A member of the grass family, bamboo provides the natural beauty and feel of a wood floor yet produces hardwood fiber much more quickly than trees. In fact, bamboos are some of the fastest growing plants in the world. Bamboo can shoot up several feet per day and is the tallest kind of grass in the world.
On an established plant, bamboo poles mature in about five years. The poles are then removed to allow the rest of the plant to continue to grow. Bamboo benefits from its harvest as the plant’s energy then gets redirected to grow new replacement shoots as well as to the other poles left behind. Clumping bamboo stays close to its point of origin, whereas running bamboo spreads out far and can cover a wide area.
Bamboo only blooms around once every hundred years. The shoots that originated from the same bamboo plant will all bloom at the same time, even if the shoots have been separated and moved to different parts of the world. However, once the plant creates blossoms and seeds, its lifecycle is complete and it dies.
Bamboo can survive toxic environments and its dense and extensive root system absorbs contaminants in water and soil. The use of bamboo or other plants to clean up soil, air, and water is called phytoremediation.
After the Vietnam war, extensive clear-cutting of forests was undertaken to pay for the war. As a pioneer plant, bamboo helped reclaim the land by stabilizing the soil.
Bamboo has been used as a self-renewing building material for thousands of years. In China, the origin of timber bamboo, when a house needed repair, the bamboo grown next to the house was harvested as needed. By the time new material is needed to replace old bamboo on the house, the bamboo poles growing nearby will have matured.
The long-established bamboo economy and building tradition also included everything from fishing rods, textiles, and weapons, to musical instruments, fuel, and suspension bridges. It is also still used commonly in cooking and for furniture. Because it is flexible, yet has a tensile strength greater than steel, bamboo is often used as scaffolding and there is a resurgence of interest in using it for the construction of houses.
Shifting our consumption from trees to bamboo slows the depletion of the earth's forests, giving them a chance to recover from decades of mismanagement. Sustainable harvesting methods used with such a rapidly producing plant make bamboo the ultimate renewable resource. Bamboo is versatile and can be used to make many types of products (including flooring) and, as nearly every part of the plant can be used, there is little waste leftover.
There are also native bamboos in South America and the swampy area of South Eastern North America but none are good for flooring.
See our products pages for bamboo flooring.