Odisha Bamboo Development Agency
Odisha Bamboo Development Agency


Is bamboo a tree?

No, bamboo is a grass, fast growing, and typically woody.

Are bamboo and rattan (cane) the same?

No. Rattan and bamboo belong to disparate botanical families, have different properties, and are propagated and grown in dissimilar ways. Rattan is a palm, normally a climber and solid, while bamboo is a grass, and typically a hollow cylinder. Bamboo grows easily, and very quickly. Cane is a climber, requires a secluded environment, and has long gestation periods. All of the bamboo plant, from root to culm and leaves is utilised in diverse ways. Essentially only the stem of the rattan plant is used.

How can I prevent bamboo from spreading?

Bamboo is a natural spreader since rhizomes tend to move towards nutrient sources. A simple containment method is to dig a trench, preferably at a distance of at least 3-4 metres from the core of the clump. The trench should be deep enough to thwart the spread of the rhizome, normally at least 90 cm for medium diameter species. For home gardens, polythene sheet can be used to encircle the rhizome, or a metallic barrier.

What is a bamboo shoot?

A bamboo shoot is a young culm harvested at the time, or shortly after it appears above the soil surface. At this stage it is soft enough to be eaten. Left alone, it will develop rapidly into a woody culm. Bamboo shoots are a valuable source of nutrition and fibre, and are relished all over the world.

Does bamboo grow everywhere in India?

Yes, bamboo grows naturally in every State in the country, and in every region, except the extremely hot and cold deserts, for example in Western Rajasthan and in Ladakh.

What is lucky bamboo?

'Lucky bamboo' is a popular plant, increasingly available in shops and stores. The plant is probably of West African origin. It is easy to maintain. It thrives without soil in a few inches of water, and requires only a little sunlight to grow. It is however not bamboo. It is Dracenia sanderiana, a member of the lily family.

Can I grow a bamboo hedge?

Yes, bamboo has traditionally been utilised to create screens and hedges, and even windbreaks. Bambusa multiplex is a good bamboo for hedges. It is a medium sized bamboo with closely spaced thin culms, and a very dense growth habit. It is easy to grow and maintain, and responds well to pruning.

What are the most important uses of bamboo and rattan?

Bamboo : Because of its strength, flexibility and versatility, the culms have been used mainly in housing and for other construction purposes for centuries, particularly in rural areas. Other uses of bamboo are many and varied. It is used in the making of furniture, handicrafts, basketware, matting, rayon and paper, and is used as food, fodder and fuelwood. In India, for example, much of the pulp used in making paper is from bamboo, just as it is in China. In Japan, Taiwan, China and Thailand, shoots of many species are valuable as food. Relatively few species of bamboo are, however, currently used on a commercial scale.
Rattan : The bare stem of climbing rattans, because of its strength, flexibility and uniformity, is used in the construction of cane furniture and matting of the commercial trade. Because of poor mechanical properties, relatively few species are currently used on a commercial scale. In rural areas, a larger proportion of rattan species has been used for centuries for numerous purposes such as cordage, construction, basketry, thatching, matting and the like (Source: N. Manokaran, personal communication).

How can bamboo flowering be predicted? Does bamboo die after flowering?

Flowering in bamboois a botanical enigma. The factors that switch a bamboo plant from vegetative to flowering state are not fully understood. Nearly all species of bamboo seem to have their own life histories. Some species outside of the Indian-Asian tropics, and a very few in these tropics, have populations composed of individuals that grow to maturity and then flower and seed annually for many years. The culms that flower often die after the fruit has developed but other culms and rhizomes survive and perpetuate the stand. Many of the more common Indian-Asian species have populations made up of individuals that seed synchronously at regular and long supra-annual intervals. After growing by rhizome and branch production for a species-specific period of 3-120 years, nearly all the members of one species in one area produce wind-pollinated flowers, set large quantities of seed and die. This seed germinates immediately or when the first rains come.

According to their flowering habits, there are three types of bamboo:(i) those that flower annually or nearly so, e.g., Arundinaria spp. in India and Schizostachium brachycladum inThailand; (ii) those that flower gregariously and periodically; (iii) those that flower irregularly. The flowering habit of Bambusa spp. and Dendrocalamus spp. in the tropical regions of Asia and of Phyllostachys and other genera in Japan belongs to types (ii) and (iii). P. edulis flowers sporadically, and the flowering occurs in small areas or in a few clumps. Periodical and gregarious flowering occurs in cycles; the cycles are more or less constant for a species in a given locality but differ between remote locations.




