBAR has set up a Bamboo Construction Task Force, to coordinate companies and organizations engaged in research and commerce with bamboo construction. Their overall mission is to raise awareness and improve standards to bring affordable, high-quality bamboo building into the mainstream.Conclusions
If you’re interested in building a house or any other serious structure from bamboo, it can absolutely be done. And there are a great range of resources at your disposal.
If you’re concerned about creating a bamboo home that will measure up to strict building codes in Europe and the United States, there’s no need to worry. Bamboo Living Homes has done the painstaking work to overcome those bureaucratic obstacles, delivering the ultimate in green housing.
Throughout the developing world, non-profit groups like Habitat for Humanity as well as the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization have been very active in promoting the research and construction. Bamboo building projects and taking place across the globe. And most builders and architects are very happy to share their knowledge and experience in this exciting new area of green construction.
It’s ironic that we’re calling bamboo construction a new industry, as it is surely one of the very first building materials to be used by humans. But the renaissance of bamboo, in our post-industrial world, is opening up new possibilities new before realized or fully appreciated.
In many parts of the world, bamboo construction still has a negative connotation, as a sign of poverty. Moving out of the bamboo house and into something made of solid wood or concrete is an indication prosperity. But the new era of bamboo construction is changing that point-of-view. Today you can enjoy the sustainability of bamboo without comprising on safety and aesthetics.
DISCLOSURE: This article may contain affiliate links to Amazon and other websites, so that if you purchase any items through those links we may receive a small commission. This helps to finance the website, but we do not allow it to bias our opinions and recommendations. And we do NOT receive commissions from Bamboo Living Homes; our enthusiasm is perfectly genuine.
If you’re living in California, you probably already know where to get your bamboo. Of course, if you’re in San Luis Obispo, Bambu Batu has everything to satisfy your appetite for bamboo socks, towels and bedding, as well as an endless array of gifts and decor for the conscious lifestyle. And when it comes to finding bamboo flooring and building materials, we are happy to recommend Cali Bamboo down in San Diego. But this is only the tip of the proverbial bamboo shoot.
In today’s global village, someone on any corner of the planet might take an interest in something they read about on some other corner of the planet. For example, I regularly get people from Europe and Canada asking me where to find good bamboo products. If they’re in Canada, it’s not too unreasonable to have something shipped from California. But in Europe, the cost of shipping and customs makes it pretty impractical. Which leads us to our question.Where can I find the best bamboo in Europe?
Versatile and multifarious, bamboo comes in all shapes and sizes and formats. We could be talking about bamboo for your garden, bamboo for your kitchen floors, or bamboo to replace your worn out bed linens. So let’s just tackle one category at a time.BAMBOO BUILDING MATERIALS IN EUROPE
Apart from a few ornamental gardens and arboretums (see below), no one in Europe is really growing a significant crop of bamboo. The most useful varieties, being predominantly subtropical, just won’t thrive in a European climate. So if you’re shopping for bamboo flooring, bamboo thatching, or bamboo poles for a special building project, you’ll be buying imported bamboo, just like you would in California.
Our extensive research of the continental market led us to Bamboo Import Europe, based just outside of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Their vast showroom is open to the public, Monday through Saturday. If you can’t make it up to Holland, they also ship anywhere in Europe, usually within 3-6 days.
Bamboo Import’s selection of building materials is as impressive as any I’ve ever seen. Peruse their website to view an immense assortment of bamboo poles, fencing, plywood, pergolas, picnic benches and more. No project is too big or too small.
Their site also features an epic photo gallery that could inspire even the most reluctant bamboo skeptic with visions of tropical dream homes and architectural marvels that range from the truly exotic to the immaculately modern. And if you find any of these visions irresistible, Bamboo Import’s installation team can come to your home and help turn your bamboo fantasy into a reality.
Bamboo Import works directly with longstanding partners in China, Indonesia and South America to source the very best materials and maintain the highest levels of quality control on all their bamboo products.BAMBOO AND NATURAL FIBER CLOTHING
I’m pleased to report that eco-boutiques specializing in natural fiber clothing are not an altogether rare site in Europe, at least not in the larger cities. I’ve seen several in Barcelona and in Germany, even in some smaller cities. If you can visit one of these small boutiques, that’s always your best option. There’s nothing like seeing, feeling and trying it on in person. You can also reduce the carbon footprint by avoiding shipping.
