Champions of growth
Each of us associates wheat, rye, barley and other grain crops with the word “cereals”. It is unlikely that many know that one of the family of these undersized, squat plants is a fifty-meter tree with a powerful slender trunk in one or even two girths. We are talking about a plant of tropical and subtropical forests - bamboo.
In Europe, bamboo has become famous since the campaigns of Alexander the Great to India. Warriors of the famous commander were struck by the spectacle of previously unseen bamboo forests. Having visited China in 1615, a Jesuit missionary wrote that the Chinese use cane (bamboo) as solid as iron for 600 household needs.
In our country, bamboo began to be cultivated only 60–70 years ago. First they imported it from Southern and Western Europe, and subsequently several species of it were brought to our country by the Krasnov botanical expedition from their homeland, East Asia, and they acclimatized well with us. In the Soviet Union, there are now about 50 species of bamboo, among which the tallest reach 20 meters in height with a stalk thickness of up to 15 centimeters.
Real green tunnels form thickets of this tree grass along the roads on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, reminiscent of the golden-green walls of giant straws. In addition to the Caucasus, bamboo grows here, although not so successfully, on the coast of Crimea, in the decorative plantings of parks from Feodosiya to Yevpatoriya. More often than others there is a gray-green bamboo, reaching a height of 12 meters. The bamboo of castillon grown in the Nikitsky Botanical Garden is especially original in decorativeness. Muscovites, Leningraders, Kievans, residents of other cities of our country can get acquainted with these interesting plants in the greenhouses of their botanical gardens.
With wheat, rye, and bamboo barley, the same type of fruit, called the weevil in botany, is related in kind to the structure of flowers and straw stalks. True, straws in bamboo are not even wheat or rye, and besides, they are different in size, shape and even color. Some are only up to a meter high and are just a finger thick; others can compete in size with large forest trees.
The cross section of bamboo straw, depending on the type of bamboo, is round, oval, multifaceted and even square. The color of the trunks in most species is bluish-gray (up to 1 year), then green (up to 2 years), and in mature plants, it is predominantly golden yellow, less often dark brown or black. In general, the structure of bamboo straw is no different from straws of wheat, rye or other well-known cereals. Like other cereals, it is evenly divided by transverse partitions-nodes, and its internodes are always hollow.
Hollow stems of bamboo have long been used by man in the manufacture of vessels, peculiar bamboo pipes and other products. But the woodpecker does not comprehend the nature of its stems. Each time, tapping the trunk and smelling hollow, he begins to busily hammer the trunk in search of prey. Such a useless work for a woodpecker is especially harmful to a person, since he (a woodpecker) renders many valuable bamboo trunks unusable.
© Michele Buzzi
About 600 species of bamboo plants are described in nature, united by botanists in almost 50 genera. It is not surprising that in such a large family there are dwarf bushes along with giants.
The most characteristic feature of most species of bamboo is their unusually rapid growth. The ability of this cereal to continuously conquer new territories is also interesting. Bamboo easily overcomes ditches specially dug to protect its plantations, crosses deep streams and channels along the bottom, and passes through many difficult obstacles.
Some types of bamboo grow in the spring, others in the fall and, unlike other types of plants, not only during the day, but also at night. In spring and autumn, you can even hear how this cereal grows in deep silence at night. The energy of its growth is so significant that the appearance of shoots on the surface of the soil is accompanied by a kind of dull noise, screeching, and sometimes a loud crack. Nothing can be an obstacle for young, thinly pointed shoots of bamboo, easily piercing the hardest soil and asphalt, shifting stones to the side, piercing through thick boards and even logs.
In the Caucasus, there are bamboo trees that can rise by 3 centimeters per hour, and by 75 centimeters per day. The director of one of the Adjarian state farms, Tengiz Mamudovich Dzhinchiradze, believes that this is not bamboo, but money grows from the earth at the speed of several tens of centimeters per day: the bamboo moso that is grown here brings 40 kopecks per meter to his household.
In the homeland, for example, in Vietnam, bamboo often grows by almost 2 meters per day. In this regard, many funny stories are told. The hero of one such popular joke is an unlucky hunter. He wandered for a long time in search of prey and, weary, fell asleep in a bamboo grove. Waking up from a premonition of trouble, the hunter saw a huge tiger in front of him, and by that time the gun that had been carelessly left on the ground was uplifted several meters upwards by the bamboo shoot that crawled out of the ground.
How to explain such unusual properties of bamboo?
It turns out that he grows with all his many internodes at the same time. Even in the kidney, its shoot-trunk is fully formed and as if reduced to hundreds and thousands of times. The growing shoot is as if stretched by each fold-internode, like harmonica fur, and with unprecedented speed throughout the flora reaches the size of a large tree. Interestingly, of all the internodes of the shoot-trunk, the lowest ones, the ones closest to the roots, grow most quickly. The internodes located near the top of the stem, apparently smaller and not primarily provided with nutrients, grow much more slowly.
