Guadua, Guadua angustifolia

Guadua is a moderate to very large species of thorny clumping bamboo in the Neotropics genus. The physical size of the Guadua angustifolia makes it the largest Neotropic bamboo. This genus is similar to Bambusa and is sometimes classified in the Bambusa category.

This bamboo is intensely dominant in the Amazon basin and the Orinoco basin. Typically, it grows in low altitudes below 1,640 yards, but has been discovered in higher altitudes of up to 2,700 yards. Lowland tropical and lower-montane forest, savannas, Cerrados, gallery forest and disturbed inter-Andean valley vegetation, supply a suitable habitat for this plant to thrive.

Because the bamboo has a sturdy quality, it is a utilized widely in housing construction along the inter-Andean rivers of Columbia and in the coastal regions of Ecuador for both the rich and poor. It is highly valued architecturally because its diameter is consistent in diameter for 16 yards and gradually tapers upward into an elegant point. Unfortunately, most of the large tropical rain forests and their biodiversity have disappeared, and millions of square miles of these lands have been converted into pastures and croplands. While this “vegetable steel” can be harvested in natural forests, the risk of over-exploitation leads to the reduction of natural resources. Thus, in order to support the large-scale use of bamboo in South America, it has become priority to establish new nurseries and plantations in addition to close management of natural bamboo forests and groves.

Tropical bamboo can be spread simply with cutting or by covering complete culms with soil. New plants will sprout the following year. Or, bamboo can be reproduced more quickly by the so-called chusquin method. Under this method, new plants are produced when cutting culms at ground level during harvest causes many small delicate shoots to sprout up around the original plant. This is an effective method for large-scale forests or farm cooperatives. Since bamboo is grass, harvesting down to the soil encourages new shoots to materialize, just like turf grass. Uniquely, this phenomenon is not known in tropical hardwood forests.

Newer methods have been developed using tissue culture to help expedite the growing process. In one square meter of laboratory space, scientists can produce a sufficient amount of new growth that will aid in the establishment of one hectare (10,000 sq mi) of new forest. These new plants can be easily transported in a one-half-cubic-meter box. Six years after planting bamboo can be harvested. This is another reason bamboo should be one of the leaders in tropical biomass production.

Guadua is environmentally beneficial for its ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more effectively than most other tropical forest plants, based on studies supported by Columbia and conducted by the Environmental Bamboo Foundation. Other countries, like Japan and the Netherlands, have undertaken substantial forestation projects as a way of attaining so-called “carbon credits” to counteract industrial pollution.

Recent studies have produced new information about the numerous benefits and advantages of bamboo. German Fire Authorities tested Bamboo and approved it for building material. Using a preservation technique, deterioration can be prevented for as long as a normal lifetime or longer. This technique utilizes smoke without the use of toxins to treat the bamboo. Another benefit of bamboo is its ability to resist earthquake. Reports in Colombia and Coast Rica of houses built of bamboo in the 1930s survived after earthquakes, while modern houses collapsed. The root system of Bamboo also serves as an excellent watershed protector. Studies are also considering that Bamboo may be a verifiable alternative fuel for energy because of its high levels of BTUs.

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