Bam­boo is the fastest grow­ing plant on earth. A typ­i­cal bam­boo grows as much as 10 cen­time­ters in one sin­gle day. Cer­tain species grow up to a meter per day, or about 1 mil­lime­ter every 2 min­utes. You can actu­al­ly see the plant grow right in front of your eyes. In just 5 to 8 years, most vari­eties of bam­boo reach matu­ri­ty. Com­pare this to oth­er pop­u­lar plants that only grow an inch per week. Trees such as oak reach matu­ri­ty in 120 years. But when it comes to flow­er­ing, bam­boo is prob­a­bly one of the slow­est plants in the world.

bamboo blossom

Bam­boo flow­er­ing is an intrigu­ing phe­nom­e­non because it is a unique and very rare phe­nom­e­non in the plant king­dom. Most bam­boo stems bloom once every 60 to 130 years. The long flow­er­ing inter­vals remain a mys­tery to most botanists.

These slow-flow­er­ing vari­eties show anoth­er strange behav­ior — stems from a sin­gle shoot bloom simul­ta­ne­ous­ly all over the world, regard­less of geo­graph­ic loca­tion and cli­mate. Most bam­boo is ‘sub­di­vi­sion’ from a sin­gle par­ent shoot. These divi­sions have been re-divid­ed over time and spread through­out the world. And although they are now geo­graph­i­cal­ly in dif­fer­ent loca­tions, they still have the same orga­ni­za­tion of genet­ic mate­r­i­al. Thus, when bam­boo blooms in North Amer­i­ca, the same stem in Asia will bloom at about the same time. It looks like plants have an inter­nal clock where the alarm goes off at the same time. This mass flow­er­ing phe­nom­e­non is called com­mu­ni­cat­ed flow­er­ing.

Accord­ing to one hypoth­e­sis, mass flow­er­ing increas­es the sur­vival rate of the bam­boo pop­u­la­tion. As soon as the bam­boo vari­ety has reached its max­i­mum lifes­pan, bloomed and pro­duced seeds, the plant dies, and entire forests are erased from the face of the Earth. One the­o­ry is that it takes a huge amount of ener­gy to pro­duce a seed, exhaust­ing the bam­boo to the point where it actu­al­ly dies. Anoth­er the­o­ry sug­gests that the moth­er bam­boo dies to make room for the bam­boo seedlings.

The mass flow­er­ing of bam­boo attracts preda­tors, main­ly rodents. The sud­den avail­abil­i­ty of fruit in vast quan­ti­ties draws tens of mil­lions of hun­gry rats into the for­est, which feed, grow, and mul­ti­ply at alarm­ing rates. After they eat the bam­boo fruits, the rats start con­sum­ing the crops in the neigh­bor­ing areas. The flow­er­ing of bam­boo is almost always accom­pa­nied by famine and dis­ease in neigh­bor­ing vil­lages. In north­east Indi­a’s state of Mizo­ram, a dire event occurs reg­u­lar­ly every 48 to 50 years when the bam­boo species of Melo­can­na bac­cifera begin to bloom. Such a phe­nom­e­non last occurred in 2006–2008, in the local lan­guage it was called mau­tam, or “bam­boo death”.

See also
Villa Epecuen. flooded city