- Politics and Social Issues
That's Bamboo? Wow!
Fabulous, versatile, sustainable bamboo
Bamboo is the eco-wonder of the world. It pumps oxygen into the air faster than trees, feeds the hungry, clothes the body, soothes the ear, carries water, digs potatoes, shelters the homeless as well as the privileged, and in case all that is not enough, bamboo is just plain beautiful.
Bamboo garden against red wall
© L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved
Here you will find links to some of the best, most informative sites about bamboo, plus surprising uses for this highly versatile plant, (Bamboo bicycle anyone?). Is bamboo safe to eat? How can you tell whether your bamboo product was manufactured under safe conditions? You'll find answers to these questions and more on this page.
Plus, if you're interested in taking advantage of the ecological benefits of this sustainable, renewable resource, look for links to my favorite picks in bamboo clothing, baby gifts, housewares and linens. Welcome!
Bamboo--eco-wonder of the world
What is stronger than hardwood, can grow up to 4 feet a day, and survived the bombing of Hirsohima? That's bamboo.
Bamboo garden, downtown San Francisco
Image © L Kathryn Grace, All rights reserved
But that's not all. Bamboo gives us clean air to breathe, consumes carbon dioxide and returns 35 percent more oxygen to the atmosphere than trees.
Wait! There's more! Because of its rapid growth and root structure, it can, in a very short time, reclaim land destroyed by overgrazing and over-building and clean the soil of toxins.Plus, it grows so fast, that it can be harvested sustainably for thousands of products from chop sticks to mansions. What's not to love about bamboo?
Bamboo is the sustainable choice in thousands of products - We especially love bamboo clothing and gear for our grandbabies
Take this bamboo baby wrap. I care for my wee granddaughter frequently, as I did her sister, and I've tried several carriers. My favorite--and the baby's--is one similar to this Happy Wrap.
When I say "Want to go for a ride in the wrap?", the baby claps her hands and pulls the strap out, ready to settle in next to me.
I've been "wearing" my 9-month old granddaughter in a wrap similar to this one since she was about five months old. We both love it!
The bamboo rayon wicks moisture away from mom (or in my case, Grandma) and baby, keeping us both cool on a hot day, while holding baby securely tucked in.
For more baby care clothing and accessories, jump to Bamboo baby on this page. Or keep reading and learn more about this amazing plant.
Bamboo is a grass
Grows nearly everywhere
Like other grasses, it has jointed stems that are mostly hollow, and like many grasses, it is highly adaptable and can naturalize almost anywhere. Native to all continents except Europe and Antarctica, bamboo species grow in a variety of climates from tropical to frigid.
Gilberto Cortes, Regional Director of Bamboo in the Americas, estimates more than 1200 species worldwide, about 450 of them in the Americas. According to him, only one species, Arundinaria gigantea, commonly known as Cane Brake or Cane Reed, is native to the United States.
Image: Bambusa textilis
© L Kathryn Grace
All rights reserved
Will Cook, a plant ecology researcher at Duke University, identifies not one but three U.S. native bamboo species: Giant cane (A. gigantea), Switch cane (A. tecta), and Hill cane (A. appalachiana).
Gardening with bamboo
A gardener's delight
Gardeners love bamboo for its texture, color, gracefulness, and versatility. You can solve dozens of problems with the right bamboo. Use it as a screen to hide an unsightly fence, a backdrop to set off a variegated border, or a sponge to sop up water in a sandy, wet area.
In this downtown San Francisco plaza, 40-foot bamboos screen a brick wall, set the tone for lacy Japanese maples (in pots), cleanse and cool the air, and create an island of calm--one might say sacred space--in the middle of a bustling city.
Image copyright L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved.
A stand of bamboo cools a city plaza on a hot day - Can you believe these tall columns are single stems of a grass plant?
Bamboo species are as varied as, well, grass. You will find them in every conceivable size and a variety of colors and textures. Some species are as tiny as blades of grass in your yard. Some are called tree bamboo because they grow like trees.
Like many grasses, some bamboos clump and are easily contained. Others grow from rhizomes and will spread.
When you choose a bamboo for your garden, make sure you know which kind you're getting. If you want a bamboo forest in your backyard, the spreading type is your best bet. If you want an isolated stand shading your Japanese water fountain, consider a clumping type.