If you can’t find a shop close by and you’re happy shopping online, we can earnestly suggest Thought, formerly Braintree Clothing, based in the UK. Originally founded in Australia, this small team of forward thinkers have been developing their brand since 1995, in accordance with the strictest standards of sustainability and social responsibility.
It’s clear that this visionary company of eco-fashionistas has put a lot of thought into everything they do. From their sleek website to their elegant garments, everything has been done with care. Today they offer an extensive line of men’s and women’s wear, made from naturally grown bamboo, cotton, wool and hemp, as well as tencel and modal.
Thought’s stunning selection of sustainable clothing will leave you feeling good, and their mantra will give you something to think about. “Wear Me, Love Me, Mend Me, Pass Me On.” Their website has a whole section devoted to promoting better care for your clothing, which translates into taking better care of our planet.BAMBOO TOWELS AND BEDDING IN EUROPE
Finding bamboo towels and bamboo bedding remains a challenge, which is too bad, because these are two of my favorite bamboo applications. We’re still looking for the best source (or any source, really) for sheets, but we have found a German towel manufacturer with a line of bamboo towels.
Möve (that’s German for seagull) is based in east Saxony and has stores all over Germany, mostly in the east and the north. Furthermore, they produce all their towels in Germany. German craftsmanship is something I’ve come to love and trust, but unfortunately their selection of bamboo bath towels is a bit limited at the moment. Black, white and hot pink are not my favorite bath colors. But they do have a wide variety of bamboo hand towels and wash cloths. And until further notice, this is our best lead.BAMBOO GARDENS IN EUROPE
If you’re looking to buy live bamboo for your garden, you can start by just visiting your local nursery and checking out some seasonal garden shows. They take place all over Europe in the spring and summer.
Or if you just want to see a pretty bamboo garden, check your nearest botanical garden. Just about every city has one, they are often affiliated with the local university. In France, Germany and northern Europe they are particularly impressive, and I recall that Berlin has an especially nice Japanese Garden.
But if it’s Europe’s most incredible bamboo garden you’re looking for, you’ll want to head to the south of France. About 30 miles northwest of Nimes, the Bambouseraie has been propagating vegetation and welcoming visitors since 1856. Today the spectacular garden includes about 300 varieties of bamboo, making it one of the most diversified bamboo collections on earth. (Experts put the total number of bamboo species somewhere between 1200 and 2000.)
Among the 80+ acres of bamboo groves, you’ll also find a flourishing boscage of century-old magnolias, ancient ginkgos, and majestic oak trees. The Bambouseraie even has a bamboo hedge labyrinth, so you can truly get lost in the sticks!International Sensation
In California, we sometimes like to think we have a monopoly on all things hip, cool and eco-conscious. It’s true, California has produced and popularized some pretty cool things: Vans, Frisbees, the Tesla Roadster, the Grateful Dead. I could go on and on. Just check out this documentary on California Innovations.
But Californians certainly cannot take credit for bamboo. Bamboo is a prolific plant with an ancient history and widespread appeal. Some of today’s most important innovators and producers of modern bamboo products may be based in California and Oregon, but we could hardly refer to this miraculous plant as a West Coast original.Bloggers Without Borders
The fact is, I do some of my best writing when I’m traveling, on the road and away from California. At the same time, our international readership is growing. When we launched the Bambu Batu blog back in 2008, we were writing for the small, local community of the Central Coast. But today we get readers from across the country and around the world, so we see it as our duty to cover a more cosmopolitan array of bamboo topics.
A recent sojourn through the Old World made me aware of a growing bamboo scene in Europe. Germans and Scandinavians are somewhat well-known for their progressive energy and environmental policies, so it should come as no shock that alternative materials like hemp and bamboo are as popular in Europe as they are in the Golden State. Still, it’s always a bit of surprise to wander through a city of gothic cathedrals, black turtle necks and heavy trench coats, and then come across an island tiki bar or a colorful boutique filled with tree hugger t-shirts.
