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Bamboo forest in Kyoto, Japan
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Bambusoideae
Supertribe: Bambusodae
Tribe: Bambuseae
Kunth ex Dumort.
Around 91 genera and 1,000 species

Bamboo is a name for more than one thousand species of giant grasses. There are about 91 different genera. All bamboos have wood-like stems. Bamboo mainly grows in Africa, America and in Asia but can easily grow in Europe.

Bamboo grows in clumps (although running varieties exist.) and can be up to 40 metres (130 feet). David Farrelly, in his book The Book of Bamboo, says that bamboo has been measured to grow 1.21 meter (47.6 inches) in a 24-hour period. However, most bamboos (used for gardening) will grow more like 3 cm to 5 cm (1-2 inches)a day.

Almost all species of bamboo have hollow stems divided into nodes or joints. The stem can be up to 30 cm (a foot) in diameter. Each of the node has one side bud. Not all of those buds develop into branches, but some do. This makes bamboo one of the few grasses that have a branch structure. Bamboo rarely flowers. Some species only flower once, and then die off. The distance of two joints in a bamboo is the basis of a traditional Japanese unit of measurement, shaku.


Bamboo is used to make lots of things and is a construction material. The stems of larger trees are used to build houses, bridges, and other things that have to be constructed such as boat and wickerwork. It can be used for scaffolding. Bamboo is an easy construction material that is not too expensive.

Bamboo shoots can also be used as human food. Bamboo shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) are usually cooked before being eaten. Most temperate bamboos can be eaten without cooking if they are not too bitter. As some may contain cyanogens, cooking is better. The only Phyllostachys known to have potentially toxic concentrations of cyanogens is Ph. heterocycla pubescens.