Image copyright L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved.
More gardens and gardener's tips
I'm always searching for new gardening tips and landscaping how-tos utilizing bamboo. In this section, you will find links to beautiful gardens as well as good books like the one below for finding hardy bamboo that winters well in cold climates and suits your particular landscaping needs.
Watch for tools too, both innovative and traditional--some used for thousands of years--as well as beautiful accessories for your garden and patio.
Image copyright L Kathryn Grace - All rights reserved.
Hardy Bamboos: Taming the Dragon - BY PAUL WHITTAKER
Think you cannot grow bamboo? There is a hardy bamboo that is right for almost any garden. Remember, some species grow in China on mountainsides covered with winter snows. But you don't have to go to China to learn which plants will work best in your landscape. Author Paul Whittaker has done the work for you. Find the right bamboo for your clime and the best ways to help it thrive in this beautiful book.
Hardy bamboos provide grace and texture to northern gardens. They make lovely screens for summer shade while letting through winter light. Paul Whittaker has tested and grown a variety of hardy bamboos. He shows you how to choose the right plant for your site and needs, where to find healthy stock, and how to avoid the pitfalls of invasive species.
Take a virtual tour of the bamboo garden at Foothill College
Los Altos, CA
This graceful two-acre garden began in 1989, with just six black bamboo plants. In 2004, when Foothill College last updated their bamboo garden page the garden had grown to 70 species of bamboo plants. If you are considering planting bamboo in a temperate clime, look here for comprehensive information about growing a wide variety of bamboo plants, from dwarfs to giants, and how they can be used ornamentally as well as functionally.
How many ways do we use bamboo?
Macey loves his shoots - Licking his chops
Thanks to the friendly folks at Bamboo Headquarters for permission to use this image of their dog Macey to kick off our bamboo gardening tools section.
Macey is licking his chops over the tender shoots of Phyllostachys bissetii, a lovely ornamental that is also suitable for pots.
Bamboo HQ ships throughout the United States and carries bamboo plants for every climate zone. They have a nifty Bamboo finder to help you locate just the right bamboo plant for your area and garden.
In case you're wondering, I am not affiliated in any way with Bamboo HQ and receive no compensation or other consideration for mentioning them here.
Stake and rake with bamboo garden tools
Decorate, plant it and plant with it
Highly regenerative, bamboo is the ideal raw material for manufactured goods. Not only is bamboo a beautiful garden feature, it makes superb garden accessories and tools. Many of these implements and decorative features were designed hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago..
Below are just two ways you can use these time-tested tools in your garden.
Gardener using bamboo stakes
A morgueFile free photo
Show off your viney florals with these bamboo trellises - Or stake a cucumber or tomato plant just outside the kitchen
Who know why the manufacturer chose this ugly image to illustrate their trellis, but it is one of the more sturdy and durable trellises I have found on the market today. The bamboo canes are 1/2" in diameter, so you know they'll last. Imagine how your clematis or bougainvilla will stand out, supported here. Or stake your cherry tomatoes outside your kitchen door, grow green beans against a sunny wall, or hide an unsightly neighbor's garage with a bank of old fashioned rose climbers. The possibilities are endless.
This Bosmere Design bamboo trellis expands and contracts to fit your space and needs. Maximum height: 72"; maximum width: 48"; height and width will vary depending on how the unit is expanded and contracted. Use this sturdy trellis to train a fruit tree espaliered against a sunny wall or run an attractive fence around your garbage and recycling bin area.
The trusty bamboo fan rake has been used for centuries - A well-used garden staple
Any tool that has been in productive use for centuries has to have been designed well, don't you think? Take advantage of centuries-old technology when you're scooping up winter debris on a bright spring day, and then again, grabbing flighty leaves on a blustery fall afternoon.
This rake features a generous 30" fan with reinforced bamboo head and 48" handle.
Unusual uses for this nearly ubiquitous grass
See the Calfee bamboo bicycle - by YouTube member snarp98
Wait till you get to the end--there's a tandem bamboo bicycle!
Bamboo is food
Nourishing millions for thousands of years
Bamboo shoots have been used in cooking in China, Japan and other Asian countries for thousands of years. Try this Pickled bamboo, poached chicken and lobster salad using fresh bamboo shoots. Recipe page includes lovely photographs of the finished dish.
