It may grow as big as a tree, but bamboos are a type of grass. Like other grasses, their leaves are long and narrow, and their stalks are hollow. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant that grows on land. Some kinds can grow as much as three feet per day.
Clump or run?
Bamboos grow underground stems called rhizomes. New stalks sprout from the rhizomes. Some kinds of bamboo have short, thick rhizomes. These bamboos grow in big clumps, and they are called “clumping” bamboo. Other bamboos have long rhizomes that sprout farther from the parent. We call this kind “running” bamboo.
Bamboos provide timber and material for suspension bridges and skyscraper scaffolding. People use bamboo to make musical instruments, furniture, paper, food, medicine, and fuel. Thomas Edison even used bamboo to make a filament for a light bulb!
Food for many
At the San Diego Zoo, we grow lots of bamboo. You may know that giant pandas eat bamboo. So do the red pandas and the takins. Bamboo is part of the diet of elephants and gorillas, too. We also grow it to give us shade, and because it is lovely. Our living collection includes more than 60 different kinds of bamboo.