A Cane the World Can Lean On - New York Times: "July 5, 2007
In the Garden
A Cane the World Can Lean On
By ANNE RAVER
Mount Vernon, Wash.
BAMBOO is a versatile, ancient plant that shows up in creation myths as well as in pots on Manhattan terraces. It comes in clumping varieties that behave themselves and running “timber” types that spread by rhizomes — great for a grove, but not so good when they are planted as a property screen that escapes into a neighbor’s yard.
But it’s that very vigor that has environmentalists hailing bamboo as the new “It” plant for saving the earth.
Bamboo is a workhorse at sequestering carbon dioxide and pumping out oxygen. It is a tough plant that manufactures its own antibacterial compounds and can thrive without pesticides. And its porous fibers make a cloth that breathes and is as soft as silk. In fact, there is such a stampede of fabric designers to China and Japan, where it is farmed and processed — no such industry exists in the United States — that in its May issue, National Geographic predicted that “this upstart fabric may someday compete with King Cotton.”
Yet as the world clamors for more, bamboo is in short supply. A plant that generally flowers only every 60 to 120 years and then dies is hard to propagate from seed."