Or try this scrumptious Orange and bamboo salad with fennel dressing.
Want the very freshest? Learn how to grow, harvest and prepare your own bamboo shoots. It's easier than you might think.
Image courtesy UF/IFAS document #HS548,
copyright 1994, 2003
Cooking with bamboo utensils - Beautiful gifts for the the cooks in your life
If you haven't held a bamboo cutting board or utensil in your hand, you haven't felt the silky smooth finish. You must! It's a pleasure to work with this material. Below are some of the bamboo tools we enjoy in our kitchen, or that are on our wishlist. Cooking is sweeter with tools crafted of sustainable materials like bamboo. Let me know if you try them, will you?
Two beautiful Japanese santoku knives come with this cutting board, stored in their own special drawer. One of the nicest features of these knives: The little hollows on either side of the blade that create just enough air pocket to let slices fall away. Ever had cucumber slices slow you down when they stick to the edge of the knife? That's what these knives prevent. This set is the one I'd like to own.
When our ancient hardrock maple board splintered along its glue lines, we replaced it with one of these handsome bamboo cutting boards. Just the right size for slicing bread, making sandwiches, and trimming veggies. Bamboo is actually harder than maple wood.
How to harvest, buy and cook fresh bamboo - Start to finish
Bamboo farmer and expert, Daphne Lewis, has a lovely web site with lots of picture tutorials on growing, harvesting, cleaning and cooking bamboo. Her site includes tips for you and me on picking the freshest shoots at the farmers market, as well as best marketing practices if you are one of the farmers.
You may be especially interested in the following web pages from her site.
- Bamboo shoots 101
Using just the right amount of colorful photographs, Lewis shows us how--and when--to harvest the shoots, pick them or sell them at the farmers markets, and cook them up in a delicious stir-fry.
- How-to-instructions for cooking, along with recipes
Here you can watch two excellent instructional videos, and try some recipes for cooking both the tenderest and the toughest part of the rhizomes, getting the most flavor and goodness from this ancient food source.
- Nutritional data in colorful, easy to read graphics and charts
Lewis's bright charts and graphics help us understand and remember the nutritional facts about this edible grass better than any web site I have found. Enjoy the read!
How to prepare and cook raw bamboo shoots - Traditional cooking method
Freshly harvested bamboo is said to have far superior flavor to canned bamboo shoots. If you are a foodie or purist, learn how to cook fresh bamboo shoots in this short video.
Bamboo is habitat and food for some of the most beautiful wild animals on the planet
Before you buy a bamboo product - Make sure the bamboo was grown on sustainable plantations
Giant panda eating bamboo
a morgueFile Free Photo
Sustainable as it is, using bamboo does not mean we are off the hook environmentally. Bamboo is the major food for endangered pandas, bamboo lemurs, and mountain gorillas, whose habitat shrinks daily.
Civilization increasingly encroaches on bamboo forests and plantations. Make sure the bamboo products you purchase are from sustainable plantations that do not destroy habitat or endanger other species.
Save the panda, the lemur and the mountain gorilla! Buy responsibly.
Adopt a panda through World Wildlife Federation (WWF)
For over four decades the Panda logo has been a recognizable symbol of WWF and its efforts in wildlife and habitat conservation. These shy, lovable creatures are found only in remote areas of the Upper Yangtze forests, where they feed on bamboo shoots. A newborn cub is about the size of a stick of butter, weighs only three to five ounces, and is totally dependent upon its mother for the first few months of life.
Image and text courtesy
Must have this adorable mother and baby panda poster
Let this evocative image of a mother gently nuzzling her baby panda set the tone in your child's playroom, nursery or your classroom. Perfect companion to the adopt-a-panda program and the Wild about bamboo panda book.
The Panda: Wild About Bamboo
Learn more about pandas and their relationship with the plant that provides their home and their food--beautiful images show better than words can tell.
This beautifully illustrated National Geographic Reader about Pandas is just right for the child learning to read independently. A wonderful stocking stuffer for those thinking ahead to the holidays.
Gorillas rely on bamboo forest habitat as well - Watch a silverback gorilla eating Bamboo
The great gorilla seems to know he is being watched. He turns his back on us, hunkers down and hides the bamboo stalk he is munching.