Now if only I could find a decent Frisbee anywhere between the Amstel and the Ebro.Further reading
To learn more about the wide world of bamboo, check out fundamental article: What’s so great about bamboo?
So you’re in love with bamboo, and you just can’t get enough of it? Welcome to the club.
My name is Fred and I’m a bambooholic. That’s right. Without my regular fix of noble bamboo grasses, I get terribly wound up. When the monotony of ordinary life brings me down, or a particularly grueling day at the office leaves me on edge, there’s only one thing to bring me back to center.
That’s right, there’s nothing so calm and balancing as a quiet stroll through a majestic grove of bamboo. And when that’s not available, an inconspicuous seat among a few clusters of potted bamboo will do just fine.
If I could, I’d travel the world to visit all the greatest bamboo forests in the world. And I’d pay a visit to every arboretum and botanical garden with a bamboo collection worth mentioning. Well, unfortunately that hasn’t been possible yet. But in the meantime, I’m keeping a list of the world’s best bamboo gardens, just in case the opportunity arises.
DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission if you click through those links and make a purchase. This helps us meet the cost of maintaining our website and producing great articles.The Bucket List of Best Bamboo Gardens
Now if you Google “best bamboo garden” — and maybe you already have — you’ll probably get pages and pages of results for Chinese restaurants, all cleverly (if not originally) named Bamboo Garden. Maybe someday we’ll get around to writing reviews for bamboo themed restaurants. But don’t hold your breath. Instead, grab your notepad and your world atlas, because we’re heading on a tour of the world’s greatest bamboo gardens.
NOTE: We present following list in no particular order, although the gardens are numbered to make the list easier to scroll. Otherwise we have organized the list by continent, beginning with Asia, which not surprisingly lays claim to the greatest number of incredible bamboo gardens, especially in Japan.
ASIA:1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto (Japan)
In a city teeming with monuments of historic and cultural significance, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove of Kyoto — also called the Sagano Bamboo Forest — adds yet another rich layer of texture to this glorious metropolis. A natural forest of sprawling, towering bamboo, the Japanese Ministry of Environment manages the grove as a tourist attraction and natural reserve. There are several trails leading through the park, where visitors can feel themselves being swallowed up by the massive grasses. Once upon you could come here and meditate to the sound of rustling leaves and clonking bamboo poles, but today the forest has risen to the status of world-class, must-see destinations, so don’t expect to have the place all to yourself.2. Higashikurumeshi Chikurin Park, Tokyo (Japan)
A peaceful botanical garden with a naturally flowing spring and some 2000 thriving shoots of bamboo, Chikurin Park is located close to the train station and charges no entrance fee. If you’re looking for an oasis of bamboo in a quiet suburb of Tokyo, this densely wooded grove is well worth a visit.3. Hokoku-ji Temple in Kamakura (Japan)
A Zen Buddhist temple dating back to the 14th century, Hokoku-ji is often referred to as the Bamboo Temple. Amidst the various structures, all beautiful specimens of Japanese architecture, you’ll find of grove of about 2000 Moso bamboo poles. If you want to take in a genuine Zen experience with your bamboo, this is the destination.4. Suzume-no Oyado Ryokuchi Park in Tokyo (Japan)
Though not one of Japan’s larger bamboo collections, this grove has been established for more than 200 years. The metropolitan park is named after the large species of sparrow (suzume in Japanese) that once overwhelmed the area. Today you’ll still find many of these and other birds among the bamboo, but not in the great quantities of centuries past. You can also visit a traditional and fully restored Japanese house here.5. Wangjianglou Park in Chengdu (China)
