In many places, bamboos provide versatile raw materials that meet most of people’s daily needs for housing and furnishings, for tools, hunting weapons and utensils, for fuel and even for food. On an industrial scale, they are the source of timber for construction, ranging from scaffolding to the rods in reinforced concrete. Paper and cardboard made from pulped bamboo stems are becoming more widespread. Even soft textiles made from bamboo fibre have recently become available. Among the more diverse uses in the past are as light bulb filaments, record needles and pipes in oil drilling. Living bamboos have their uses as hedging, for soil stabilisation and as ever more popular ornamental plants.
Bamboos at home
Sturdy bamboo canes are ideal for house frameworks, with walls formed from panels of woven split bamboo and attached using bamboo pegs. The hollow canes can also be used as gutters and pipes. Roofs are made from bamboo shingles or leaf thatch. Split bamboos can also be woven into flooring mats, window blinds, containers and fans.
Bamboos on a plate
Young bamboo shoots are harvested as a vegetable and eaten either cooked or pickled. In China and Japan, Phyllostachys heterocycla (also known as Phyllostachys pubescens or P. edulis) is the most popular source of bamboo shoots, but some species require careful preparation as they release lethal quantities of cyanide when cut. Food wrappings are made from the broad leaves of Sasa palmata forma nebulosa).
From drums to didgeridoos and from wind chimes to fiddles, bamboo instruments make music around the world. Among the wind instruments are the Japanese shakuhachi flute, made from Phyllostachys bambusoides, and panpipes from various species in the South American Andes. One species of bamboo has even been named for the instrument made from it – the Madagascan valiha is a stringed tube zither traditionally made from the bamboo Valiha diffusa.