employed species plant feet china
BAMBOO, a genus (Bambusa) of arbore: cent grasses very generally distributed throughout the tropical lands of the globe, but found and cultivated especially in India, China, and the East Indian Archipelago. There is a large number of species enumerated ; but, as is the case with most plants under cultivation, much difficulty is found in distinguishing species from varieties produced by artificial selection. Bambusa arundinacea is the species most commonly referred to. It is a tree-like plant, rising to a height of 40, 60, or even 80 feet, with a hollow stem, shining as if varnished. The stem is extremely slender, not exceeding the thickness of 5 inches in some which are 50 feet high, and in others reaching 15 or 18 inches in diameter. The whole is divided into joints or septa called knots or internodes, the intervals between which in the case of some of the larger stems is several feet. These joints or divisions are formed by the crossing of the vascular bundles of fibres. They produce alternate lateral buds, which form small alternate branchlets springing from the base to the top, and, together with the narrow-pointed leaves issuing from them, give the plant an elegant feathered appearance as it waves in the wind. The rapidity of its growth is surprising. It attains its full height in a few months, and Mr Fortune records the observation of a growth of from 2 to 2 feet in a single day. In Malabar it is said to bear fruit when fifteen years old, and then to die.
The bamboo is cultivated with great care in regular plantations by the Chinese. The plant is propagated• by shoots or suckers deposited in pits 18 inches or 2 feet deep at the close of autumn or the beginning of winter. Various expedients are followed to obtain good bamboos ; one of the most usual being to take a vigorous root and transplant it, leaving only four or five inches above the joint next the ground. The cavity is then filled with a mixture of horse-litter and sulphur. According to the vigour of the root, the shoots 'will be more or less numerous; they are destroyed at an early stage during three successive years ; and those springing in the fourth resemble the parent tree. The uses to which all the parts and products of the bamboo are applied in Oriental countries are almost endless. The soft and succulent shoots, when just beginning to spring, are cut over and served up at table like asparagus. Like that vegetable, also, they are earthed over to keep them longer fit for consumption; and they afford a continuous supply during the whole year, though it is more abundant in autumn. They are also salted and eaten with rice, prepared in the form of pickles, or candied and preserved in sugar. As the plant grows older, a species of fluid is secreted in the hollow joints, in which a concrete substance, highly valued in the East for its medicinal qualities, called tabaxir or tabascheer, is gradually developed. This substance, which has been found to be a purely siliceous concretion, is possessed of peculiar optical properties. As a medicinal. agent the bamboo is almost or entirely inert, and it has never been received into the European materia medica. A decoction of the leaves of the plant is, however, employed in the East for pectoral affections, and the leaf-buds are said to be diuretic. The grains of the bamboo are available for food, and the Chinese have a proverb that it produces seed more abundantly in years when the rice crop fails, which means, probably, that in times of dearth the natives look more after such a source of food. The Hindus eat it mixed with honey as a delicacy, equal quantities being put into a hollow joint, coated externally with clay, and thus roasted over a fire. It is, however, the stem of the bamboo which is applied to the greatest variety of uses. Joints of sufficient size form water buckets ; smaller ones are used as bottles, and among the Dyaks of Borneo they are employed as cooking vessels. Bamboo is extensively used as a timber wood, and houses are frequently made entirely out of the products of the plant ; complete sections of the stem form posts or columns ; split up, it serves for floors or rafters ; and, interwoven in lattice-work, it is employed for the sides of rooms, admitting light and air. The roof is sometimes of bamboo solely, and when split, which is accomplished with the greatest ease, it can be formed into laths or planks. It is employed in shipping of all kinds ; some of the strongest plants are selected for masts of boats of moderate size, and the masts of larger vessels are sometimes formed by the union of several bamboos built up and joined together.
The bamboo is employed in the construction of all kinds of agricultural and dumestieimplements, and in the materials and implements required in fishery. Bows are made of it by the union of two pieces with many bands ; and, the septa being bored out and the lengths joined together, it is employed, as we use leaden pipes, in transmitting water to reservoirs or gardens. From the light and slender stalks shafts for arrows are obtained ; and in the south-west of Asia there is a certain species of equally slender growth, from which writing-pens or reeds are made. A joint forms a holder for papers or pens, and it was in a joint of bamboo that silk-worm eggs were carried from China to Constantinople during the reign of Justinian. The outer cuticle of Oriental species is so hard that it forms a sharp and durable cutting edge, and it is so siliceous that it can be used as a whetstone. This outer cuticle, cut into thin strips, is one of the most durable and beautiful materials for basket-making, and both in China awl Japan it is largely so employed. Strips are also woven into cages, chairs, beds, and other articles of furniture, Oriental wicker-work ill bamboo being unequalled for beauty and neatness of workmanship. In China the interior portions of the stein are beaten into a pulp, and used for the manufacture of the finer varieties of paper. Bamboos are imported to a considerable extent into Europe for the use of basket-makers, and for umbrella and walking-sticks. In short, the purposes to which the bamboo is applicable are almost endless, and well justify the opinion that " it is one of the most wonderful and most beautiful productions of the tropics, and one of Nature's most valuable gifts to uncivilized man" (A. R. Wallace, The Malay Archipelago).