What is bamboo?

February 12, 2024
Wat is bamboe
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The bamboo plant is a type of grass with a hard hollow stem that stays green all year round. There are hundreds to thousands of bamboo species that grow in different places all over the world. In addition, bamboo is a useful multi-purpose product. But what kind of plant is bamboo actually? Below is a brief explanation about the biology of the bamboo plant, the bamboo leaves and what the difference is between bamboo and cotton.

Bamboo plant

Bamboo plants have various characteristics that characterize the bamboo as a bamboo plant. All bamboo species have hard, woody hollow stems and are classified as evergreen grasses. Bamboo also has only one growing season. This means that no matter what happens, bamboo stands upright all year round and stays green, so the old stems - also known as old stalks - do not need to be cut. Unlike ferns, for example, which lose their leaves in winter and whose stems need to be cut after winter.

Bamboo plant

Bamboo is flexible

In addition, bamboo is flexible compared to other plant species. This is advantageous when the bamboo is used as a fence in the garden, for example. But also when building constructions, the flexibility of bamboo is a plus: in both cases, the flexibility ensures that the bamboo will last longer. It is therefore not without reason that in everyday life people sometimes refer to the proverbial saying 'to be as flexible as bamboo'.

Bamboo species

There are different types of bamboo plants that can be divided into two categories: the invasive and the non-invasive bamboo plants. The invasive bamboo plant - also known as sympodial bamboo - grows vertically and has multiple underground runners spread over a large piece of land. Due to the vertically spreading rhizomes, it can happen that a bamboo forest has completely originated from just one underground bamboo rootstock.

The non-invasive bamboo plant - also known as the monopodial bamboo - on the other hand, grows horizontally deeper into the ground and concentrates on one spot. The rootstocks grow into new stalks and do not come far from the old stems out of the ground. Because this type of bamboo concentrates on one spot, this bamboo plant is suitable as a houseplant or for in the garden or on the balcony. In that case, the bamboo plant can serve as a partition of the space, to create height or to cover a wall. Finally, these two categories of bamboo plants can be divided into a thousand different types of bamboo.

In the month of May, most bamboo species are in full growth. This can be recognized by the young shoots - also known as bamboo shoots - that come out of the ground everywhere. It is therefore important that in this growing season the bamboo plant gets extra water during prolonged drought. In some cases, these bamboo shoots are edible, and then spring is also the right time to start harvesting. Read more about how fast bamboo grows.

Bamboo leaves

Spring is also the time when new leaves come out and the old leaves are gently pushed away. The bamboo plant has an annual leaf change, which means that bamboo offers natural privacy in all seasons of the year. In the optimal climate, bamboo should never be without leaves. Read more about pruning bamboo.

Bamboo leaves

Bamboo leaf cycle

The bamboo leaves grow at the end of the bamboo stems and they have a special life cycle. The new leaf - also known as lye - arises in the spring as a small bamboo shoot behind the existing leaf. The small sprout grows to the length of a leaf and gently unrolls. At the end of this process, the existing foliage is shed by the plant. The change is gradual and can go unnoticed unless it is closely monitored.

The leaf undergoes a natural aging during the annual leaf cycle. Soil condition, the type and the weather can cause the leaf to also show slightly different color shades. Leaves at the end of the cycles become more susceptible to bacteria, fungus and even scale insect infections. These are natural phenomena and mechanisms that are generally not transferred to the new foliage.

As soon as the old foliage has fallen, it is wise to let the leaf lie. The leaves have several useful functions to fulfill in the bamboo forests. The leaves contain a lot of silica and bamboo gets its strength from silica. Bamboo leaves are like a natural fertilizer that helps the growth of the plant in future years. The decomposition of the leaves and the release of nutrients usually occurs within a year after the foliage has fallen. The foliage is also useful to suppress competing growth of the roots in the ground.

Use of bamboo leaves

Bamboo leaves are used in various ways because they are rich in fibers, proteins and silica. As a result, bamboo can be used in tea, beer, medicinal remedies, aromatherapy and essential oils. Because the bamboo leaves are protein rich, it can also be used as livestock feed. The current consumer products including paper and textiles mainly focus on the bamboo stalks. As a result, the leaves are sometimes overlooked, while they can be used in various beneficial ways.

Which is better: bamboo or cotton?

Bamboo is increasingly used as a replacement material. Not only is bamboo used as a replacement material for wood and plastic, for example, but bamboo can also be made into textiles. Bamboo textiles are often referred to as more sustainable and therefore better than cotton production. This is partly true, but not entirely. In the last few paragraphs we will go into this: which is more sustainable, cotton or bamboo?

Bamboo or cotton

Cotton production

Cotton is the most well-known type of textile and is in everyone's wardrobe. In cotton production, pesticides or artificial fertilizers are often used to grow, making the plant stronger. However, this does break down the chemicals, resulting in weak material that is easily damaged. A solution to this is to manufacture organic cotton. Due to the absence of harmful chemicals, clothing or other textiles made of organic cotton therefore last longer without tears or holes. In addition, cotton is easy to maintain because the fabric does not require special washing practices.

In cotton production, the cotton goes through a machine that separates the fibers from the seeds and other residues, so they can be spun into yarn. This yarn can then be woven or prepared into fabric. After production, the final product is prepared for the next customer by bleaching/dyeing/printing/etc.

Bamboo production

Bamboo, on the other hand, is a regenerating plant, which means that the plant does not need to be replanted every year to produce. The bamboo plant also uses only one third of the water that the cotton plant uses and it can grow in different types of climate. The plant also has thicker and stronger fibers, making it a durable fabric. A bamboo fiber can absorb a lot of moisture, which means less dye is needed for coloring. On top of that, it is also an anti-allergic fabric and very soft. Bamboo textiles also have antimicrobial properties, which prevent unpleasant odors and help reduce the bacteria that settle in clothing.

Chemical production

Ultimately, there are two ways to process bamboo textiles: chemically and mechanically. When chemicals are used, the bamboo is boiled and then bleached several times. The bamboo fibers for making bamboo textile products are often processed chemically. This is the "boiling" of the bamboo where strong chemical agents are used such as sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, combined with multiple phases of bleaching. It is then hardened again with a sulfuric acid solution, after which a fiber can be made from it. In addition, the chemical agents are not recycled and are therefore often discharged into the water.

Mechanical production

When the bamboo plant is processed in a mechanical way, the stems are crushed and a pulpy heap is created with the help of naturally dissolving enzymes. After this, all intact fibers are combed out of the remaining "slurry" and spun into yarn. The same process is also used for linen, flax and hemp. Bamboi also has a similar production process, where no yarn is spun, but paper is printed. The bamboo is then washed in caustic soda, but this is a natural substance and 100% biodegradable. It is important to mention that the production process of Bamboi bamboo toilet paper is different from the chemical production process of bamboo textiles.

In short, bamboo is a versatile plant that can be used for various purposes. The bamboo plant stays green all year round and is very flexible. The leaves grow from the stems of the bamboo plant, which bring multiple health benefits and due to the high protein content can also serve as livestock feed. Finally, bamboo production differs greatly from cotton production. Provided that bamboo production is carried out mechanically, and that is also the case with Bamboi toilet paper, it can be concluded that bamboo production is more sustainable than cotton production.

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Bamboi toilet paper
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