Bamboos are giant, woody grasses which offer full length, full diameter, naturally pre-finished, ready-to-use culms (sometimes also called stems or canes) each year. A single bamboo clump can produce up to 15 kilometres of usable culm (up to 30 cm in diameter) in its lifetime. Bamboo is the most diverse group of plants in the grass family, and the most primitive sub-family. It can be easily distinguished by woody culms, complex branching, a generally robust rhizome system and infrequent flowering.
It has a temperate, tropical and subtropical distribution, ranging from 46 N to 47S latitude, reaching elevations as high as 4,000 meters in the Himalayas and parts of China. Bamboo is very adaptable, with some species being deciduous and others evergreen. The taxonomy and understanding of bamboo continues to evolve, though the general consensus seems to be that bamboo numbers between 60 and 90 genera with 1,100 to 1,500 species.
Described as the “wood of the poor” (India), “friend of the people” (China) and “brother” (Vietnam), bamboo is a wonder plant that grows over wide areas of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. A billion people depend on this plant for their livelihood -- every day.
As an integral feature of the culture and memory of societies over time, its historical significance lends to the existence of a veritable Bamboo Age.