Totally Useless Facts (TUF)


Totally useless facts about bamboo...

"I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance."



A waste of time?

We hope you will find some of these facts entertaining so your visit to this page will not be a complete waste of your time. The facts (?) are things we have read, heard or observed ourselves and should not be relied on as true.



In 1902 bamboo was used as the stylus or needle for phonographs.

Bamboo powered auto

Bamboo has the potential for use in the creation of a new type of auto -- one with no engine, radiator, transmission, gas tank, muffler, tail pipe, pollution or battery. The battery energy storage can be replaced by a high density super flywheel made out of bamboo. In 1974 Dr. David Rabenhorst of John Hopkins University proposed such a car. The use of the flywheel propulsion in vehicles had been in use in Switzerland and the Belgium Congo from 1953 to 1967 in public buses.

Bamboo is a grass

It was in 1815 that a German Botanist, Charles Kunth, first published his findings that the bamboos are grasses.

Atomic Bomb

In Hiroshima, Japan the only plant to survive the radiation of the1945 atomic bomb was a bamboo. The incinerating heat destroyed trees and other plant life. Everything except one bamboo grove was destroyed. The grove has since been removed, but culms from the grove are preserved in a museum in Hiroshima.

India's Bamboo

India has one of the largest reserves of bamboo with over 25 million acres in bamboo groves.

Bamboo leaves

Bamboo leaves have approximately 6% silica content.

Making square bamboo

To create the form for making square bamboo, measure the circumference of the shoot as close to the ground as possible. Divide this measurement by 4 and use this as the inside dimension of each side of the square form,

Carbon fixation

An acre of bamboo can fix approximately 25 metric tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.

Growth areas

Bamboos grow from sea level to more than14,000 feet.

Tensile strength

The tensile strength of plated bamboo cables is as strong as or stronger than a steel cable of the same size. Hemp rope loses 20% of its strength when wet while bamboo cables increase in strength by as much as 20% when wet.

Bending strength

Most nigra and bambusoides bamboos will bend with more weight before breaking than Moso.

Straightening bamboo poles

In India one method used to straighten a curved bamboo pole is to take a freshly cut pole and tie the base end to a tall limb of a tree and then tie a heavy weight to the tip end and leave hanging for several months. This will usually produce very straight poles.

A to Z

There are items made out of bamboo for every letter of the alphabet....activated charcoal to zithers.

Why does bamboo die when it flowers?

Nobody really knows why bamboo dies when it flowers; however, there are several things that occur when bamboo flowers. The year before gregarious flowering the internodes of mature culms will usually contain free water. It is assumed that the extra water is needed for the flowers as the rhizomes lose their ability to provide water to the culm when flowering.

Electric lights

In 1880 Thomas Edison filed a patent for an electric lamp device that included the following description: "Filament of carbon of high resistance, made of bamboo as described, and secured to metallic wires."

Ski poles and WWII

Ski poles used by the Army in the Second World War were made out of bamboo. Guadua from South America was the main variety used.


Bamboo beer is made from the seeds of flowering bamboo.


During WWII the US Army Quartermaster Corps used bamboo to make crates for air dropping supplies to troops in Burma. Bamboo was plentiful and strong enough to withstand the drop without breaking apart. There is an example on display in the Fort Lee US Army Quartermaster Museum just outside of Petersburg, Virginia.

Rhizome growth

The rhizomes of most Phyllostachys bamboos grow about 20 percent of their yearly growth from April to July, 50 percent in August and September and the remaining 30 percent in October.

Evil spirits

In 1961 Dr. Chamfrault and Dr. Ung Kan Sam had a formula that included 3.75 grams of tabashir (an extract of bamboo). The formula was for the treatment of people possessed by an evil spirit.

Bamboo seeds

When bamboo flowers gregariously, it can produce large quantities of seeds which are edible. They can be processed and used like any other grain.

The oldest construction?

In South America there is evidence of a bamboo dwelling built over 9,500 years ago.

The first airplanes

Because of the strength to weight ratio of bamboo it was used for some of the first airplane designs. However, due to the difficulty of joining pieces it lost out to other materials.


In South America bamboo is referred to as vegetable steel.


When bamboo flowers, flower spiklets will form in place of leaves. Once ready, the spiklets will open, usually prior to noon, and close within 1 to 3 hours depending on the temperature.

Origin of the helicopter

A toy made out of bamboo called the "dragon fly" was the origin of the modern helicopter.

