Jungle Gardens houses one of the oldest timber bamboo groves in America. In 1909, McIlhenny sent an inquiry about bamboo to the USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry. At that time, McIlhenny had embraced the idea of bamboo as a valuable commodity. Eventually, he would write in a promotional letter about the plants in Jungle Gardens, “It is estimated by explorers that more than one hundred fifty-million people of the countries in Asia, bordering the Pacific Ocean, live in houses built entirely of Bamboo.”
He believed that both the timber and the edible shoots of bamboo would be useful to the economy of Louisiana, an idea which has been revived by permaculturists around the world today. Through his relationship with the USDA’s Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction, McIlhenny was able to plant more than sixty-four species and varieties of bamboo in and around Jungle Gardens. His ability to observe and nurture plants made him the most successful experimental bamboo grower in the country at that time.
Today, Jungle Gardens still holds several varieties of bamboo. The more interesting of these surviving varieties include ‘Robert Young’ bamboo – which has evolved into a much-desired landscaping variety today-which is located before the entrance to the Camellia Study Garden. Large, timber-type ‘Moso’ and ‘Henon’ bamboo varieties can be found near Bird City; and a small patch of ‘Meyerii’ bamboo is located on the left the old Jungle Gardens entrance gate.
Here are some interesting facts about bamboo that makes it one of the most fascinating plants on earth -
Bamboo is the fastest-growing woody plant around and it is not a tree but a grass and is a viable replacement for wood. It can be harvested in approximately three years. Some bamboo has been reported to grow as much as 40 plus inches in 24 hours. There are over one thousand species of bamboo and it grows on every continent except Antarctica. It is crucial for the climate by producing 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees and absorbing four times as much carbon. It has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and so it does not need fertilizers or pesticides for growing and has been used as medicine by the people in Asia for thousands of years.
Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel as much as 28,000 per square inch and steel's tensile strength is 23,000 per square inch. Thomas Edison's first successful light bulb used a bamboo filament. Alexander Graham Bell made the first phonographic needle out of bamboo. In today’s society, more than one billion people in the world live in bamboo houses. Bamboo is also used to make flooring, paper, fiber for clothing, rugs, jewelry, toys and even musical instruments.