More fun, useful, intriguing and sometimes downright strange facts and bamboo objects
Bamboo and the 100-year rat famine
Bamboo fruits attract hordes of rats in India
Bamboo plants bloom rarely, and when they do, the entire species usually blooms at the same time and dies, worldwide. Many species bloom just once a century, or less. Some species bloom as frequently as every 48-49 years.
Right now, in India, rats are gobbling up the high protein fruits of vast forests of a bamboo species that blooms every 48 years. The rich diet kicks the rats' reproductive cycle into high gear and they multiply like Tribbles.
Once they've consumed the last of the bamboo fruit, their highly inflated population begins gorging on crops, devouring every living plant in sight. People die of starvation. This is called the rat famine.
Bamboo, which can live to be 120 years old, dies upon flowering. Entire forests can vanish in a season. Thankfully, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth. Some species can grow up to 4 feet a day, so once the seeds germinate, a new forest crops up pretty fast.
Image courtesy Free Nature Pictures
The bamboo high-rise
Building highrises with bamboo scaffolding
If you keep up with trends, you've seen items made of bamboo wherever you shop. You may already own a buttery-almond-colored cutting board. Maybe you own a tee-shirt or a pair of bamboo socks. But did you know that in some countries, engineers use this strong material for the scaffolding when building highrises?
Image courtesy Bamboo Village
From high rise scaffolding to doll-house - Bamboo is child's play
Isn't this solar-powered, bamboo dollhouse the perfect toy for teaching your child about ways we can all conserve for the future?
I'm a sucker for doll houses and this one nearly sends me into palpitations. It has a working rooftop solar panel to power the batteries that spark the LED lights! Plus, the floors are made of trendy bamboo, just like the newest homes today. It's on my Amazon wish list--the perfect toy for our granddaughters (no grandsons--yet).
What child doesn't love a dollhouse and its miniatures? This one comes with LED lighting, gorgeous furnishings, and a family to enjoy it all. Spend some quality time with your children and help them to discover the wonders of the amazing bamboo plant family while playing with this beautiful bamboo and birch doll house.
One billion people live in real bamboo houses - Bamboo buildings are both durable and functional
Bamboo tree house
a morgueFile Free Photo
Bamboo is the home-building material of choice across the banana belt. Bamboo Village Hawaii estimates that a billion people live in bamboo houses today. Take a look at this four-story, nineteenth century building still standing, solid-looking and beautiful. (Second image on that page.)
One reason bamboo is so popular as a building material is that some species are stronger than steel. Another is that bamboo is plentiful, and if managed well, plantations can be grown and harvested repeatedly for many years. Plus, bamboo gives back to the environment by cleaning the air and saving valuable soil from wind and water erosion.
A sixty-foot tree cut for market takes 60 years to replace. A sixty-foot bamboo cut for market takes 59 days to replace.
Bamboo Village Hawaii quoting INBAR
Buy sustainably - Give sustainably all year long
It is easy to find bamboo treasures for the home
Light up your life with the warmth of bamboo. From cutting boards to knitting needles, and lamps to waste baskets, bamboo-made furnishings and tools seem to glow from within. Try them. Give them to your friends and family for birthdays, holidays. Celebrate weddings and housewarmings with them. Bamboo is always a hit. I'll be surprised if you don't come back for more.
Whenever possible, to assure your treasures were made in safe conditions and the workers were compensated fairly, buy organic and Fair Trade.
Imagine your feet on warm, naturally beautiful bamboo - Ditch that warped, cracked chair mat!
Replace it with this gorgeous bamboo mat and enjoy building your Squidoo lenses more than ever.
Replace your cracking, worn-out plastic chair mat with this handsome, natural-finish bamboo mat made from sustainably-harvested bamboo. Simply beautiful. That's bamboo.
Gifts for the home - Bamboo shades and light fixtures - Brighten their rooms with lights softened under earthy bamboo shades
Illuminate your living space stylishly with the simple elegance of this bamboo and linen lamp. In addition to the silken light from the shade, a subtle glow flows from the open slats of the bamboo base.
Hot sites - Everything you want to know about bamboo
The list of ways we humans use bamboo seem endless. Here are a few of my favorite sites--of thousands out there--that are packed with information on the uses, people and creatures who depend on the "miracle plant."
