What is Bamboo?

Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. In bamboo, the internodal regions of the stem are hollow in many species, and the vascular bundles in the cross section are scattered throughout the stem instead of in a cylindrical arrangement. The dicotyledonous woody xylem is also absent. The absence of secondary growth wood causes the stems of monocots, even of palms and large bamboos, to be columnar rather than tapering. Bamboos are some of the fastest growing plants in the world. They are capable of growing 60 cm or more per day due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. However, the growth rate is dependent on local soil and climatic conditions. Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in East Asia and South East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product.

There are more than 70 genera divided into about 1,450 species. Bamboo are found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. They occur across East Asia, from 50°N latitude in Sakhalin through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Americas from the Mid-Atlantic United States south to Argentina and Chile, reaching their southernmost point anywhere, at 47°S latitude. Continental Europe is not known to have any native species of bamboo. There have recently been some attempts to grow bamboo on a commercial basis in the Great Lakes region of eastern-central Africa, especially in Rwanda.

Taxonomy of Bamboo

Botanical Classification of Bamboo:

  • KINGDOM: Plantae
  • PHYLUM (DIVISION): Magnoliophyta
  • CLASS: Liliopsida
  • SUBCLASS: Commelinidae
  • ORDER: Cyperales
  • FAMILY: Gramineae (Poaceae)
  • SUBFAMILY: Bambusoideae
  • TRIBE: Bambuseae
  • SUBTRIBE: bambusinae

The Class, Subclass, and Order classifications are according to Cronquist (1988). The levels below Order can vary depending on whose classification you use. The ones shown above are widely accepted. For a thorough treatment of monocots as a whole see: Dahlgren, R. et al. 1985. The Families of the Monocotyledons: structure, evolution, and taxonomy. Springer-Verlag: Berlin.