Indocalamus wightianus, Ochlandra scriptoria, O. rheedii, O. stridula


O. travancoria


Thamnocalamus spathiflorus


Dendrocalamus strictus


Thamnocalamus falconeri, Chimonobambusa falcata


Oxythenantera abyssinica, Melocanna baccifera, Bambusa arundinacea


Dendrocalamus hamiltonii


Bambusa tulda


Bambusa polymorpha


Chimonobambusa jaunsarensis


Thyrostachys oliveri


Bambusa copelandii, Pseudostachyum polymorphum


Phyllostachys bambusoides (120 years in Japan)

Although a wide range of research and discussion is going on, the flowering of bamboo is still unexplained and mysterious. There are several theories concerning the causes of flowering and death of bamboo:

  • Pathological theory, which postulates that flowering is brought on by the destruction of bamboo by organisms such as nematodes, fungi, insects and parasites
  • Periodical theory, which proposes that the cycle starts with bamboo regeneration through asexual methods (rhizome and culm elongation), reaches maturity and results in flowering
  • Mutation theory, which considers that bamboo regeneration through any methods of asexual propagation is mutation and brings about flowering of bamboos
  • Nutrition theory, which proposes that flowering and fruiting are usually the result of a physiological disturbance arising chiefly from the poor growth of the vegetative cells, brought about by an imbalance in the carbon-nitrogen ratio
  • Human theory, which states that human practices such as cutting and burning induce bamboo flowering.It is generally believed that flowering in bamboo results in death of the bamboo. Subsequent to flowering, bamboos show the following types of mortality behavior
  • Flowering does not result in the death of either aerial or underground parts, e.g., some species of Arundinaria, Phyllostachys, Bambusa atra.
  • Flowering results in complete death of aerial parts only, the rhizomes remain alive and plants regenerate, e.g., Arundina amabilis, A. simonii, Phyllostachys nidularia.
  • Flowering results in complete death of aerial and underground parts and regeneration is only possible from seeds, e.g., Melocanna bambusoides, Thyrostachys oliveri, Bambusa arundinacea, B. tulda. (Sources: Songkram Thamincha 1996. Bamboo. In: Design and Manufacture of Bamboo and Rattan Furniture, UNIDO, pp. 16-23. M.L. Sharma 1994. The Flowering of Bamboo: Fallacies and Facts. In: Bamboo in Asia and the Pacific, Technical Document GCP/RAS/134/ASB, FAO, pp. 68-70)

What diseases does bamboo suffer from?

Many bamboo species are affected by various diseases and pests. Much of the available information is from Asia. Fungi, bacteria and viruses are involved but only a few are considered serious problems. In nurseries in Asia, the major diseases are web blight caused Rhizoctonia solani, leaf rust (Dasturella divina) and foliage infection (Exserohilum spp. and Bipolaris spp.). Almost 700 insect species in China, 180 in India and 80 in Japan have been reported to be associated with attacks on bamboos.

Comprehensive information on pests and diseases has been compiled in two INBAR publications and further reading is recommended: (i) Mohanan, C. 1997. Diseases of Bamboos in Asia, and (ii) Wang, H., Varma, R.V., and Xu, T. 1998. Insect Pests of Bamboos in Asia. Both publications can be ordered from INBAR. INBAR affiliates can download both publications free of charge.

Can bamboo be used as animal fodder?

The use of bamboo leaves for ruminants, rabbits and fish (Nepal, Vietnam) has been reported. In the southern and northern Terai of Nepal, bamboo is one of the main sources of fodder for cattle and buffaloes during the winter season. In a study by P. Poudyal (J. Amer. Bamboo Society, 10(1&2), 1993), leaves of Bambusa tulda, Dendrocalamus spp. and Bambusa balcooa were analysed for various nutrients. Dry matter (DM) contents of 87-94% and crude protein (CP) contents of 12-15% were reported. As to the nutritive value for ruminants, in sacco nylon bag degradability test and in vitro gas production test were used to compare leaves from tropical trees and shrubs in Vietnam. The values for bamboo leaves were found to compare reasonably well to those of other tree leaves(Source: Brenda Keir, Nguyen Van Lai, T. R. Preston and E. R. Orskov 1997, Livestock Research for Rural Development 9(4). For the full article, please go to http://www.cipav.org.co/lrrd/lrrd9/4/bren941.htm). Culms: The in-vitro digestibility of steam-exploded bamboo culms for ruminant nutrition was found to be comparable to that of alfalfa (Source: Higuchi, T., Tanahashi, M. and Togamura, Y. 1987: Characterisation of steam-exploded bamboos for cattle feed. In: Rao, A.N., Dhanarajan, G. and Sastry, C.B. (ed.): Recent Research on Bamboo, Proc. International Bamboo Workshop Hangzhou, China).

Where can one find recipes for cooking with bamboo?

There are two main uses of bamboo in Asian cuisine. First, the hollow bamboo culms can be used as a container to prepare various dishes, imparting a subtle aroma to the food (donít try this at home without competent supervision). Secondly, edible shoots are widely used as a vegetable accompaniment to meat or fish dishes. In addition, sliced bamboo shoots are often served as appetizers, as an ingredient in salads or added to soups. Recipes in this section should appeal to both the culinarily challenged and the gourmets.

