National Geographic : 1980 Oct
of bamboo are eager to plant it, then are dis mayed when it runs wild, poking its head up on a neighbor's property. There are reme dies: Confine the underground rhizomes by sinking metal or plastic edging down two feet or, when the brittle new shoots come up in the spring, kick them over. Typically, bamboo sends up new shoots every year; in between, the rhizome devel ops underground. Unlike a tree, bamboo does not acquire more girth as it grows; the new sprout emerges full diameter. It reaches full height in 60 to 90 days. Chinese value bamboo shoots for food be cause of their crisp texture. "The farmer goes into the bamboo groves in spring," said Dr. Hsiung, "and by walking barefoot over the ground, he can feel the hard bumps of the sprouts. If he wants the tenderest shoots, like blanched asparagus, he piles a little mound of earth round the emerging sprout, so that it never sees the light of day." I had heard that in the old China there was a spring ceremony or pastime. People would go to the bamboo groves on a quiet night to listen for the audible pop of bamboo sprouts bursting their sheaths as they emerged from the ground-a sure sign of spring. All Chinese hospitals have a department of herbal medicine where ancient remedies are used together with medicines from the Western pharmacopoeia. A Nanjing physi cian told me that the rhizome of the black bamboo, compounded with other plants, treats kidney ailments. "If you heat a freshly cut black bamboo and drink the moisture that runs out of it," he added, "it acts as a febrifuge to bring your temperature down. The culm of a bamboo used for bridges, Sinocalamus affinis, burned to ashes, will cure prickly heat." In some tropical bamboos a secretion called tabasheer forms and hardens between the nodes. Chinese, Indians, and other Asian peoples prescribed this for coughs and asthma, as a cooling tonic, and even Fasterthan a speeding beanstalk: The species Phyllostachys glauca was photographedat sunset and againat dawn. The double exposure shows a spurt of 15 inches in 14 hours.