For those who do not know, Bamboo is an evergreen perennial plant from the grass family. The only reason that it is referred to as a ‘bamboo tree’ is because it can grow as tall as a regular tree can.
There are two different types of bamboo ‘tree’, they are ‘running’ and ‘clumping’. In this article, we will examine each variety and assess what makes it grow so quickly, why bamboo trees grow so fast, and who knows, we might just throw in a few fun facts for good measure.
Table of Contents
What is bamboo?
Bamboo is a fast-growing grass with a hollow stem. Not only that, but it actually holds the Guinness World Record for fastest growing plant! It is native to many countries and most continents with humid and tropical climates, including Asia (most notably China), Australia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America. There are (as of this moment) 1436 species of bamboo in the world, and each of them have the same growing and flowering season.
Some scientists attribute this to an evolutionary “alarm clock” because the plant will flower regardless of the environmental conditions it is put under. The bamboo plant is widely used by humans: from making food to furniture to floors. However, it is also a big food source for many animals, like pandas (obviously), lemurs, gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and caterpillars, so it is a versatile and widely used plant. But how can it grow so fast?
What makes bamboo grow?
Bamboo plants create their growing cells whilst they are young, however, the cells don’t split apart, instead, they stretch, and because they are filled with water, they can expand very quickly. This is common for grass, all you need to see the proof of this is to leave your grass to grow in a mix of wet and dry conditions; it will spring up super-quick!
A bamboo plant is kind of like a Slinky. It looks small when you first see it, but when you stretch it out, you’d be surprised how far it goes. In fact, some species of bamboo plants are said to be able to grow up to one metre per day!
There are two different types of bamboo, and each variety can grow in different ways; here is how:
Typically, a running bamboo variety will grow up to 5 feet within a year, considered moderately fast by a bamboo tree’s standards. Depending on the variety of running bamboo, you may see a tree nearly 80 feet tall at its peak. Running bamboos contain leptomorph rhizome system, in which their rhizomes don’t turn up. Rather they become new rhizomes or canes after the lateral buds have developed. This variety usually grows in hardiness zones 5 to 11.
As opposed to running bamboo, clumping bamboo does not grow nearly as fast; an easy way to remember is that something that is ‘running’ is going to be fast, and clumping suggests a more slow and steady growth.
Unlike leptomorph rhizomes, pachymorphs stimulate the development of canes and buds turning upward. What also makes them different from running varieties is that they only grow as tall as 10 to 15 feet. On average, the height is between 1 and 3 feet a year. Since it’s also non-invasive, this is an ideal type to plant around home gardens.
In addition, there are only 40 clumping bamboo species, while there are over 100 running bamboo varieties.
It should be known that there is another rhizome system present in bamboo known as the amphimorph rhizome system, and this is a mix of clumping and running, but only three bamboos are known to have this rhizome system so far.
5 Fun Facts About Bamboo
Not so much related to their growth, but we think that a couple of facts about bamboo would be a fun way to break things up a little, so enjoy these 5 crazy bamboo facts:
- Bamboo was the only plant to survive the radiation of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima
- Thomas Edison used bamboo filaments in his first light bulbs. One of those bulbs is still burning today at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
- More than 1 billion people around the world live in bamboo houses.
- Bamboo has a stronger structure than steel and is widely used in construction.
- Bamboo crops absorb carbon dioxide and can generate up to 35% more oxygen than the same amount trees.
Remember, just because we have given a ballpark growth figure above does not mean that this is definitely how fast a bamboo tree will grow. A range of important factors come into play, particularly if you are looking after one yourself, and they are care and maintenance, the amount of space the tree has to spread and grow, and edging, where you cut back some of the rhizomes that are expanding.
With that in mind, yes, bamboo does have the potential to grow rapidly. However, it depends on the type of bamboo, the conditions the tree is exposed to, and how well it is looked after, by either yourself or by nature.
Golden Bamboo – mature height 35 feet; grows more slowly in cooler climates. Silverstripe Bamboo – one of the few clumping bamboos that grows fast. Pygmy Bamboo – only 12 inches tall, but still spreads very fast.
Bamboo has been recorded as growing 35 inches, or almost three feet per day! Other types, like Moso bamboo, can grow up to 47 inches in 24 hours. Bamboo grows so quickly because when it’s young, the bamboo bud already has all the cells it needs.
To grow bamboo plants in northern climates, you need to find one of the cold-hardy bamboo plants. Some kinds will survive winter as far north as USDA cold-hardiness zone 5.
Bamboos prefer a soil pH that is slightly acidic (with a pH reading of about 6). In terms of soil texture, bamboo plants prefer soil that is loamy. To stimulate growth in the plants, apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen.
Planting Plant during spring. Prepare the seeds. Plant the seeds in plastic seedling containers. Transplant seedlings after 3 to 4 months. When transplanting them to your yard, space bamboo 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1 1/2 m) apart.