Deep in the heart of this central Chinese super-metropolis (population approx. 14 million), Chengdu’s Wangjianglou Park is the ultimate urban hideaway. With charming teahouses and meticulous landscaping that sprawls out for acres and acres, the highlight of this stunning park is arguably its historic and extensive collection of bamboo. Numerous monuments here are dedicated to Xue Tao, a famous Tang dynasty poetess, whose passion for bamboo has been well documented. In her memory, the landscape architects also planted more than 200 species of bamboo, and today they have grown to magnificent size and splendor.6. Zizhuyuan Park, Purple Bamboo Garden in Beijing (China)
One of Beijing’s seven largest parks, with a history tracing back to the 12th century, the Purple Bamboo Garden consists of three lakes and a series of canals and bridges occupying more than 100 acres. The bamboo planting began in the 1500s, during the Ming Dynasty, and today you can find more than 50 species growing on the premises, as well as an assortment of bamboo structures. The park earned its name from the abundance of purple bamboo, but the quantity and diversity of bamboo growing in the park is truly astonishing.7. Juknokwon in Damyang (Korea)
The South Korean county of Damyang is well-known for its thriving bamboo forests, and the residents have gone so far to make a tourist attraction out of their prolific bamboo. In addition to the verdant arboretum, the region is also home to a bamboo theme park, a bamboo museum, and a bamboo festival. The arboretum, “Juknokwon”, features some very scenic and well-maintained walking paths and an artificial waterfall.8. Son Tra Mountain Bamboo Forest and Museum in Da Nang (Vietnam)
Vietnam’s largest bamboo museum is the essentially the work of a single monk named Thich The Tuong. He started collecting and planting bamboo in this idyllic corner of the country about 10 years ago as a way to preserve and share this vital symbol of Vietnamese heritage. He claims now to have more than a 100 species of bamboo on his property. You can discover an amazing array of treasures — both natural and manmade — throughout the surrounding forests of the Son Tra peninsula.9. Carolina Bamboo Gardens (Philippines)
Carolina Gozon Jimenez began this garden in the year 2000 on a 5 hectare (12 acre) plot of land just outside the crowded capital city of Manila. Today the beautifully landscaped acreage features about 45 species of bamboo, both indigenous and exotic. Some very striking bamboo structures also showcase the plant’s impressive potential as a construction material. Most interesting of all may be the Bambusetum, Carolina’s bamboo gene bank, preserving a diversity of bamboo genetics for generations to come. The facility also hosts seminars and events to promote bamboo and environmental stewardship.
SOUTH AMERICA:10. Serra dos Órgãos National Park near Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
In any other setting, this bamboo garden would be a highlight in itself, but here in the 40-square-mile national park, the bamboo almost gets lost in the landscape of dramatic rock formations and lush vegetation. A peaceful trail leads through the grove into a place of zen known only to real bamboo aficionados, but that’s only one small facet of this stunning landmark. Come for the bamboo, stay for the spectacular topography!Sunrise over Serra dos Órgãos National Park with the iconic “Finger of God”. (Wikipedia) 11. El Paraiso del Bambu y La Guadua (Colombia)
A real Mecca for the most serious bamboo enthusiasts, Colombia’s “Bamboo Paradise” is like a living monument to this astonishing plant. Outside of Asia, Colombians probably make better use of bamboo than any other nationality on earth. An educational facility and agro-tourism destination, the Paradise hosts tours and workshops, and grows some of the most impressive bamboo specimens in the world. Demonstrations provide participants with hands-on experience in planting bamboo and using it for a vast range of purposes, from ecological conservation to construction. Of course, all the buildings on the premises are fashioned from giant timber bamboo.