It may seem unbelievable that bamboo grows only 30-45 days throughout its life, and in fact it often lives up to 100 years. During these 30–45 days, bamboo reaches its maximum height, after which its growth stops and the intensive formation of lanceolate light green leaves begins.
© Casey Yee
The flowering of bamboo passes in a peculiar way: it happens only once in his entire life. The synchronization of the process is especially interesting for all individuals of the bamboo forest: no matter how many bamboo trees grow, they, as if obeying the command of a certain magician, bloom at the same time. However, the duration of flowering in different types of bamboo is not the same: some bloom one summer, others for two or three seasons, and some species 9 years. As soon as the flowering is over and the fruits ripen, the whole bamboo forest, like ripe breads, completes its life cycle.
Most types of bamboo are very demanding on moisture and especially on heat. The slightest cooling, lowering the temperature a little below zero is fatal for them. That is why bamboo grows in vivo, mainly in the tropics and subtropics of East Asia, Africa and America. Among the species of bamboo there are also those that can easily tolerate 20-degree or even 40-degree frosts. These are, as a rule, small plants, which include the record for frost resistance among bamboo relatives - dwarf bamboos, or sases. They are found in Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, where they often form vast dense thickets. However, sases grow in the southern steppe regions of Moldova, the Kuban and Ukraine.
Another biological property of bamboos is interesting: their spiky shoots, which appeared from the soil, have the thickness of a fully mature plant and keep it unchanged throughout the entire life cycle.
A young, unripened bamboo trunk also has a curious feature, which once again confirms that this tree belongs to cereal, grassy plants. Despite the considerable thickness, you can easily, with one stroke of the knife, cut off its thick fleshy stalk. And try to defeat a mature trunk! It is not only impossible to cut it with a knife, but even the sharpest saw is not easy to cut.
© Byungjoon Kim
The first acquaintance with the bamboo forest leaves an unusual impression. It is cool and dark on the hottest day, like in the evening twilight. By the end of the day, when the humidity in the subtropics rises significantly, bamboo intensely releases water. Water droplets quickly and densely cover its leaves, branches, shoots. A light blow of the wind is enough, and from the burdened plants real rain falls.
Bamboo wood combines extraordinary strength with extremely light weight, amazing resistance to decay with a beautiful appearance. Enter the first hut of the Vietnamese village and you will see that the frame and piles on which it is located consist of thick bamboo trunks, the walls and floor are woven from its bark, and the roof is covered with bamboo leaves.
“Actually, when describing such a house,” says the Soviet journalist Heinrich Borovik, who visited Vietnam, “you can not use the word“ bamboo ”. Literally, everything here is made of bamboo: small and deep rice bowls, shoulder baskets, fishing nets, sieves, mats, smoking pipes, buckets, glasses and many, many other household items. During the construction of the hut, not a single metal nail is used. All components are connected by a flexible outer layer of the plant. Bamboo is exceptionally strong, lightweight, grows fast and, most importantly, almost does not rot. Great stuff! ”
From bamboo stems you can quickly make many valuable household products. It is enough to cut down a tall thin bamboo trunk, to cut off the top with a crown, and in front of you is a finished, even polished mast or column; punch or burn through partitions in its joints, joints, and at your service an excellent pipe; cut the barrel into pieces, and you have at your disposal pans, buckets, glasses, pots, bowls and other utensils. If you cut off a whole internode with two intact partitions in the nodes, it remains only to drill a hole from above, and the barrel is ready. Splitting it in half, we immediately get two small troughs.
© Byungjoon Kim
Therefore, residents of Southeast Asia appreciate bamboo in the same way, and they also make edged weapons from it: knives, daggers, spades, protect villages from animals and enemies with a bamboo picket fence masked in the grass. The art of carving, which is highly developed among these peoples, is also associated with bamboo.
Finally, the young shoots of bamboo, and in some species also the roots and seeds go into food, replacing vegetables (for example, asparagus), from which delicious oriental treats achar and asia are prepared. From the stems, sweet juice is extracted, which is boiled and bamboo sugar is obtained. From the bamboo fibers, the Chinese get excellent silk paper. From bamboo make lanterns, musical instruments, rafts. By the way, in Asian Venice, as Bangkok is often called the capital of Thailand, whole streets of houses rest on bamboo rafts.
Performs bamboo and the role of a kind of firearm. With the burning of its fresh stems, sharp and loud sounds, like gun shots, are heard. This property has long been used by the population to scare away animals. From the thin bamboo trunks, the natives make primitive air rifles, from which they shoot poisoned arrows at game.
Bamboo wood is also extremely widely used in countries where it does not grow. Comfortable furniture, excellent paper, and even high-quality needles for phonograph records are made from imported wood. Bamboo goes to the fence, the construction of light bridges, the production of numerous items of sports equipment. In modern construction, bamboo is also successfully used as reinforcement for concrete structures.
Bamboo is brought by a close cousin of our reeds, which often forms vast thickets, especially in the floodplains and estuaries of the Volga, Dnieper, Danube.
Used on materials:
- S. I. Ivchenko - Book about trees