Tag Archives: bamboo forest

Bamboo and anions

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsAfter the fabulous bamboo lunch one fine weekend in Chiba, the diner owner suggested we visit a bamboo forest nearby. He said a doctor from a local private hospital recommends that his patients take a wander through a bamboo forest, particularly those who cannot get a positive diagnosis for their ills. The negative ions, anions, produced in a bamboo forest are said to be beneficial for health. It is a very popular notion in Taiwan too. For example, the Lemidi Hotel at Xitou, Taiwan, uses the nearby bamboo forest as a selling point:

The hotel is rich in anion as high as 7,000 units and can help metabolism, elimination of fatigue, soothe and calm emotions; the anions and rhythm of pleasure result in the most valuable medicine. While you are at it, you will feel more youthful and marvel at the wonders of the nature!

anions, negative ions, bambo o anionsThe bamboo forest at Damyang certainly makes a big deal about it too. At the small stone cottage that serves as the ticket office, there is a large LED display to tell the freshly arrived, among other things, the temperature, the humidity, and the anion measurement. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now anions are crossing my radar in the most surprising places and products. A quick Google search reveals websites extolling the virtues of the anions present in bamboo charcoal for bed sheets, sanitary pads, yarn, health-caring quilts, bamboo charcoal soap…. and that’s just the first page.

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsWe walked in a bamboo forest after our marvellous bamboo lunch, as recommended by the owner of the roadside diner. It is a lovely place, beside a small established dam. This bamboo forest lacked the crowds and well-trodden paths of Juknokwon and Arashiyama. It was an abandoned commercial forest by the look of it. There were a few decrepit shacks, an old kiln, and a general atmosphere of damp decay.

anions, negative ions, bamboo anionsOn arriving at our next stop I noticed a slight squelchy feeling between my toes. Thinking there was some mud there, shoes were removed for inspection. Not mud. Leeches, from the bamboo forest.

The forsaken outhouse, pictured on the left, now features its own built-in bamboo hand-rail, for assisting that rise from the squat.

Damyang Bamboo Museum

TheBM lift doors bamboo museum at Damyang is quite a treat for anyone with more than a passing interest in the uses of bamboo. One room is dedicated to an exhibit about how bamboo grows, but the museum concentrates on displays that cover every imaginable use of bamboo, and then some. Even the lift doors have a bamboo motif.

Many of the displays, unfortunately for me, remain a mystery, as the museum provides very little interpretation in English. Given the number of other native English speakers I saw during my visit (none), this is hardly surprising.

One whole room is devoted to photos, graphics, and written information about the production and benefits of bamboo salt. But that’s all I can tell you about it really, as only Korean is used for interpretation. I’m sure it’s fascinating.

bamboo museumThere are several souvenir shops attached to the museum. Each one offers a slightly different range of bamboo products. They all smell wonderful – like freshly dried bamboo, a grassy, woody, friendly, comforting kind of scent.

The bamboo museum sits among gardens, nurseries, sculptures, and, of course, its own little bamboo forest.bamboo museum Bamboo museum Bamboo museum

I’ve got stacks more photos of displays within the museum, but inserting photos into the blog using a 7 in. tablet is testing my patience unnecessarily. I am on holiday, after all.

bamboo charcoal, bamboo museumThe bamboo museum in Damyang is short walk from the bus station and a very long walk from the bamboo forest. From Gwangju, a good base to visit Damyang, take local bus 311 from outside the Gwangju bus terminal. Where else might you see a bamboo charcoal dividing wall?

Juknokwon – the bamboo forest, Damyang

As you climb up the stone stairs at the entrance of Juk-nok-won, relax and feel the breeze blow among trees and refresh your tired body and soul. Walking in the bamboo woods, with the crisp sound of bamboo leaves and sunlight spreading over you, is an uplifting feeling. (From the official brochure).

bamboo forestBamboo swaying gently in the breeze, broad paths to stroll along, small pagodas for resting… It all sounds peaceful and idyllic. The bamboo forest at Damyang is beautiful, but peaceful it is not.