NORTH AMERICA:12. Manoa Falls Trail near Honolulu (Hawaii)
A very popular hike on the island of Oahu — where it’s pretty difficult to walk into the woods and find anything less than sensational — this trail will lead you up the mountain through a lush jungle and a gorgeous bamboo forest before reaching the namesake waterfall. At the bottom of the hill, Lyon Arboretum (formerly Manoa Arboretum) offers plant lovers a spectacle of tropical diversity, brimming with palms, gingers, heliconias, bromeliads, and aroids.13. Pipiwai Trail and Bamboo Forest of Maui (Hawaii)
Located within the Haleakalā National Park (famous for its 7-mile wide volcanic crater), this 6-mile trail will take you through a massive, wild forest of bamboo that stretches out as far as the eye can see. For such an majestic and expansive forest of bamboo, it’s one of the easiest in the world to reach. Prepare to be mesmerized by the sound of leaves rustling and bamboo canes knocking together. Keep going and you’ll reach a couple of incredible waterfalls, one of them (Makahiku Falls) over 200 feet tall. Technically, bamboo is not native to Hawaii, but then nothing really is, because the terrain was created by volcano eruptions. Everything living on the islands today arrived from elsewhere, by wind, by sea or by bird.14. The Makaleha Hike on Kaua’i (Hawaii)
Unlike many other bamboo gardens on this list, this one is no walk in the park. I mean that quite literally. To reach this wild bamboo forest, you may have to explore deep into the outback. Although the trail is officially less than three miles, it is recommended only for expert hikers. Bring rugged hiking shoes, and a first aid kit, just in case. Along the way you can expect to see 5 or 6 waterfalls and a plethora of biodiversity. And beware: if you wander too far from the river, you might also expect to get lost in the dense forest of bamboo and jungle!15. Allerton Botanical Garden on Kaua’i (Hawaii)
Covering 80 acres on the south shore of Kaua’i, this botanical garden offers one of the most picturesque settings on an exceptionally picturesque island. Among its rich array of tropical wonders, the garden has a glorious grove of golden bamboo. Besides the stunning diversity, this garden emphasizes landscape design, so you don’t have to be a trained botanist to appreciate the meticulous planning and outdoor aesthetics.16. Bamboo Giant in Aptos (California)
As we’re based in San Luis Obispo, on California’s Central Coast, I just had to include this “local” favorite, a phenomenal nursery nestled in the coastal hills just south of Santa Cruz. But if you think this is merely a case of provincial favoritism, think again. Bamboo Giant encompasses 38 acres of sprawling runners and clumpers and koi ponds and bamboo pagodas — just big enough to feel lost, without actually getting lost. I’m guessing there are well over a hundred varieties of bamboo on the property, but it’s hard to say. For the most part, the various groves are very well labeled with little markers, which can be very rewarding for more horticulturally curious bamboo lover like myself. But eventually, even I reach the saturation point and lose count. Anyway, if you happen to fall in love with a certain strain of bamboo, you can take some home in a pot, because it’s all for sale.17. Bamboo Garden in North Plains (Oregon) Overlooking the Bamboo Garden Nursery in North Plains, Oregon
Boasting the largest collection of temperate bamboos in the United States, the Bamboo Garden Nursery occupies more than 20 acres in a beautiful woodland setting, just outside of Portland, Oregon. The garden operates as a nursery, with hundred of varieties of bamboo for sale, but it’s also open to the public. In addition to the outdoor groves, there are numerous greenhouses on the premises. Spend a couple hours and you can expect to see some interesting wildlife among the bamboo as well.
EUROPE:18. Bambouseraie bamboo garden in Languedoc (France)
Looking for another excuse to visit the south of France? Here it is. (You’re welcome.) About 30 miles northwest of Nimes, the Bambouseraie has been propagating flora and welcoming visitors since 1856. Among this prepossessing collection of oak, gingko, magnolia and more, you’ll soon find that this privately run botanical garden specializes in our favorite grass: bamboo. Today the leafy menagerie includes about 300 varieties, making it one of the most diversified bamboo collections on earth. (Experts put the total number of bamboo species somewhere between 1200 and 2000.) Wander about 80+ acres of bamboo groves and soak up the serenity as you bathe in the glory of this amazing plant. They even have a bamboo hedge labyrinth, so you can truly get lost!19. Kew Botanical Gardens in London (U.K.)
Not necessarily one of the most impressive groves of bamboo, no must-see list of botanical gardens would be complete without mentioning the Royal Botanic Garden of Kew, which covers a tremendous 326 acres and calls itself the home of a mind-boggling 8.3 million plant and fungal herbarium specimens. For an enhanced sense of tranquility, the bamboo garden lies hidden in a quiet corner between the lake and the Rhododendron Dell. In addition to the several resplendent stands of bamboo, you’ll also find some prehistoric ginkgo trees and a traditional Japanese farmhouse. Keep an eye out for the local dragonfly population as well.
