Is Bamboo a Tree or a Grass?


If you have seen a bamboo, you might have been impressed by how tall it grows and how it bends and sways in the wind. Because of its unusual appearance, you might have also wondered if it is a tree or grass. To provide an answer to this question, we have shared an in-depth discussion about bamboo below.

Is bamboo a tree or a grass? Bamboo belongs to the Poaceae or Gramineae family, which is also known as grasses. It is one of the fastest developing genuine grasses of its class. Of all grasses, it is the largest and the only one that can diversify into a forest.

Is bamboo a tree? What are the characteristics of bamboo? Can you grow bamboo at home? Is it illegal to cut down bamboo? In this article, we will discuss the difference between a tree and grass to know where bamboo belongs. We will also discuss the different uses of bamboo. Let’s get started!

Is bamboo a tree or a grass
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Why Bamboo is Not a Tree?

Unlike trees, bamboo does not have barks. Instead, they have protective leaves that surround their stems or culm during their prime stages of growth. Bamboo does not have a secondary growth cambium or the tree sapling’s think trunk that grows wider as the tree grows taller. Moreover, bamboo has a unique growth plan as compared to trees. They grow from the ground instead of the top. Bamboo is also more active in photosynthesis than trees.

Bamboo is usually confused as a tree because it can extend up to about 100 feet tall. Many of the larger species are very tree-like in appearance and are often referred to as “bamboo trees”. However, bamboo is 100 percent grass. As a matter of fact, it is the largest and tallest member of the grass genus.

Does Bamboo Count as Trees?

Bamboo is not a tree. It does not have the vascular cambium layer and meristem cells at the top of the culm like a tree do. Bamboo does not increase in height or in diameter. A single bamboo culm can reach full height in just one growing season. Then, it persists for many years, gradually increasing the number of side branches, but never growing taller or broader.

Why is Bamboo a Grass?

Bamboo has the characteristics of grass. To help you understand more about these characteristics, let us delve deeper into this grass family.

Pseudospikelets

This describes some extensive collections of grasses. Some bamboo form pseudospikelets by increasing the scale-like formations at the center of the spikelet. They are considered to be leaves. Pseudospikelets are a collection of the spikelet formations that grow from the buds and are attached by glume-like pire bracts.

Bracteate

A bract is a modified leaf that connects with a reproductive formation such as flowers. They are often different from leaves because they may be bigger, smaller, of a diverse form, shade, or composition.

Photosynthesis

Bamboo uses a method of photosynthesis called C4. It is photosynthesis that is executed by every grass. C4 indicates the number of carbon particles that can be found in our food that is produced.

Blade

This is the major component of a grass leaf. Grass leaves are normally thin and long, with lateral edges. In some cases, the grass leaf is in the form of an oval. The blades can be smaller than one centimeter or less than five meters for giant bamboos.

Where Does Bamboo Grow?

Bamboos are native to Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, and North America. All continents except Europe and Antarctica have bamboo. They also thrive in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America, even as far as Central China and Patagonia.

In forests, bamboo is naturally found as secondary vegetation, but in some cases, they are the dominant vegetation. In northeast India, bamboo covers thousands of square kilometers of bamboo as well as on the mountainsides of eastern Africa. We have also shared this article that discusses why bamboo grows so fast. You can check out the article for an in-depth discussion about the topic.

Is Cutting Down Bamboo Illegal?

Cutting down of bamboo can be illegal or not illegal depending on your location. Some countries prohibit the cutting of bamboo without a permit from the government. In some places, like the US, bamboo is considered a nonnative invasive plant and there are no laws against eliminating it. Before you plan on cutting down bamboo, make sure to check with your local government regarding the rules and regulations.

Is It Illegal to Grow Bamboo in the US?

Certain varieties of bamboo are listed as invasive and would make the cultivation of certain types of bamboo illegal in the US. Steps should be taken to control the unruly spread of fast-growing grass. All species of leptomorph bamboos or commonly known as spreading or running bamboo should be removed from nurseries and all private properties. These species of bamboo are not allowed to be grown in containers.

