Today’s write-up is courtesy once again of BPotD work-study student Bryant DeRoy. He writes:
This exceptional image by Eckhard Volcker (aka Tatcher a Hainu@Flickr) is a cross-section of a Fargesia species, or a clumping bamboo (Poaceae). Eckhard, your submission via the Botany Photo of the Day flickr page is much appreciated! To see more of Eckhard’s work, also visit his web site: Wunderkanone.
The process of taking such images through a light microscope is known as photomicrography. This thin section of bamboo stem was treated with a number of stains and then viewed through a light microscope with a polarized light filter. The use of stains helps to highlight the cellular structures of this bamboo cross-section. The structures outlined in fuchsia are the vascular bundles. The fuchsia stain is concentrated in the vascular fibres that surround the vascular bundles and also form a ring just inside the epidermis.
Densely packed longitudinal cellulose fibres (held together by lignin) that make up roughly 40% of the stem or culm (60-70% by weight) are the main contributing factor to the general strength and durability of bamboo. The structure of these fibres allows some species of bamboo to reach considerable heights, especially for a grass! For more information on the cellular structure of monocotyledons, visit Wayne Armstrong’s Stem and Root Anatomy teaching page.
The cellular structure of the bamboo culm is also responsible for its use in a wide variety of applications. Bamboo is gaining popularity as a sustainable crop because of its high rate of growth and high crop density. Another major attribute is that the relative strength of bamboo remains fairly even over its lifetime and does not tend to correlate with age, whereas most wood gets stronger as it grows older (in other words, it can be harvested earlier). Read The Structure of Bamboo in Relation to its Properties and Utilization (PDF) for more on these topics!
The cultivation of some bamboos, however, have also led to problems with invasiveness in some instances. Many species of bamboo grow from horizontally-spreading and self-propagating rhizomes, which aid in their ability to take over areas and shade out other species (being clumping species, though, Fargesia species are generally considered “well-behaved” and not invasive). As some of you may know, some bamboos can be difficult to remove once established as they can regenerate from their underground rhizomes, even if the above ground shoots have been removed.