And last but not least!20. Batumi Botanical Garden (Autonomous Republic of Georgia)
Who would have thought that a world wide tour of bamboo gardens would bring us to the former Soviet state of Georgia? Me neither. It’s probably pretty off-the-beaten-track for most of us, but the Batumi Botanical Garden definitely deserves a spot on the bucket list. I thought I’d been to every great Botanical Garden in Europe, from Lisbon to Bucharest, but here’s a new one.
Now if you’re like me, you might think a former Soviet territory would be the last place on earth to find a tropical wonderland. And so, where is Georgia anyway? You may want to consult an atlas, but Georgia is located on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, between Russian and Armenia; it also borders Turkey and Azerbaijan. So is that in Europe or Asia? God only knows.
This immense garden covers more than 250 acres of rugged terrain on this remote stretch of subtropical coastline known as the Green Cape of the Black Sea. Open to the public since 1912, a few of the gardens highlights are its majestic, 125-year-old magnolia trees and giant sequoias. Batumi also boasts an incredible diversity of succulents, palms, roses, camellias, citrus, evergreens, and yes, bamboo. An astonishing collection of East Asian plant life comprises about 40 percent of the garden, including some exquisite Japanese gardens and a profusion of bamboo forests. If you’re looking a for a far-flung botanical adventure, this one’s for you!
The world’s a big place, and bamboo is notoriously prolific, so I’m sure we’ve missed some significant examples here. A certain corner of Central America? The entire island of Bali perhaps? If you have a favorite bamboo forest or garden that we overlooked, please let us know in the comments section below.
FURTHER READING: If you’d like to learn more, take a look at some of our most popular articles about bamboo.Best bamboo varieties for your garden Bamboo symbolism in mythology and folklore Bamboo shoots: delicious and nutritious Bamboo Q & A: Ask the experts
Featured Image: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan (Unsplash)
As one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history, you can believe there are quite a few books about bamboo. So your chances of reading every bamboo book are about as good as your chances of visiting every bamboo garden. That’s why we’ve put together this list, a sort of greatest hits compilation from the world of bamboo literature.
Yes, you might say we’re a little obsessed. But no, we’re not completely bamboo bonkers. That is, we haven’t read every book about bamboo ever written. We’ve read quite a few though, and sold several titles in the shop. We’ve also spent years researching bamboo and networking in the bamboo industry. There’s no doubt, in fact, that we are authorities on the subject.
NOTE: To make shopping easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.Bamboo Subject Matter
Bamboo is an enormous subject, so to get a better handle on it, let’s break the literature down into three distinct topics. And before you order what may be described as the “bible of bamboo”, be sure that it actually covers the topics of bamboo that you’re interested in.
For example, if you’re planning to build a bamboo house, and your “bible of bamboo” is actually a phenomenally comprehensive account of bamboo’s anthropological history, then you might be in for a disappointment. Just be sure you know what you’re looking for, and always check the product description or the summary on the back cover before you make a purchase.
To make shopping for the right book even easier, we’ve included direct links to Amazon.Books on BAMBOO GARDENING & HORTICULTURE
If you’re planting or maintaining a bamboo garden, be sure your book is about growing bamboo. Plenty of bad book reviews on Amazon come from gardeners who bought books filled with “useless” information about the history of bamboo.1. Bamboo for Gardens, by Ted Jordan Meredith
Probably of my number one go-to for bamboo eye candy, this beautiful volume explains the many great reasons for planting bamboo, and then goes about describing how to do so in your own garden to get the very best results. An excellent addition to the coffee table, the book is also rich with encyclopedic, botanical information on selecting, planting and maintaining the best species for your setting.2. Ornamental Bamboos, by David Crompton
