Does Bamboo have a role in Permaculture?

Contributor Geoff Pyne (Bamboo Van Dieman)
Images source: Geoff Pyne

One year after beginning our Bamboo adventure, I wrote an article that touched on how being introduced to Permaculture had not only transformed but certainly enhanced my understanding of how useful a plant, is Bamboo. The Permaculture principles opened my eyes as to how the plant was fundamental in a closed loop ideal. Though I’m not yet qualified to state with certainty or experience that Bamboo is a planet saver, I firmly believe it has more potential to do so, than most other living things – especially the human variety! That makes it a win/win investment in the future – Bamboo 101

In the words of Permaculture guru Geoff Lawton – “it’s easier to say what you CAN’T do with Bamboo than it is to say what you CAN” and certainly, the well established Permaculture farms in the northern states of Australia have included Bamboo as an integral part of their permaculture designs and with good reason.

I’m going to cite 3 species of Bamboo in this article, that I believe provide the permaculturalist with an abundance of sustainable resources, even if only one of each were planted. From garden stakes through food, furniture and shelter to name a few, the following species of Bamboo are ALL cold climate tolerant and non-invasive. That is they will all survive the harshest of Tasmanian winters and they are completely contained within their own footprint and won’t invade beyond.

Bambusa Oldhamii  –  Beyond doubt my first pick for inclusion in a Permaculture Design. This beast grows beyond 15mtrs high in tropical and sub-tropical locations yet will withstand temperatures down to around -10deg C. Because Tasmania lacks the intensity of a northern summer, insufficent heat and humidity will restrict the potential height here. Frankly, I can’t put a definite figure on it but all my research would indicate that more than half those heights will be the norm in this climate. Our two year old plantation is producing 3.5-4mtr culms so at this stage (given a 4 yr to full height prediction) we appear to be on track. Oldhamii will produce culms (poles) up to 100mm in diameter but we are predicting a little less. That provides plenty of options as a construction timber and once established, nature will present 15-20 of these per plant, per year for a lifetime. If building is not your thing, that’s a good supply of firewood or biomass for producing excellent biochar or biofuel for those advanced enough. The drought tolerance of Bamboo also creates a wonderful source of forage for stock in the dry times when fodder is scarce and new shoots are a much sought after human food! Throw in the fact that as a windbreak, this plant has few peers and you’ll begin to realise what an amazing plant this truly is.

Bambusa textilis Gracilis  –  also known as Slender Weavers Bamboo, Gracilis adds another dimension to the resources stable. Boasting most of the attributes of Oldhamii (not as high and smaller diameter culms), this plant can be used for weaving projects like screens, matting or cob foundation, due to its long internodes. It’s pretty blue tinged new shoots are also edible and as a privacy screen, there are few comparisons. Very fast growing and tough as nails in Tassie conditions.

Bambusa multiplex Alphonse Karr  –  this plant has been around in Tasmania for a while and is completely different in structure and appearance. Both Oldhamii and Gracilis boast upright green statures whereas Alphonse Karr has a more typical fanning shape boasting golden culms and decorative green stripes.

Multiplex varieties produce a massive number of culms which are useful as garden stakes, straws, biofuel or small craft projects. Some of the more rebellious of us might even remember there efficacy as a form of punishment in days gone by!! The foliage as always, is excellent stock forage and the plant can be a stand alone feature or part of a lovely hedging screen.

There is no doubt that Bamboo has a major role to play in any Permaculture Design. From wind protection to producing biofuel and countless applications in between, every bit of the plant is useful. Just a couple of other benefits are that a stand of Bamboo produces 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees and its CO2 sequestration is second to none.

It was once known as ‘the poor man’s timber’ but is known these days as the Miracle Plant!

Bamboo Van Diemen offer PT financial members 10% discount on workshops, plants from the nursery, 100% Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrushes, and off your first Who Gives A Crap premium bamboo toilet paper order (delivered FREE to anyone south of the Midlands and from greater Launceston through towns on Bass Highway to Burnie). Small fees apply outside these areas.