The day I visited the bamboo forest there was quite a crowd. Yes, there was a major festival in full swing beside the forest, but a bloke playing music with an amplifier (not bamboo) to promote his CDs? It was really loud. And the music was a bizarre Korean interpretation of old-style Western crooner-type songs.

bamboo forestWhen I did get far enough away from him to be comfortable, I spotted a pagoda through the bamboo and went over for a short rest. There were some old women sitting about. I thought they were resting too. No. They were exercising. To music, of course.

And, similarly to Taiwan, people like to stroll around in nature carrying, and sharing with everyone, all manner of music. No, there is not enough noise in the world – we need to make more.

bamboo forest

Where else might you find a traditional house with an electric massage chair?

There are lots of birds inside the forest. In between the family groups, the girls in high heels, the lovers, and the sharers of music, there are small pockets of peace. Within these pockets, birds can be heard. By standing still, the birds can be seen too, hopping around in the bamboo leaf litter that covers the ground, flitting from culm to culm.

It’s all too brief though.

Fresh bamboo & clear spirit

bamboo festivalFresh bamboo & clear spirit is the slogan for the 16th Damyang Bamboo Festival. The festival is planned to run over four days from June 27 to 30, from 10 in the morning to 10 at night – if you happen to be in South Korea on those dates. I will be.

The festival schedule is now posted. There seems to be something for everyone, although not necessarily related to bamboo. A multicultural joint wedding, throwing bean bag game, and a Flash Mob are just a few events planned for the main stage. Hopefully this means I’m in for a very local event.

While the stage events are not really that tempting for me, the activities, exhibits, and stores are. Damyang is the centre of the South Korean bamboo universe. That alone is reason enough for me to go. But wait, there’s more: a bamboo museum; a bamboo theme park; a bamboo park; and hot baths perfumed with bamboo. Plus, another bonus, the province in which Damyang is located, Jeollanam-do, is especially famous for food. What better place than a local festival to sample great local food and delicacies?

You can reasonable expect to hear more about bamboo in South Korea over the next month or so. I’m also visiting Kyoto, another centre for bamboo craft (and food and hot baths).


Democratising Bamboo

The International Bamboo Conclave is on this weekend (22-23 Feb, 2014). Lucky you if you’re in Bangalore (India). Head out to the University of Agricultural Sciences.

The gathering provides a forum to promote bamboo for integrated development. There are technical sessions and an exhibition of products. Experts have gathered to discuss policy issues, innovative technologies, its use in buildings, furniture, handicrafts and other cottage industries, skill development in the bamboo sector, and global trends.

India is the second largest producer of bamboo in the world, next to China. India has 128 bamboo species belonging to 18 genera. They make up 12.8 per cent of the total forest area in India.

democratic bambooThe conclave brings to light why growing bamboo makes socio-economic sense. Architect and member of the Bamboo Society of India, Neelam Manjunath says “housing for the poor should be seriously thought over, as bamboo can be the best substitute to concrete. It can replace 70 per cent of steel and wood used in construction, and bring down the costs by nearly 40 per cent.”

For all the potential benefits, India lags in utilising bamboo. Apparently it all started with the British calling it the ‘poor man’s timber.’ Current government policies are not helping either. Bamboo is classified as timber in many states and permits are needed to harvest it. The Indian Forest Act effectively provides the forest department a monopoly over bamboo and creates opportunities for corruption and harassment.

Bamboo has the potential to generate economic wealth – sustainable and equitable development. Imagine if bamboo was put in the hands of the local people? To grow, to harvest and to add value? People determining and influencing their own future? Sounds democratic to me. What do you think?


Bamboo for carbon sequestration

bamboo carbon sequestrationAt first blush, growing plantations of bamboo to sequester carbon dioxide for climate change mitigation seems like a very practical idea. Bamboo grows rapidly; it stores large amounts of carbon; the leaf litter contributes to carbon storage in the soil; and products from harvested bamboo still store carbon.