For starters, click on the links below for preparation and recipes:

http://www.wholehealthmd.com/print/view/1,1560, FO_233,00.html

The world's first cookbook with recipes featuring bamboo shoots has been published by INBAR, together with Corporate Media Services, Singapore, in 2003. To order, click here. Some recipes collected from international chefs in Beijing and contributed by Mr. Rainer Werchner.

Where can one find plans and examples of good bamboo and rattan products and designs?

The FAO document "Proceedings: A Workshop on Design and Manufacture of Bamboo and Rattan Furniture", RAS/86/048, Field Document No. 17, 1990, contains relevant information. UNIDO also has a publication: Design and Manufacture of Bamboo and Rattan Furniture, 1996, ISBN 92-1-106308-6 (available through UNIDO and amazon.com), which is based on the FAO publication mentioned before. There are a large number of examples of bamboo and rattan designs on the Internet (keywords: bamboo rattan products design); for copyright questions, designers, manufacturers and trade associations should be approached.

Is bamboo useful as a carbon sequestrator?

Bamboo sequesters at a rate of C=50% dry weight. Example: an average grove of Ph. bambusoides in Kyoto, Japan, has a carbon sequestration of approximately 3,700-4000 lbs per hectare. Bamboo has approximately the same percentage of carbon as conifer forest. A Japanese cement manufacturer has invested in Vietnam bamboo forest as a carbon credit investment. This project was begun in 1996. The size of the project is 36 hectares (Source: Karl Bareis, personal communication)

Is bamboo useful as a carbon sequestrator?

Bamboo is the single most important forest produce used by the rural communities in several countries of the Asia-Pacific region. It is also an important source of cash income for the rural poor. In Asia, the history of bamboo is so inextricably interwoven with the history of man that it could be characterized as a bamboo civilisation. Since the commodity is multipurpose and processing is labour-intensive, bamboo-based development leads to the creation of new employment opportunities and income generation, especially in rural communities and expansion of opportunities for women in the work force (Source: N. Manokaran, personal communication).

Example : Bamboo shoot production in China. A recent study (S. Kant and M. Chiu 2000, Bamboo sector reforms and the local economy of Linan County, Zhejiang Province, PRC. Forest Policy and Economics 1, 283-299) shows that income from fresh bamboo shoots benefited poor as well as rich groups and moved many households from the poorer to the richer classes. The average contribution of bamboo to farmersí income rose from 10% of total household income in the early 1980s to approximately one-third in 1996. 35% of the economic contribution of bamboo came from processing and 65% came from bamboo growing. Net financial returns and benefit-cost ratios were very attractive for bamboo shoots and the price index of bamboo shoots in 1996 was more than four times higher than that of any other land-based product (rice, tea, silk cocoon). Reasons for this were high demand as a result of economic growth, proximity to markets, complete withdrawal of state control, and availability of shoots during the Spring Festival due to the covering technology.

Are there proven propagation techniques for bamboo?

A good overview of various propagation methods, i.e., offset, rhizome, culm and branch cutting, layering, and macroproliferation methods is provided in the INBAR publication: A Manual for Vegetative Propagation of Bamboos, 1995, by Ratan Lal Banik. The publication can be ordered from INBAR. INBAR affiliates can download the publication free of charge.

Are there proven techniques to preserve bamboo for use in construction, furniture makingm etc.?

Yes. INBAR has published a compendium on bamboo preservation techniques as well as a book on traditional bamboo preservation methods in Latin America. The publications can be found here: Bamboo Preservation Compendium.

Does harvesting wild bamboo create shortages for giant pandas?

The giant pandas' fodder comes from a few bamboo species in the genus Fargesia only, i.e, Fargesia canaliculata, Fargesia denudata, Fargesia dracocephala, Fargesia emaculata, and Fargesia ferax which have not been harvested for commercial bamboo products so far. Almost all commercial bamboo material has been harvested from the forests and plantations far from the giant pandas' habitatr. Moreover, the above species are never used for commercial bamboo products because are small-sized (diameter less than 3 cm) and grow as forests' understory in remote areas. Naturally and traditionally, those bamboos are not accessible and usable for local people. The bamboo shortage for pandas in the 1980s was caused by flowering and subsequent death of Fargesia bamboo forests during the same period. However, bamboo is very sufficient for them presently. Almost all bamboo shoot and culm products consumed in China and exported are from cultivated plantations and not from natural forests. All bamboo products from China, including canned shoots, come from regions far from where the pandas live.

The Chinese government is encouraging the use of bamboo resources from bamboo plantations as a substitute for timber from natural forests because bamboo is one of the fastest growing, shortest rotation and most productive forest resources in the world. The use of more bamboo products from plantations as a substitute for timber will reduce the stress on natural forests and thus contribute to protecting the giant pandas' habitats (Source: Lou Yiping, personal communication).