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Bamboo is a giant plant in the grass family. Its stems, or 'culms[?]', can range in height from a few centimeters to 30 metres (100 feet) or more, and from a diameter of a few millimeters (less than 1 inch) to over 15 centimetres (6 inches). It is found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. It spreads mainly through its roots or rhizomes, which can spread widely underground and send off new culms to break through the surface.

There are two patterns for the spreading of bamboo, clumping and running. Clumping bamboo species tend to spread out underground pretty slowly. Running bamboo species, however, can spread several feet a year, are considered very invasive and can cause people lots of problems with their neighbors. It is very difficult to remove bamboo without digging up the entire network of rhizomes that has developed underground, for there is no central root to destroy, and destroying the plant above ground will either break your lawnmower or leave the underground rhizome system waiting until next year to send up its shoots.

One of the ways to prevent running bamboo from taking over an area is to surround it with a physical barrier, although in order to be effective the barrier must reach down to below the depth at which the rhizomes spread, which can be several feet. Another way to prevent it is to mow down all the new shoots but this can be troublesome if they are large in diameter or manage to get very high.

Established bamboo will send up shoots that generally grow to their full height in a single season, making it one of the fastest growing plants. However a newly ransplanted bamboo plant can take many many seasons before its shoots achieve their full potential height.

The shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo are edible and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms. However, the shoots of some species are poisonous and must be specially cooked (boiled?) before they can be eaten safely.

Bamboo usually flowers very rarely. Sometimes it will do so only once every 100 or more years. When it flowers, the plant can die. Furthermore, when it flowers, all the individuals of the species that is flowering will flower in a large geographical region, containing for example North America and Europe. This is a complete bafflement to the world of biology and science and one of the true mysteries remaining in the world.

Bamboo is the major food source of the giant panda in China.

When bamboo gets old and dries, it can become very hard, making it useful for many things such as fences, bridges, walking sticks, house-parts, furniture, food steamers, toys, construction scaffolding, hats, abaci and various musical instruments. Modern companies are attempting to popularize laminate[?] flooring made of bamboo pieces steamed, flattened, glued together, finished, and cut.

Cultural aspects Bamboo's long life makes it a Chinese symbol of long life, while in India is a symbol of friendship. Its rare blossoms has led to the flowers being regarded as a sign of impending famine. Several Asian cultures, including the Andaman Islands, believe that humanity emered from a bamboo stem. Malaysian legends include the story of a man who dreams of a beautiful woman while sleeping under a bamboo plant; he wakes up and breaks the bamboo stem, discovering the woman inside. In the Philippines, bamboo crosses are used as a good luck charm by farmers.

See also Japanese knotweed.

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