Another very nice looking and extremely informative anthology of bamboos, this beautifully illustrated book covers a couple hundred varieties of the most attractive tropical and subtropical bamboos. Not only fun to look at, but also filled with useful, specific advice for planting and growing.3. Farming Bamboo, by Daphne Lewis and Carol Miles
If you’re thinking about growing bamboo on a larger, maybe even an industrial scale, then this is the book for you. Lewis and Miles are positively the North America authorities on large scale bamboo cultivation. An invaluable resource for any bamboo farmer, the book is loaded with practical information on the growing, harvesting and marketing of bamboo for myriad purposes.Books on BAMBOO HISTORY
For the real bamboo enthusiast or scholar, there is an abundance of literature out there on the 7,000-year (give or take) history of bamboo. These sorts of books will typically address the many uses of bamboo over the centuries, from eating to building to paper making. Some are likely to focus on one area more than another. You’ll also find a wealth of mythology and folklore that usually appears alongside bamboo history. More specialized books can also cover those erudite topics.4. The Book of Bamboo, by David Farrelly
This comprehensive compendium just overflows with fascinating facts, stories and illustrations. Written with exuberant passion, the book covers the history of bamboo and its co-evolution with Asian civilization, exploring the plant’s countless uses in both the past and the present.5. Bamboo, by Susanne Lucas
Here’s yet another handsome volume to prove that bamboo is magnificently photogenic, on top of all its other remarkable traits. One of America’s foremost authorities on bamboo, the author Susanne Lucas is executive director of the World Bamboo Organization and a horticulturalist, designer, and landscape gardener based in Massachusetts. Her book provides a very thorough history of bamboo and its uses by humans over several millennia, while also cataloging the impressive range of innovations and applications in modern times.Books on BAMBOO CONSTRUCTION
A subject that’s undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, bamboo construction is fascinating even for the layman, and can get very technical for those actually wanting to build a structure they can comfortably live in. Depending which sub-category you belong to, be sure that the bamboo construction book you buy contains the types of pictures and the level of detail that will be most useful and interesting to you.6. Grow Your Own House, by Simón Vélez
Considered something like the Master Guru of bamboo construction, no one has done more to demonstrate the incredible building potential of bamboo than Colombian architect Simón Vélez. In Grow Your Own House, Vélez presents a stunning selection of bamboo structures that will change the way you think about bamboo shelter. Contrary to the title, the book only includes a handful of houses, but it’s filled with examples of ingenious construction features that could be used across a variety of applications.7. Building With Bamboo, by Gernot Minke
This stimulating volume is loaded with useful, practical images and information about bamboo’s uses as a construction material. Featuring a great selection of bamboo structures, the book will inspire you with its broad scope and educate you with its up-close details.8. Bamboo Architecture & Design, by Chris van Uffelen
This beautifully laid out book showcases an array of bamboo structures in Asia and South America, demonstrating the plant’s ability to measure up favorably against both timber and steel.Appendix and Endnotes
There are literally hundreds of books about bamboo out there, and these are just a handful of our favorites. If you’re looking for something more specific —whether it’s Building a Bamboo Fly Rod, the secret to Cooking With Your Bamboo Steamer, the exotic elegance of decorating with Bamboo Style, or whatever have in mind — it’s all available.
And just when thought you knew all there was to know about bamboo, perhaps you’ll discover a brand new obsession with Japanese Bamboo Basketry. Wherever your bamboo passion takes you, go there with gusto, and maybe some day you’ll be writing a bamboo book of your own.
Maybe I just watched too much Gilligan’s Island as a kid, but there’s something about being surrounded by bamboo that I find very relaxing. Whether it’s a thriving bamboo garden, an attractive arrangement of lucky bamboo, or a tasteful piece of bamboo furniture, it can really set the mood and create a sense of space. There’s no doubt that a little bamboo can do wonders for your Feng Shui, and nothing will do it better than a nice bamboo fountain.
