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Friday, May 04, 2007
Consider, if you will, a specied of bamboo called Phyllostachys Bambusoides. This plant blooms once every 120 years and then dies. We know from ancient Chinese records that P. bambusoides flowered in 919, and that it has flowered at roughly the rpescribed intervals ever since. In between it produces asexually by sending up shoots from undergroung rhizomes. The fact that it reproduces faithfully according to a 120 year-old clock is wonder enough. But even more curious is that all specimens of P. bambusoides, bloom together, controlled by the same clock, no matter where in the world they grow or when they sprouted. Thus, in the late sixties, the last time the plants of this species flowered, they did so simulataneously in China, Japan, England, Russia and the United States.

Bamboo is the most useful plant known to man. The Japanese alone have discovered more than 1,500 ways to use the bamboo that grows profusely in their country. The asthmatic's labored breathing can be calmed with a bamboo potion, and a bamboo salve will soothe irritated skin. Bamboo is delicate enough to be shaved into phonograph needles yet strong enough to form cables and dams. When THomas Edison was looking for a proper filament for this first electric light bulb in 1880, he tested more than 6,000 materials before settling on charred fibers from the common Japanese madake bamboo. (Remarkably, the first bulb still burns today, in the Smithsonian Institution)....

In Central America a major threat to bamboo comes from cattle grazing. After a stand has bloomed and died, the young shoots of the next generation are completely unprotected. Cattle then eat everything in the area. And you lose your bamboo.

One animal species that could wiped out by the loss of bamboo in its habitat is the giant panda of China. The panda's chief threat continues encirclement of the animal's final refuges. For the moment, however, the threat is not of man's making, but of nature's. The giant panda eats between forty and ninety pounds of bamboo a day. Approximately one-quarter of the 1,000 wild pandas of China are threatened with strvation because their favorite food, the arrow bamboo, has begun a once-in-decades flowering cycle in which the edible adult plants wither and die. It will be several years before the new plants that spawned mature.

(Source: ALMANACE OF THE ENVIRONMENT /The Ecology of Everyday Life by: Valerie Hamrs and other Audubon writers)
posted by infraternam meam @ 12:23 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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