So get this: bamboo isn’t a tree, it’s actually a type of grass. Not only is it the tallest grass on earth, it’s also the tallest plant. Its list of achievements doesn’t end there. It grows faster than any other plant, about 3-4 feet or more per day. For this reason, it’s an amazing renewable resource. It can be efficiently reharvested every 3-7 years with minimal impact on the environment. The root system can be left intact when harvesting, and so the cycle of regeneration and cutting back in fact can improve the health of the individual plants.
Luckily enough, this abundantly renewable resource has an endless number of uses and already finds it way into our daily lives in many ways: in our food, gardens, clothing, linens, architecture, furniture, etc. Various methods have even been devised to produce fuel from bamboo. Still, despite its exhaustive prevalence, the most definitive image of bamboo for many of us is that of its culm (stalk). Sleek and staggeringly upright, we often picture it as one of many in a forest of cool and calming green vertical lines. What we often forget is that bamboo produce flowers, and their blooming is extraordinary.
The flowering of bamboo tends to be a remarkable event, although the flowers themselves aren’t too spectacular. They bear no petals, and are unable to attract insects to aid in pollination. What’s unusual about the flowering of bamboo is its frequency. While some rare types do flower annually, most flower only once over a period of decades—sometimes as long as 130 years. By some sort of scientifically unknown mechanism (probably genetic), all bamboo plants in a region will bloom simultaneously. This normally marks the end of the life cycle for whole populations of the plant, and in some cases can be immediately devastating for both humans and animals that rely on the local bamboo for their livelihood and sustenance. However, the bamboo flower deposits a huge number of seeds onto the ground that effectively renew the entire population of dying plants relatively quickly. Icing on the cake for an already resilient and virile species. Without a doubt they’ll continue to outgrow and outlast the infinite uses we can find for them.