Flowering, death, and cricket: 4 bamboozling science facts

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

Bamboo has truly a bizarre life cycle, and people have been using it for all manner of things for thousands of years. Here are four things we learned about bamboo in 2023.

1. A Japanese bamboo is about to flower and die for the first time in 120 years

A species of bamboo found all over Japan – Phyllostachys nigra var. henonis – is about to flower for the first time in 120 years, and then die.

The flowering event, expected in 2028, could have wide ramifications for the country’s ecology and economy.

But researchers don’t know exactly how the plant regenerates – or what’s going to happen in 5 years’ time.

Read more.

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The flowering bamboo. Credit: Toshihiro Yamada, Hiroshima University

2. Panda-monium ensues when giant pandas are kept at different latitudes – and it’s linked to bamboo

Giant pandas kept in captivity may suffer a sort of ‘jet lag’ when housed in zoos at different latitudes from their home turf.

Like humans, animals have an internal circadian clock which is synchronised to their external environment and linked to their behaviour and physiology.

Researchers from the University of Stirling in the UK wanted to find out how living at different latitudes affected giant panda activity and behaviour, publishing their findings in Frontiers in Psychology.

Giant pandas live highly seasonal lives, preferring to eat certain species of bamboo, particularly their shoots, the study says. The arrival of bamboo shoots in spring triggers migration, as well as breeding, probably because it’s easier to find other pandas when they are all chasing after the same food source.

Read more.

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Fu Ni is housed at Adelaide Zoo / Credit: Morne de Klerk / Stringer via Getty Images AsiaPac

3. People may have been stripping bamboo back 39,000 years ago

Stone tools found in the Philippines show microscopic evidence of some of Southeast Asia’s oldest plant technology, dating back 33,000 to 39,000 years ago.

Stone tools found in Tabon Cave on the Philippine island of Palawan, are nearly 40,000 years old. Etched onto their hard surfaces are the microscopic marks of damage produced through repeated use.

Indigenous communities in the region today still use tools to strip bamboo and palm, turning the rigid plant matter into fibres that can be used for tying or weaving.

Read more.

4. In the future, our cricket bats might be made from bamboo

Climate plays a big role in cricket, but not in the way you might think.

The iconic cricket bat is made from willow, but changes in weather patterns might make harvesting the wood more difficult.

But the hunt is on for alternative materials, and one option is bamboo.

Read more.

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