Why You Shouldn’t Plant Bamboo in Your Yard?

Certain types of bamboos are invasive plants and should not be cultivated. Aside from that, the hardness and rapid growth of the bamboo can be problematic for most yards. They need enough space to grow. Below are the reasons why you should not plant bamboo in your yard.

They are Invasive Plants

Many spreading species of bamboo are considered invasive exotic plants that can threaten biodiversity. It can be complicated to contain the spread of bamboo which makes it hard to maintain especially in your yard. You need to constantly watch out for escaping shots to prevent them from spreading.

Can be a Nuisance to Your Neighbors

Bamboo is used to create a privacy screen around the yard. However, some bamboo can grow more than three feet per day and can spread quickly into your neighbor’s yard. They grow faster when they are near irrigated lawns or low-lying areas that collect water. Rather than adding privacy to your yard, you could end up at war with your neighbor by planting bamboo.

May Need Herbicide

Bamboo is hard to maintain and you might need chemical herbicides to control them. This can be an issue if you have an organic garden. Some herbicides are also dangerous and should not be used near bodies of water.

Hard to Eliminate

It takes time and effort to remove unwanted bamboo from your yard, especially if it has reached many feet. You need to remove the root mass which is easier said than done. In some cases, the shoots keep coming back no matter how much you dig. Learn how to burn bamboo properly by reading this guide to burning bamboo article that we have shared.

The Right Bamboo is Hard to Find

Most of the bamboo species are invasive and can spread quickly. It is hard to find the right species of bamboo that you can plant in your garden. Moreover, it can be hard to differentiate between the types of bamboo, and others are even mislabeled.

Video – Bamboo Takes Over Yard

The Columbus Dispatch shared the video below on YouTube. In the video, a Worthington homeowner details her struggle with a neighbor’s bamboo. Watch the video below to learn the problems that she had encountered with bamboo.

Does Bamboo Regrow When Cut?

A bamboo shoot turns into a cane by growing at the tip. When you cut the tip off, the cane will stop growing any taller. However, this will not stop the entire clump of bamboo to grow. If you kill a single shoot, more will grow from the ground to replace it. This makes it a renewable source. Bamboo has an extensive root system and as long as it is not over-harvested, it will grow new shoots.

How Does Bamboo Grow?

Bamboo shoots stretch and expands into a fresh culm. Branches and leaves will sprout from the nodes of the current culm. The leaves from the adult culms also fall and develop into new leaves. The shooting season for most bamboo species usually takes place throughout the spring season during the early summer.

Benefits of Bamboo

Being a renewable source, bamboo has many benefits. Not only does it helps stop erosion, but it is also used by manufacturers in many products for being environmentally friendly.

  • It is the fastest growing plant on earth.
  • It helps prevent soil erosion during heavy rains.
  • Some bamboo varieties can absorb up to 12 tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide for every hectare.
  • It produces products like vinegar, beer, and juice.
  • It can be used in many ways.

Bamboo Uses

Bamboo is used in many ways. It is used for building materials, raw products, and as a food source. Like wood, bamboo is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio that is useful when it comes to building structures. Bamboo is also used as accessories, furniture, medicine, and textiles. Aside from using bamboo as a raw material for making paper, it is also a good choice for making recyclable and biodegradable products like toilet paper, combs, toothbrushes, even nappies. You can also check out this article that we have written titled, do you put a pillowcase on a bamboo pillow? Read the article to learn more about this bamboo product.

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed if bamboo is a tree or grass. The composition of bamboo is similar to grass. It is considered the largest grass that can diversify into a forest. We have also learned that planting specific varieties of bamboo is illegal because they are fast spreaders and considered to be invasive. Moreover, bamboo is also used as a raw material to create structures and other hygienic items. They are sustainable and renewable sources that help the planet.

We hope that the information that we have shared in this article has helped you learn more about bamboo. Next time you think of planting bamboo in your yard, make sure that you check the species so that you will not violate any laws. Also, be prepared to maintain and contain the growth of the bamboo. Thank you for reading!

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