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8 Fascinating Facts About Bamboo

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1.Grows in almost all climates

Most bamboo species are native to warm and moist tropical and warm temperate climates.

But there are more than 1400 species of bamboo.  Many of them can be found in Asia, Australia, North and South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

It can grow under various climate conditions in temperatures ranging from minus 20 degrees up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (-30C to +38C)

2. Flowers once every 130 years

Unlike most other plants bamboos flower rarely and unpredictably.

Flowering periods vary a lot. Once every 40 to 80 years is a rather typical interval.

But some bamboo species flower extremely rarely. In these species all bamboos in the forest flower at the same time. That`s called mass flowering.

The longest mass flowering interval known is 130 years, for the species Phyllostachys bambusoides.

Phyllostachys bambusoides
Phyllostachys bambusoides. Kimon Berlin, CC BY-SA 2.0

In this species, all plants of the same stock flower at the same time, regardless of differences in geographic locations or climatic conditions, and then die.

What is interesting – any plant that`s made through clonal propagation from any individual bamboo of this bamboo forest will also flower regardless of whether it has been planted in a different location even if it is on a different continent.

3. Fastest growing plant in the world

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet.

Some species of bamboo can grow 91 cm (36 in) within a 24-hour period, at a rate of almost 4 cm (1.6 in) an hour (a growth around 1 mm every 90 seconds, or 1 inch every 40 minutes).

It grows so fast that you can almost see it grow.

4. Edison used bamboo fiber in the invention of the light bulb

Most people have heard of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb.

But did you know bamboo played a role in making it?

He developed the first practical light bulb in 1879. He continued the experiments to improve it.

Less than a year later Edison designed a new version that had all the essential features of a modern light bulb; an incandescent filament in an evacuated glass bulb with a screw base.

Finding the right material for the filament was crucial. The filament is the part inside the light bulb that glows when an electric current is passed through it.

Edison tested more than 1,600 materials, including cotton, linen thread, wood splints, paper coconut fiber, fishing line, and even hairs from a worker’s beard.

Finally, Edison ended up using bamboo fiber for the filament. Edison and his team discovered that carbonized bamboo had the capacity to conduct electrical currant and that it could last more than 1200 hours, more than any other material at the time.

This discovery led to the start of large-scale manufactured light bulbs in 1880.

5. A bamboo needle on the first phonograph

Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone back in 1876.

In 1877, he invented the phonograph, a mechanical recording device. It`s also known as the gramophone.

He made the first phonograph needle out of Bamboo and incorporated the material into subsequent projects as well.

Alexander Graham Bell used a sharpened bamboo sliver as his first phonograph needle. They were also called “Fibre” needles.

Back then you could buy 1000 needles for $4. A lot more expensive than steel  – 1000 needles for 50 cents. But the math was more complicated.

Steel needles needed to be changed often. Bamboo needles outlasted steel needles because they could be sharpened.

6. Silkworms were smuggled out of China in bamboo canes

Silk worms - The Happy Bamboo
Silk worms. By Kari, CC BY 2.0

Two Christian monks smuggled silkworms out of China in bamboo canes.

Those silkworms then gave the Byzantine Empire a trade monopoly of silk in Europe; The foundation of their economy for the next 650 years.

Adult silkworms are quite fragile and must be constantly kept at an ideal temperature, or they die.

For that reason, they chose to smuggle out silkworm eggs or very young larvae instead.  They used their bamboo canes to hide them.

Without fast planes, in those times, it is estimated that the expedition lasted two years.

7. Over 2.2 billion people employed thanks to bamboo

People all over the world people can thank bamboo for their jobs. Bamboo is such a versatile material that it gives something to do to more than 2.2 billion people in the most diverse professions.

Think of farmers, farm workers, factory workers, construction workers, architects, designers, artists, sales people and many more.

8. Bamboo is stronger than steel

When you think of some of the strongest materials on the planet, does bamboo come to mind?

Well, you should.

While bamboo looks fragile and light, it has a tensile strength greater than steel.

What does that mean? Tensile strenght measures how hard it is to pull a material apart.

The structure of bamboo is like a tube with reinforced segments. This natural design results in lighter weight over longer lengths and protects against bending and breaking much better than a steel rod.

Not only is bamboo stronger than steel; it also can withstand being smashed better than the average concrete.

So, bamboo is one of the strongest materials on earth.