Giant Bamboo

28 February 2021 - By: Isaac Waitt

This year, The British Pharmacological Society and the SEB collaborated to launch our first Junior Science Writing Competition. The competition was open to any child under the age of 12, with the only limitation being that the article must be related to science!

We received lots of fantastic entries. The judging panel, including our Outreach Education and Diversity (OED) Trustee Andreas Fahlman and OED Manager Rebecca Ellerington, thoroughly enjoyed reading the imaginative and creative works of all participants. A huge well done to everyone who entered! We hope you enjoy reading this winning article Isaac Waitt, aged 11. We are exceptionally pleased to share his work with you here. We also thought that the runners up were just too brilliant to miss out, so we have also published these on the SEB website. 

There are more than 1000 different types of bamboo, found in many areas around the world. As we live in Uganda, we have experience mainly of giant bamboo and water bamboo. I am writing this essay because, although you can read many amazing facts about bamboo, it can be hard to believe they are all true. These are some of our experiments.

How giant is ‘giant’?

How fast can bamboo really grow? Bamboo is a large plant that grows in tropical regions and can grow up to two storeys high – we have some in our garden in Uganda. I wanted to see how fast it really grew. We waited for rainy season and when the first shoots appeared, we measured the new growth every day. From our experiments, bamboo grows like this; day 1 = 1 cm, day 2 = 4 cm, day 3 = 5 cm, day 4 = 8 cm, day 5 = 12 cm, day 6 = 15cm, day 7 = 17 cm, making a total of 62 cm over a week. When you draw a graph, the curve is exponential.

Structure and strength

Bamboo is very strong but also very flexible. The cylindrical shape is among the strongest seen in nature, and is also seen in birds’ bones. Our tent poles have a similar structure. In fact, the structure is so strong that builders copy it in their buildings!                                     

We discovered that a piece of bamboo 5 cm wide can hold 84 kg of weight! We know this because we once made a tree house out of it and it held me and my three siblings!

How can bamboo be used?

Being strong, light and flexible is the perfect combination because you can make a huge range of things including bows and arrows and wigwams. You can also make flasks.

Here I will tell you how: first find a wide piece of bamboo 14 cm at least. Since bamboo is hollow, a piece of bamboo 14 cm wide will leave 9 cm of bamboo hollow. First, chop the top off your piece of bamboo then find a stick that fits in the hole - this will be your cork. Then, fill up with water and enjoy. Bamboo is loved by chameleons; once we found two baby ones on it which were a centimeter long!  Do you think pandas are the only ones that eat bamboo? Well if you did, you’d be wrong because in Asia and northern Uganda it is a delicacy. I find this delicious, but my brother does not.  

Are there any risks?

Due to its strength and speed of growth, giant bamboo can take over the garden – and can even smash concrete!

The leaves start as sharp spikes which can cause skin irritation (I know this from personal experience).

Conclusion

I find it amazing that bamboo can be used in so many different ways, and believe it is truly an amazing gift of nature. I very much enjoyed all of these experiments and look forward to next rainy season, where our investigations will continue.  
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