About Bamboo Seeds and Bamboo Flowering

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world. It grows an average of 60 cm or 24 inches in a single day. For this reason bamboo is a very important renewable resource that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Bamboo shoots can be eaten, bamboo charcoal and bamboo vinegar makes excellent medicine for a variety of ailments, bamboo can be used in construction, bamboo can be woven, bamboo can be made into solid flooring and furniture and bamboo has for centuries been used to make blinds and shades.

Bamboo usually propagates via an underground root system. Each bamboo plant sends out roots called rhizomes that sprout new culms. Bamboo doesn’t need to be planted as it naturally spreads by itself. And because bamboo has a natural resistance to pests and pathogens it can be grown organically.

One of the most unusual aspects of the bamboo plant is that it is monocarpic. This means that it flowers only once in its life and then dies. This is not so unusual in itself but the fact that all the bamboo culms in a grove regardless of age will flower at exactly the same time is. This en masse flowering is called gregarious flowering. It is a sight to behold. It also portends famine and disease for many communities in Asia.

The reason being that each grove of will produce 50 to 100 kg of bamboo seeds. Suddenly there is an overwhelming abundance of bamboo seeds that attract a plague of rodents. The rodents devour the seeds then move on to human settlements and crops in the area. The rodents not only consume local crops they also bring with them diseases such as typhus, typhoid and bubonic plague.

Scientists remain unsure why bamboo produces all its seeds at the same time. It remains a mystery that brings hardship to many, but also reminds us that there is still so much we have yet to learn about bamboo.