The short descriptions give you a peek at what you'll get if you click through. I hope you enjoy exploring this amazing plant, its varied, graceful beauty and uses as much as I do.
- NOVA: Nature's Miracle Material
PBS' NOVA builds a bamboo bridge and more
- American Bamboo Society
Lots of info bamboo plants, where to find them, and how to grow them
- 1000 Things Made of Bamboo
Hundreds of images of things made of bamboo from the most mundane to the truly weird--have fun browsing!
- Wayne's Word
Comprehensive scientific data presented in a lively format including good images and fun bamboo trivia
- NPR's Wendy Kaufman on bamboo as US crop
Listen to Kaufman's story on how bamboo is becoming a sought-after agricultural product in the United States for everything from construction material in place of forest-harvested hardwood to soft-as-silk shirts
- Wikipedia on Bamboo
Facts, good images, and more links
- Environmental Bamboo Foundation
Environmental data as well as some cool animations showing how to build a bamboo house and a bamboo shelter (it appears they have them backwards, however, with the house on the shelter link and the shelter on the house link)
- Bamboo, 100 years, 2 continents, and a peaceful heart
Enjoy Bob Czimbal's tale of joy and peace with the magic of bamboo in his Alternatives magazine column On the Path
- Smithsonian Magazine | Science & Nature | Bamboo Steps Up
Bamboo steps up
- Grow bamboo plants without much experience
Nifty little page about starting and cultivating bamboo indoors or out.
- Squidoo : Top 100 green lenses on Squidoo List
View the top 100 green lenses on Squidoo right now
- Bamboozled! The 4 Ways that Bamboo Products May Not be All That "Green" | Wise Bread
Before you buy a bamboo product, read this caution from Wise Bread.
- Five things everyone should know about bamboo
From the lone native species that once covered much of the United States southeast, to the cyanide connection, five bamboo facts to keep in mind.
Bamboo clothing and textiles rock--or do they?
Look for Fair Trade and organic whenever possible.
How green is your bamboo?
WHERE IT'S HARVESTED AND HOW IT'S PROCESSED MATTER
In Digging up bamboo's dark side, Journalist and self-described ecoholic Adria Vasil steps back for a look at questions we all need to ask when we buy bamboo products. Another helpful article, before you buy clothing or bedding made of bamboo fibers, including items on this lens, is Bamboo: Facts behind the fiber.
Don't stop there, though. Dip deeper into the pros and cons of using bamboo fibers with this hip article from trendy Little Green Rock. Surfers-come-entrepreneurs, they're purveyors of bamboo tees, togs and other beach duds, but that's not all. They make skateboards of bamboo, too.
The use of bamboo textiles is growing, and there is much to learn. If you have information about these important issues, please leave a comment below or use the contact button at the top of this page.
Bamboo baby - Cuddly bamboo gifties for your wee one
Bamboo textiles are naturally antimicrobial and their unique cellular construction wicks moisture away from your baby's skin
Dreamsacks BambooDreams Baby long sleeve tee is pesticide free and made from a sustainable and renewable resource. Keep your child stylish and comfy. Match the baby shirt with the baby pants.
This Basic Midori Bamboo Gift Set is an affordable luxury that every newborn baby needs. This 3 piece gift set includes, a screenprint bodysuit sized -3 months, and a warm cozy cap that can be worn up to 6 month, and a terry bib. These items are made of a perfect blend of rayon from bamboo and organic cotton interlock. This gift set is packaged in our signature round re-usable bamboo box.
100% bamboo, No pesticides, Wicks moisture away from baby, Eco Friendly, UV protection, Antibacterial
A fitted diaper consisting of 4 layers of bamboo fabric that is fantastically soft and beautiful! You will fall in love with this gorgeous, silky fabric - it truly is irresistible! Bamboo is a miraculous and eco-friendly fibre. It is a renewable resource with a very short growth cycle and it is grown without fertilizers or pesticides. In short it is the perfect environmental choice for diapers!
Arbor Apparel Talks Bamboo, Eco Fashion, and New Line: LNTV
Arbor Apparel of Venice Beach, California, uses bamboo in its snow boards and in its beach fashions. Take a look.
The spotlight is on you. What do you like about bamboo and how do you use it? What is your favorite bamboo tool?