PNG images: Bamboo

The bamboos are evergreen perennial flowering plants in the subfamily Bambusoideae of the grass family Poaceae. In bamboo, as in other grasses, the internodal regions of the stem are usually hollow and the vascular bundles in the cross section are scattered throughout the stem instead of in a cylindrical arrangement. The dicotyledonous woody xylem is also absent. The absence of secondary growth wood causes the stems of monocots, including the palms and large bamboos, to be columnar rather than tapering.

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Bamboos include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Certain species of bamboo can grow 91 cm (36 in) within a 24-hour period, at a rate of almost 4 cm (1.6 in) an hour (a growth around 1 mm every 90 seconds, or 1 inch every 40 minutes). Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product. Bamboo has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel.

The word bamboo comes from the Kannada term bambu, which was introduced to English through Indonesian and Malay.

Most bamboo species are native to warm and moist tropical and warm temperate climates. However, many species are found in diverse climates, ranging from hot tropical regions to cool mountainous regions and highland cloud forests. In the Asia-Pacific region they occur across East Asia, from 50 °N latitude in Sakhalin south to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. China, Japan, Korea, India, and Australia, all have several endemic populations. They also occur in small numbers in sub-Saharan Africa, confined to tropical areas, from southern Senegal in the north to southern Mozambique and Madagascar in the south. In the Americas, bamboo has a native range from 47 °S in southern Argentina and the beech forests of central Chile, through the South American tropical rainforests, to the Andes in Ecuador near 4,300 m (14,000 ft). Bamboo is also native through Central America and Mexico, northward into the Southeastern United States. Canada and continental Europe are not known to have any native species of bamboo. As garden plants, many species grow readily outside these ranges, including most of Europe and the United States.

Recently, some attempts have been made to grow bamboo on a commercial basis in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, especially in Rwanda. In the United States, several companies are growing, harvesting, and distributing species such as Phyllostachys nigra (Henon) and Phyllostachys edulis (Moso).

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