Different Types of Bamboo

Different types of bamboo

14 Jun 2023

Bamboo, a versatile and sustainable plant, has captured the imagination of people around the world for centuries. Its remarkable growth rate, strength, and wide range of uses make it a popular choice for various applications. But did you know that there are numerous types of bamboo, each with its own unique characteristics and purposes?

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Pick up a bamboo plate or some bamboo cutlery and chances are you’d be holding something made from common bamboo - Bambusa vulgaris. Most paper in the West is made from tree derived cellulose. It features tall, straight culms that can grow up to 30 meters (98 feet) in optimal conditions. The culms are typically green when young, turning to a yellowish-brown colour as they mature.

Bamboo Tree

But if you reside in China, Thailand, or India you may be writing on something made from Dendrocalamus asper and Bambusa blumeana, the most common bamboo species used to make paper in those countries.

Known for its towering height and robust culms (stems), Giant Timber Bamboo is one of the most recognisable types of bamboo. It's often used for construction purposes due to its strength and durability. This bamboo can grow up to 50 feet or more and is commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions.

Pseudosasa japonica or arrow bamboo is native to Japan and is characterised by its arrow-shaped leaves. It's commonly used for crafting, furniture making, and even culinary purposes. The shoots of arrow bamboo are edible and are considered a delicacy in some cultures.

The bamboo species used for clothing is called Moso bamboo. Moso bamboo is the most important bamboo in China, where it covers about 3 million hectares. Its tall culms and large leaves make it an excellent candidate for fiber extraction for textiles.

The bamboo types mentioned here are among the most common and useful ones, however, there are many more bamboo species with their own special uses too.

What type of bamboo product is good for the environment?

Bamboo products that are genuinely good for the environment are those that undergo the least amount of chemical processing. Some processing is better than others. For example, products made from the protective covering found on young bamboo plants, called the sheath, are generally good.

Harvesting the sheath is as easy as picking it off the ground where it usually falls. It’s then cleaned, boiled, and molded into shape. Bamboo linen is one of the greenest textiles available. If you mechanically crush the woody parts of bamboo and then use natural enzymes to break the cell walls into a pulp, the fibers that remain can be spun into yarn. Unfortunately, this process is expensive and time-consuming.

TENCEL™ Lyocell Boxer Brief Made from Bamboo
Black Socks Made from Bamboo

A good compromise fabric derived from bamboo is Lyocell. It uses a closed-loop industrial process which means it recovers or decomposes all the solvents and emissions produced to create the fabric. Nothing is spilled into the environment and the fabric itself is 100% biodegradable.

Which types of bamboo products are bad for the environment?

Bamboo products that aren’t so good for the planet are those made from unsustainably harvested bamboo and products that are made from non-closed cycle chemical processes. Conventional Viscose Rayon derived from bamboo isn’t planet-friendly. Unlike Lyocell’s closed-loop process, conventional bamboo rayon is manufactured using many chemicals and a lot of energy in a non-self-contained process.

According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, air emissions from fabric produced conventionally can include sulfur, nitrous oxides, carbon disulfide, and hydrogen sulfide. Water emissions can include nitrates, phosphates, iron, zinc, oil, grease, and is often low in dissolved oxygen which endangers aquatic life. Effluent from the bleach plant, where bleaching chemicals containing chlorine are used, contains AOX and chlorate, which have toxic effects in the aquatic environment.

In the end, it's important for us to choose bamboo products that are made in better ways for the environment. This way, we can enjoy bamboo without causing harm to our planet.

How to harvest bamboo?

A lot of preparation and thought goes into cultivating and harvesting bamboo. Harvesting takes skill and years of training. It requires knowledge of area weather patterns, an understanding of the bamboo lifecycle, and an on-sight familiarity with individual plants on the ground. The best time to harvest a crop of bamboo depends on the species and purpose. Young bamboo shoots meant for food wouldn’t be harvested like bamboo used for construction purposes.

Harvesting Bamboo

But in general, the most recommended time to harvest bamboo is at the end of the rainy season and beginning of the dry season. This timing ensures that the bamboo is strong and sturdy, making it useful for various applications while also promoting responsible plant growth.

What type of bamboo do pandas eat?

Pandas like eating arrow bamboo, black bamboo, and 'water bamboo', along with about 20 other species. They favor bamboo's roots, shoots, and leaves, especially shoots. The WWF notes that since bamboo contains very little nutritional value pandas have to eat a LOT of it - 12-38kg every day - to meet their energy needs. So, while pandas have a varied diet of different bamboo types, they need to munch on a huge amount of it every day just to get enough energy to survive.

Panda Eating Bamboo

Final words

In conclusion, the world of bamboo is as diverse as it is fascinating. From its humble origins as a versatile and sustainable plant to its transformation into an array of products that shape our lives, bamboo's unique characteristics have been harnessed for centuries. We've explored some common bamboo species, each with its distinct attributes.

As we appreciate the myriad uses of bamboo, we must also consider its environmental impact. Sustainable practices, like using sheaths for products and opting for eco-friendly bamboo textiles such as Lyocell, underscore the importance of responsible consumption.

While bamboo's potential is vast, it's imperative to approach its cultivation and utilisation with care and respect, recognizing the intricate interplay between nature and human needs. As we admire pandas munching on their favored bamboo varieties and delve into the art of harvesting this incredible plant, we're reminded of the delicate balance required to ensure a harmonious coexistence between nature's bounty and our ever-evolving world.

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