Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last reviewed:December 2019
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The common name of various perennial, ornamental grasses in the family Gramineae (Poaceae). There are approximately 90 genera of bamboo, with more than 1200 species. They have a wide distribution, but occur mainly in tropical and subtropical parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas, extending from sea level to an elevation of 4570 m (15,000 ft). Their greatest development occurs in the monsoon regions of Asia. Bamboo plants grow very rapidly. From the jointed rhizome, numerous straight, usually erect, stems arise (see illustration), which at their full height produce dense masses of horizontal branches. The giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus), the largest known grass, attains a height of 36.5 m (120 ft) and a diameter of 20–30 cm (8–12 in.). Most plants are woody, though a few are herbaceous or climbing. The economic uses of bamboo are numerous and varied. The seeds and young shoots are used as food and the leaves make excellent fodder for cattle. Stems in varying sizes are used for pipes, timber, masts, bows, furniture, bridges, cooking vessels, buckets, wickerwork, paper pulp, cordage and weaving. Entire houses are made of bamboo stems. Certain bamboos have been naturalized in the United States, especially in California, Louisiana and Florida. See also: Cyperales; Grass crops; Grassland ecosystem; Stem
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