NOTE: To make shopping even easier, we’ve included some affiliate links in this article.Feng Shui for better Chi
Feng Shui experts agree that a well-placed fountain is one of the best ways to introduce a positive energy flow into your home or office. A good fountain can improve your Feng Shui in three basic ways.WATER: One of the five primary elements of Feng Shui — along with earth, metal, wood and fire — water is easily overlooked in most interior decoration schemes. But according to Feng Shui, water plays a crucial role in matters related to money and career. Still water (in a fish tank, for instance) brings a calming energy needed for new beginnings. Flowing water helps you to move forward and let go of things you no longer need. Just watch for spills. Stains and water damage to your hardwood floor are not likely to improve your financial well-being! MOTION: One of the chief functions of Feng Shui is to encourage the flow of Chi, or Qi, the fundamental energy force in traditional Chinese medicine. By arranging furniture and other objects in an advantageous position, the Chi can be sped up or slowed down. You can also redirect it towards or away from different aspects of life, including health, wealth, romance, and so on. An excellent way to promote the movement of Chi is to have something that actually moves, such as the flowing water of a fountain. Just be careful, as excessive or inappropriate movement can stir up chaotic and disruptive energy. SOUND: Another element that people often overlook in their home decor, sound is a form of energy created by vibrations in the air. Properly harnessing these vibrations can attract very beneficial energy into your home or office. Pleasant sounding wind chimes (from bamboo, for example) can accomplish this, as can the sound of trickling water from a fountain. Again, be careful when you introduce sound to the setting. As with motion, sounds that are too loud, too repetitious or just too shrill, can do more harm than good. Bamboo Fountain Features
For years we’ve been using bamboo fountains around the house and in the store. And it doesn’t take a Feng Shui zen master to see how these water features improve the overall good vibes. Whenever a child comes into the shop, they almost always make a bee line for the bamboo fountain set-up. I’m not sure whether they see it first or hear it, but it never fails to captivate their attention. Maybe it’s the Chi, maybe it’s something else, but the wisdom of the child is absolutely tuned into it.
Sometimes I like to add a couple water plants, and maybe one or two goldfish, to give the fountain even more life. This requires changing out the water more regularly, but it’s worth it. The vibrant plants and happy goldfish can bring priceless benefits to your Feng Shui.
Also, it’s a good idea to used bottled water, because the city water (in my experience) tends to be very hard, so the calcium and minerals can muck up the water basin and the pump pretty quickly. If that happens, an old toothbrush and some vinegar solution will usually do the trick.
With these factors in mind, let’s go ahead and take a look at a few of my favorite bamboo fountain kits. To make shopping easier, we’ve included some Amazon affiliate links in this article.Five Arm Bamboo Fountain
Probably my favorite bamboo fountain, for price and simplicity. The five arms — three running in one direction and the other two running perpendicular — allow it to balance easily on a round or square container, and lend the fountain an interesting, elegant appearance. Ideal for indoor use.
This kit includes the pump and the bamboo and takes about two minutes to set up. All you need is a medium sized bowl (about 12-18 inches in diameter) made from glass or ceramics. Do NOT use a bamboo or wooden bowl. As nice as it sounds, it will swell and crack from the water. For the construction of the fountain, this company uses a specific variety of bamboo (which seems to be a trade secret) that does not split in water. You’ll also need a place to plug it in, as the pump runs on old-fashioned electricity.
The Five Arm Fountain is available from Amazon for easy delivery.24 Inch Adjustable Fountain
Great in any container and perfect for outdoor use, this fountain makes an excellent addition to the zen garden. The kit is simple to set up and easy to attach to a bowl, barrel or pond liner. The height of the spout is adjustable, which means you have some control over the sound of the water: the higher the spout, the louder the splash. If you’re setting it up outside, try to keep it mostly in the shade, as this will preserve the bamboo by protecting it from prolonger, direct sun exposure.
You’ll also need a place to plug in the electric pump, either an extension cord running into the house, or you can order this small solar power inverter from Amazon.
Bamboo Accents makes a great line of bamboo fountains, each of them, including the 24″ Adjustable Fountain is available conveniently from Amazon.20″ Rocking Fountain Shishi Odoshi
Also known as the Deer Scarer, because of the knocking sound it makes as it teeters up and down, this is another excellent fountain for outdoor use. The traditional design relies on the weight of the water as it fills one end of the fountain and causes it to tip over, spill out and swing back up.
The kit is fairly simple to assemble, but with a little imagination you can cleverly incorporate it into a pond or other more elaborate garden setting. You will need a vessel or pond basin of some kind to catch the water as is spills forward from the front spout. From there, the water pumps back up to the top spout.
The pump, hose, platform base and all bamboo parts are included in the kit. The Shishi Odoshi Rocking Bamboo Fountain is also available from Amazon. And for an outdoor electricity source, you might consider a compact solar power inverter from Amazon.
There you have it. I hope these ideas help. It really doesn’t take make much add a little splash of Om to your home or a bit of zen to your den!