Anyone thinking of purchasing bamboo products, whether as furniture, fencing or bamboo plates, might be forgiven for thinking bamboo is just one kind of plant. But there is actually far more to its variety than that.
It isn’t just that bamboo is actually not a tree but in fact a kind of grass; after all, grasses appeared on Earth not long after the dinosaurs and there are many kinds of them. Rather, bamboo itself is not one species but several, even if all of them produce the distinctive fibrous canes, tougher than most woods and fast-growing.
There are two basic groups of bamboo plants, known as runners and clumpers. If you ever buy a bamboo plant for your garden, the chances are it will be a clumper, as these produce U-shaped roots that don’t go spreading around the garden. This means it will stay in its own territory and not encroach on that of other plants.
Fargesia is the hardiest bamboo and a great material for making tough bamboo items from, as they are very hard to break. Native to China, this is a favourite food for pandas. Giant bamboo is also found across south and south-east Asia.
It may surprise some to learn that many types of bamboo are not found anywhere near China. For instance, Guadua bamboo is found in Latin America, as is Chilean bamboo. Guadua bamboo is used heavily in some South American countries as a building material.
Some runner bamboos are found even more widely. Arrow bamboo is found from Japan to the United States, while Dwarf Green Stripe bamboo and black bamboo are found from Australia and New Zealand to Europe.
While these different kinds of bamboo may come in a range of sizes, shapes and colours, the same characteristics remain: they are tough and fast-growing, making bamboo an ideal material for so many uses as it is both durable and sustainable.