Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Tree Talk: Among fastest growing plant, grass bamboo can give stiff competition to tree

It thrives in tropical climates and on all types of soils, needs regular water and normal garden fertiliser

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor |
August 28, 2016 3:49:47 am
A bamboo tree in Chandigarh. A bamboo tree in Chandigarh.

The bamboo plant has always caught one’s fascination – be it the tiny shoots in a glass bottle sold at traffic light points and market places or the beautiful furniture made from it.

The bamboo’s versatile nature seldom fails to impress one. Now a favourite with the eco-friendly architects and builders throughout the world, bamboo is a grass that can give the mighty trees a stiff competition.

One can catch Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s works with bamboo to understand the tensile nature and comprehensive strength of this natural material. One of the fastest growing plants in the world – some can grow up to three feet in 24 hours – the bamboo (Bambuseae) belongs to the Poaceae plant family of grass plants.

Because it can shoot up to 100 feet, it is often mistaken as a tree. Interestingly, its roots are in Kannada, from where the term bambu comes.

In Chandigarh, giant walls of bamboo greet one at the entrance of the Children’s Traffic Park, kiosks and gazebos made of bamboo are an artistic addition in the Sector 24 park and the Japanese Garden in Sector 31.

According to landscapist Dipali Handa and interior designer Anshu Anand, bamboo makes for great outdoor, garden, balcony furniture. “They are so easy to grow and maintain and once treated, can be made into lovely pieces of furniture,” said Anand.

The bamboo thrives in tropical climates and on all types of soils. It needs regular water and normal garden fertiliser. But one has to keep grooming and pruning it for it can grow at a rapid speed and can turn into a nuisance too.

Architect Rohan Khurana added how it is best for light-weight structures, for boundary walls, fencing and partitions. Here, one gets the green and gold bamboo, and it can be harvested after three years of planting it.

Apart from its economic value, the bamboos hold an important place in the cultural and mythological worlds of people, especially in South East Asia.

Where its tall, graceful, simple, straight nature and long life makes it a Chinese symbol of uprightness, Indians consider it a symbol of friendship. In Japan, Shinto shrines are often surrounded by a bamboo forest, as it is considered a ‘sacred barrier against evil’. Even Buddhist temples have bamboo groves.

It has an important place in the world of food – culinary cuisines, in medicines and other useful items like staffs, arrows, scrolls and utensils.

How can we forget the love giant pandas of China have for the bamboo shoots, stem and leaves. For red panda of Nepal, bamboo lemurs of Madagascar, even chimpanzees and elephants – the bamboo is a feast. In fact, the Mountain gorillas of African feed on bamboo sap, which is fermented and alcoholic.

Although it is stronger than wood, concrete and steel, the bamboo has its downside too. You see, it flowers once in 65 to 120 years, and so the flowers are regarded as symbols of impending ‘doom’ or famine.

In the archives of Tehelka magazine (2006, Nitin A Gokhale), is an impressive article on how the bamboo flowers, Mautam, led to a famine in 1959-60 in Mizoram and “resulted in an armed uprising by the Mizo National Front that lasted for 20 years”.

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