Age of the culm

There is only one way to tell the age of a bamboo culm. Tag the culm the year it comes up with the date. You can guesstimate the age up to 4 years by the color change of the culm. The best way short of tagging the culm is to count the leaf scars. The older the culm, the more difficult it is to use this method.

Lots of Moso

There are over 5 million acres of Phyllostachys edulis Moso bamboo growing in China.

Bamboo grows fast

Bamboo has been measured growing more than 47 inches in a 24-hour period.

Distribution of native bamboos

All continents except Antarctica and Europe have a native bamboo. All continents except Antarctica and Europe have diamonds.

Longest bamboo suspension bridge

The longest bamboo suspension bridge was built across the Min-chiang River in China. First built over 1000 years ago, when it was damaged, ferry boats were used until 1803 when the bridge was rebuilt. The bridge was 850 feet long, 9 feet wide and supported by 10 woven bamboo cables 6 inches in diameter. In 1974 the bridge was replaced by a steel cable bridge.

The first man and woman

Ancient cultures in South America, China, the Philippines and Indonesia shared a belief that the first man and woman were created inside two different internodes of the same bamboo culm. Ever since bamboo provided food, shelter, weapons and beauty for their dependents.


Ethanol and liquid diesel can be produced using bamboo as the raw material. Diesel has been produced in South America since 1947.

Bamboo, when used as fire wood, produces more BTU per weight than hardwood and makes less ash.

Bamboo charcoal will maintain a constant heat longer than hardwood charcoal.

Power generation

Bamboo culms, either in the grove or as cut poles, will produce an electrical current when stressed (bent). This is true with both tension or compression.

Concrete reinforcement

During WWII bamboo was used as reinforcement for concrete instead of steel. Clemson University conducted research on bamboo as reinforcement for concrete until the mid 1950's.


Bamboo can produce 2 to 6 times as much cellulose per acre as pine. Pine or mixed forests increase 2 to 5 percent per year in biomass. Groves of bamboo increase 10 to 30 percent each year.

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo, sold in stores and flea markets, growing in water is NOT A BAMBOO. Botanically it is known as Dracaena sanderana.

Heavenly Bamboo, Sacred Bamboo

Nandina domestica, also known as Heavenly Bamboo and Sacred Bamboo, is NOT A BAMBOO. It is actually an evergreen shrub.

Favorite food

Bamboo is the favorite food of elephants and buffalos in India, pandas in China, giant gorillas in Africa. This is just a small list of wild and domestic animals that prefer bamboo where available.

Estimating height of bamboo

You can estimate the height of a bamboo culm without cutting it down by using the mathematical formula.
Estimated height (H) = C X 14
H = Height in feet
C = circumference in inches
14 is a constant

To increase the accuracy, cut 20 culms of a particular variety and measure the circumference at 4.5 feet and then the height and create your constant using:
Constant = Height / Circumference. If using meters and centimeters the starting constant is 60.

Culm age

When harvesting culms, the intended use determines the age of the culms to be harvested. Culms less than 30 days are for eating, those 6 months to1 year old are used for weaving. Two year old culms are best for splints and 3 year and older for construction and laminated products.

Bamboo in construction

Today bamboo is used as a construction material in countries that have large native stands of bamboo.

McClure legacy

Floyd McClure, born in 1897, spent many years in China researching, collecting and importing bamboo into the US. McClure devoted his life to bamboo and died of a heart attack at his home near Washington, DC. He had gone to his backyard and was digging a bamboo for a neighbor child. He lived and died doing what he loved most, working in and around the plant he loved. His wife found his spade still in the ground ready to remove the bamboo division he was digging.

Gun powder

The development of gun powder in China included the silicious skin of bamboo in addition to many other ingredients.

The first in the US

Phyllostachys aurea 'Golden Bamboo' was the first recorded temperate bamboo introduced into the US.

The origin of the name

No one knows for sure how bamboo became bamboo. There are two primary speculations. One is that the origin is from the ancient Indian name for bamboo, "mambu". The other speculation is that it is Malayan in origin and comes from the sound bamboo makes when it burns. "Bam-Boom". When bamboo is heated the air in the sealed internode chambers will expand and cause an explosive bam-boom sound. Regardless of the orgin of the name "bamboo," I am personally thankful that it doesn't have a Latin name.


The first successful flight of a powered dirigible had a super structure made of bamboo. It was 82 feet long and 11 feet in diameter. Its first flight was in 1898.