Growing Bamboo on the Peninsula

Atlanta Zoo Panda

When I lived in Georgia, I grew the bamboo plant. The Atlanta Zoo had pandas to view for a short time, loaning them from China. Bamboo green shoots are the main food source for Panda in the wild.
Bamboo is grown all over the world, spread from Asia, where in China the bamboo plant was used for making papyrus-type parchment paper and the shoots were cut and sharpened to make pens dipped in ink for writing – as long ago as 7,000 years. Bamboo is used for many things – furniture, flutes, and garden stakes – and even home building.

Bamboo is a perennial evergreen plant whose biologic family is Poaceae, the true grass species. Its subfamily name of Bambusoideae comes from the word describing the plant given ages ago. No other plant grows as quickly as the bamboo, in some species, it has been recorded to grow 39 inches in a 24-hour period. If you plant bamboo in the spring, by June they will be full grown.
Bamboo is not only used as building material, in South Asia, South East Asia, and East Asia, but it is also an important food source for the young green shoots are eaten as vegetables – often used in oriental salads and other vegetable dishes.
Bamboo can be found in hot tropical climates or cold mountain climates, the latter type being the main food staple of the Panda bear. Although the bamboo can be found in
Northern Australia, it is not growing there naturally for it was brought in from elsewhere. Europeans also brought in to add to there gardens and can be found there, but there are no native species.
Recently, bamboo is being grown in the Great Lakes region, where the Door Peninsula is located off Lake Michigan in Wisconsin for commercial purposes. US species are usually the Henon and Moso variety of bamboo. i
 Growth rate depends upon the soil and climate conditions, as well as what species it is.The largest timber bamboo can grow to
98-feet tall and its diameter being 6- to 8-inches. Some species only grow several inches high when mature. Typically, bamboo grows, in the
United States, to heights of 15- to 40-feet. The emerge from the ground at their full diameter and will grow to mature height in one
growing season. In climate zones 5 and 6, bamboo will defoliate and lose all above-ground growth; but when spring comes there will be new
shoots. The bamboo makes a large animal barrier. In Georgia, they are used for sun screens in yards. Heavy winds will damage bamboo, so it doesn’t do well for a wind screen, unless it is on the edge of wind screen trees. But beware: if they are not planted in containment,
they will spread and it is not easy to thin them out for their roots are strong.
Bamboo live for a long period of time – from 45 years to 120 years, (130 years recorded as oldest) depending upon the species. They will not die until they flower and the stock you planted will flower at the same time, which means that all of the bamboo planted long ago will disappear. It is a mystery why the bamboo plant does this, a biological clock that promotes flowering and creating seed for new plants and then dies after such long periods of time. The flowers turn to pods filled with seeds and a new
generation of bamboo is born.
To harvest bamboo you cut the stalks when mature and then lean it against something, raised off the ground, to allow the sugar sap to be consumed by existing leaves. You
can also run water through the “culm” to remove the sap, but this is a commercial method that uses a special injection of material to preserve the bamboo. Drying must be done slowly to prevent cracking the outer skin. Depending upon how well cultivated, bamboo can be used for construction, especially when preserved with varnish, like
Spar Varnish used for marine applications.

The shoots of the bamboo when green and soft (new culms coming out of the ground) are edible. However, the giant bamboo (Cathariostachys
) found in Madagascar contain cyanide; and while the native golden bamboo lemur can eat it without any affects, it
will kill humans and other mammals. Poisonous species of bamboo plants must be leached or boiled before eating safely.

Bamboo culm shoots are made into several food dishes, cooked with potatoes or served with rice and in some places, bamboo is pickled using the pith from the young shoots. The sap from young stalks are tapped during the rainy season and fermented to make a sweet wine or made into a soft drink. Bamboo leaves are used for wrappers, like grape leaves in the Mediterranean, for steamed dumplings or filled with rice. Pickled whole bamboo shoots are cooked with black-eyed beans and is a delicacy in Nepal. Cooking food inside large bamboo stalks is
supposed to enhance the flavor.
In the area of herbal medicine, bamboo is also useful, used in ancient Chinese traditional medicine for treating infections and help the healing process.
Here is a trivia concerning bamboo … Mountain gorillas of Africa enjoy eating bamboo and it has been documented that they consume bamboo sap which has fermented and
. Gorillas get drunk. ii 

I will plant incense bamboo (withstands -15-degrees) and try yellow bamboo as well.

If you decide to start a bamboo section in your garden, it will outlive you. Remember that it is an invasive plant and the runner-root system will
quickly spread. Use planting containers with the bottoms cut out and this will keep them contained in the area you want them to be.
For my experimentation with gardening bamboo here at the Peninsula, I am going to start with a contained area to see if I can successfully
produce a garden that will survive normal winters here.
There are excellent videos and information at the “e-How” websiteSee also Growing Bamboo in Season 4.

McDill, Stephen. “MS Business Journal”. MS Business Journal. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
ii  “Gorillas get drunk on bamboo sap”. 23 March 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2009.