Where in the world
China and Japan are the natural homes of many of the bamboos. Others come from the Andes and Himalayas. Plants from these regions are hardy enough to withstand Britain’s low winter temperatures. The greatest diversity of bamboos occurs in the tropics, particularly in the lowlands of Central and South America and in South-East Asia. Many bamboos inhabit forests and woodlands, particularly around the edges where they find the light shade and ample moisture that they appreciate. Others form dense impenetrable stands in areas that have been cleared of vegetation; in parts of Japan, Sasa ramosa covers some of the mountain tops.
A diet of bamboo
Chewing their way ceaselessly through some 20 kg of shoots, stems and leaves every day, giant pandas feed almost entirely on bamboos. The bamboos they relish, including Fargesia murieliae (which grows in Kew's Bamboo Garden), form thickets on mountain slopes in Central China. Just 1200 pandas still survive and these are under threat from clearance of their habitat. They also face starvation when their food source periodically dies out. Occasionally one of the species they eat comes into flower simultaneously over a wide area and then dies. If there are no other suitable species available, the pandas are left short of food.