Of course, nothing is simple and there is some controversy surrounding the use of bamboo for carbon sequestration. One sticking point is the short life span of bamboo. Liese maintains that bamboo doesn’t live long enough to be effective as carbon sink. When the bamboo dies naturally, is burnt, or decomposes, the carbon is released. Natural decomposition is further increased by the gregarious flowering phenomenon.1

While it is established that bamboo does not sequesterbamboo carbon sequestration more carbon than any other tree species, and the underground rhizome is no larger than the root systems found in woody trees,2 bamboos can sequester more carbon when they are regularly managed and harvested.3,4

Even when bamboo is harvested and used to make things, key to establishing how long carbon can be stored is the durability of products made with it. Untreated bamboo is very vulnerable to attack and destruction from insects and fungi. Treated bamboo however, such as bamboo used to make houses, floorboards, and roofing are much more durable and a long life could be reasonably expected.

Düking suggests that carbon storage in bamboo can be approached in one of three ways: “(1) carbon storage in the ecosystem of a bamboo stand, (2) carbon storage in bamboo products, or, (3) sustainable bamboo stands as protection of old natural forests”.This, of course, presents particular challenges in carbon accounting.

bamboo carbon sequestrationCalculating the amount of carbon sequestered in bamboo bio-mass was a sticking point in the development of bamboo forests for carbon sequestration, until recently. An accounting method specifically for bamboo was developed by INBAR and a Chinese partner. This methodology is now approved in China and Chinese companies can now buy carbon offsets from local bamboo plantations.

In a future post, I plan to explore this topic further. Do you have any experience with bamboo carbon sequestration?


  1. Liese, W. (2009): Carbon fixation by bamboo: fact or fiction. In: Proceedings of the 8th World Bamboo Congress, Bangkok, 2009 Sept. 16 – 19, Vol (3), 71- 77.
  2. Midmore, D.J. (2009): Bamboo in the global and Australian contexts. In: Proceedings of Workshop “Silvicultural management of bamboo in the Philippines and Australia for shoots and timber”, ACIAR, pp14.
  3. INBAR. http://www.inbar.int/2012/11/bamboo-a-new-approach-to-carbon-credits-2/
  4.  Kuehl, Y., Li, Y., & Henley, G. (2013). Impacts of selective harvest on the carbon sequestration potential in Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens) plantations. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods22(1), 1-18.
  5.  Düking, R., Gielis, J., & Liese, W. (2011). Carbon flux and carbon stock in a bamboo stand and their relevance for mitigating climate change. J Am Bamboo Soc24(1), 1-7.

Bamboo flowering

bamboo flowering, bamboo

Bamboo flowers

The phenomena of bamboo flowering is shrouded in myth and misconceptions. After news items about from two different countries about flowering bamboo appeared in the past two months, I decided to research the issue further. Here is what I learned:

Most bamboo does not flower often. There are three different flowering patterns for bamboo: annual, sporadic, and gregarious. Which pattern is followed is determined by the bamboo species.


Very few species of bamboo flower annually. The seed from annually flowering bamboo is rarely viable.


Sporadic flowering occurs irregularly and is usually confined to a certain geographic area.


Most of the 1,500+ species of bamboo flower gregariously. The timing is regular. Depending on the species, it may be once every 20 to 120 years. All the plants within a particular species across the world will flower, usually within a year. Many of the plants will die.

bamboo flower, bamboo flowering, bambooThe consequences of mass bamboo flowering can be disastrous for local populations of people too. From Wikipedia:

The death of the bamboo plants following their fruiting means the local people lose their building material, and the large increase in bamboo fruit leads to a rapid increase in rodent populations. As the number of rodents increases, they consume all available food, including grain fields and stored food, sometimes leading to famine. These rats can also carry dangerous diseases, such as typhus, typhoid, and bubonic plague, which can reach epidemic proportions as the rodents increase in number.

The reasons so much bamboo dies after gregarious flowering episodes are unknown. There are theories, of course. Two dominate.

  1. The bamboo expends so much energy in the flowering that stress kills the plants.
  2. The parent plant is creating an optimal environment for the seedlings to survive by freeing up light and water resources.

Bamboo culms age prematurely during the flowering process. They become brittle and are not suitable for building or crafting. If you observe an impending flowering event, you might consider harvesting the bamboo beforehand.

Has any of your bamboo flowered?