Have you seen bamboo flowers or seeds? I have never thought I live near a bamboo forest. I was amazed when I heard bamboo is a flowering plant it has an edible seed. Moreover, there were a lot of intriguing facts about bamboo as I followed the quest for bamboo flowers and seeds.

Intriguing Bamboo Facts! Do Bamboo bear flowers and seeds?

When we imagine bamboo, we never imagine a plant with flowers. Most of us just think of something tall without thickness. We used to give a nickname to some of our friends ‘bamboo’, just because they were tall without the width of a regular guy. I for one never imagined a flowering plant while thinking of bamboo and don’t think anyone does.

Intriguing facts about bamboo

Bamboo plants lie in a category of grass and are monocotyledon (having only one embryonic leaf in their seed) plants. There are nearly 1000 species of bamboo found in the world. They are tall and thin, this feature is what makes them recognizable. They have high tensile strength which has made them good building equipment. So, they are widely used in making a hut, furniture, etc.

Bamboo plants have a lifetime of 40 – 80 years depending on the type. They reproduce themselves by vegetative propagation rather than seeding and all. Giant bamboos are the tallest among the grass family. They have very speedy growth and some can grow 91 centimeters per day i.e. 379 millimeters per hour (approximately 0.00004 km/hr or 0.00002 mph), this is the Guinness World Record for the fastest growing plant.

Bamboo flowers and seeds

Bamboo does bear flowers and fruits but they are rare. Some bamboo bear flowers once in a lifetime and they die after that whereas some bear flowers in the span of decades or simply, infrequently. A special species of bamboo bears flower in the span of 130 years and regardless of the climate, bamboo at different places produce flowers at once, as if they have some sort of connection.

The flowering of bamboo occurs in mass, all the bamboo at a location produce flowers at once. After they produce a flower, they bear seeds known as bamboo rice. This type of infrequent seed production due to every plant at a place at once resulting from the infrequent flowering is called mast seeding.

Generally, this mast crop lasts one or more years. This seed is a source of food for people as well as rodents since it is much more nutritious than rice and wheat. The longevity of the mast crop gives enough time for rodents and other bamboo seed lovers to thrive. This has a greater effect on the ecosystem.

There are several hypotheses that attempt to explain such a gap in seeding and flowering. The only thing that sounds logical is the reason for enormous seeding in the interval so long, it’s just because enormous seeding helps them to sustain their life, they would extinct otherwise.

Bamboo flower – a bad omen!

In the Indian subcontinent, the mass flowering of bamboo is considered a bad omen. Mass flowering of bamboo is followed by the mass production of bamboo seeds. The seeds can fill the ground 5-6 inches in depth below the parent plant. Since these seeds are nutritious, the rodents love them. This induces multiplication in the number of rats!

When the bamboo seeds are exhausted, the rats plague the neighborhood. Due to this sowing, any other seeds is impossible and it might bring famine followed by different epidemics.

Not only rats, but this mast seeding can also result in the multiplication of birds too. So that the consumption of other seeds after the exhaustion of bamboo seeds can introduce famine. These things are supported by different incidents around the globe. So, believing it is a bad omen is somewhat meaningful if we observe it logically.

So, Bamboos are amazing long living flowering plant bearing a nutritious seed, with infrequent seeding and a lot of other intriguing facts.

Ashwin Khadka is a PhD Scholar in Nano Energy and Thermofluid Lab in Korea University, Republic of Korea under Korean Government Scholarship Program. He has a Masters Degree in Physics from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer.