Exhibit Displays Versatility of Bamboo
By Hank Becker
June 10, 1997
Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on
earth, shooting up as much as 3 feet in a single day. As the only woody group
of the grass family, bamboo also has other unique characteristics, both as a
plant and as a fiber.
An exhibit at the U.S.
National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., highlights bamboo's amazing
versatility. "Bamboo: Art and Fact" features the arboretums
unique collection of handmade bamboo objects ranging from hair combs and
cricket cages to food graters and scissors. The exhibit continues until Sept.
30 at the arboretum's Mary E. Mrose International Pavilion of the
Bonsai and Penjing Museum.
The arboretum is part of USDAs
Agricultural Research Service. The exhibits artifacts were acquired
mostly between 1929 and 1935 by scientists collecting bamboo in China and Japan
for establishment and study.
Although bamboo is a woody grass, you can't cut it with a lawnmower. Nor is
it advisable to wait for bamboo to flower to collect its seed; that could take
up to 60 years. When the rare flowering does occur, entire bamboo groves do so
simultaneously, then plants die. New shoots--called culms--sprout from the seed
and from underground stems or rhizomes.
Bamboo likes warm climates. Most species are native to tropical Asia. Some
are colossal, growing to 130 feet high with 1-foot-thick stems.
ARS has one of the world's largest
collections of bamboo germplasm in
Aside from the unusual items shown in the exhibit, bamboo is used in many
common products: plant stakes, baskets, window shades and leaf rakes, to name a
few examples. In Asia, a broader range of goods from bamboo is commonplace,
including industrial materials such as fiber for plywood and pulp for paper.
The U.S. National Arboretum, located at 3501 New York Avenue, NE,
Washington, D.C., is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except
Christmas Day. Admission is free.
Scientific contact: Janet G. Walker, ARS U.S. National Arboretum,
Washington, D.C., phone (202) 245-4532, firstname.lastname@example.org.