A Quick Look At Puerto Rico’s Bamboo History

We all have seen or at least heard about bamboo, but do we actually know about its history? No one really does any research on the history of bamboo. If they did, they’ll find that it is a very sturdy and resilient plant with a large root system and high growth factor. In Puerto Rico, bamboos are probably one of the most recognizable trees that grow there. It has been used as a building material for many industries and still is. If you want to know how it gained its popularity in Puerto Rico, then continue reading.

It Was First Introduced in Puerto Rico Late in the 18th Century

You can easily assume that bamboo is one of Puerto Rico’s native trees, but in fact, it isn’t. The Spaniards arrived at the island late in the 15th century, but they introduced the exotic tree to the soil by the 18th century. Back then, it was only one species of the bamboo: the Bambuco Vulgaris, which circulated Puerto Rico. This led to creating 20 new tropical species of bamboo on the island like Bambusa Arundinacea, Bambusa Longispiculata, and Bambusa Tulda.

It Was Thoroughly Studied in 1934

The Federal Experiment Station started studying the bamboo species to utilize it. However, many problems occurred, as many species of bamboo were planted in monoculture environments. Later, their efforts succeeded, and bamboo trees were used for building furniture and houses. Even now, you can see here how bamboo is used to build durable furniture and bed frames that would appeal to all tastes. Because bamboo is very light and stronger than steel, it is the perfect building material for any craftsman. You will rarely find the perfect blend of quality, lightness, and strength in one material, but you will find it in a tree as old as the bamboo tree.

Its Popularity Began to Decline

Several industries started booming in Puerto Rico due to the considerable supply of bamboo used to manufacture furniture, handbags, paper, and lamps. With even more species introduced in the 1940s, the manufacturing of the previous items gained even more success. However, this wasn’t the case for long. This industry lost popularity; hence, it didn’t continue to flourish as it once did. Some even think it was due to the expansion of post-WWII industrialization. Construction materials back then were considered more important than some lightweight trees. Hence, bamboo lost popularity on the island significantly. 

First International Bamboo Conference in Mayaguez Was Held in 1984

When the industry of bamboo lost its glory, bamboo enthusiasts in Puerto Rico persisted and continued trying popularizing bamboo on the island once more. They succeeded when the first International Bamboo Conference was held in Puerto Rico in 1984 and hosted by the American Bamboo Society. In addition to this, enthusiasts such as Albrecht and Sunhi Weiss, Toni Grieb, and Yves Crouzet dedicated much of their efforts in using large portions of the land to plant bamboos, but despite all their efforts in raising interest in bamboo trees again, their work didn’t create the same bamboo popularity of 1940.

Bamboo Trees Served as Protection from Hurricanes

Because bamboo trees are strong and long, farmers began to build bamboo fences around their territories to protect their lands from inclement weather. Due to its highly effective protection, some people use some of the sturdiest bamboo species for building bamboo fences, especially those who live in places susceptible to hurricanes. Yes, purchasing a huge amount of bamboo can cost a great amount of money, but if you think about it, this is one of the most effective and affordable methods to prevent erosion, provide privacy screens and shades, and serve as natural windbreaks. 

It Produces More Oxygen

People in Puerto Rico favored growing bamboo in larger numbers than other trees, as it produces 35% more oxygen, which means it can take in about 12 tons of carbon dioxide per 2.5 acres in one year. Bamboo can grow long in a very short time, which makes it the perfect type of tree to plant. As a result of this, Bamboo can stabilize any environment you grow it in by absorbing the excess of carbon dioxide, which is why it is used today to fight climate change. Inhabitants of the island didn’t have to worry about flooding, as the extensive root system of the plant took care of that problem.

Puerto Ricans Used to Eat It as Well

Back when the industry solely depended on utilizing bamboo, bamboo shoots were produced and consumed by Puerto Ricans. What is good about bamboo shoots is that it contains little fats and calories and is high in fibers. It is also a strong antibacterial, which made it the perfect healthy meal. The shoots were and still are, cut from the young bamboo trees and were added to the food. If you’re thinking of adding them to your diet but still need a stronger incentive, bamboo shoots are consumed by pandas in Asia and it is basically their primary food. Yet, they still manage to weigh 200 pounds.

It Was Used for Its Deodorizing Properties 

Because bamboo is antibacterial and extremely porous, it can absorb bacteria that cause unpleasant odors and dangerous pollutants found in water. Due to this fact, you will find products in the market that use bamboo charcoal in deodorizers, which can be used as an alternative to chemicals and cleaners. 

There still Are Bamboo Enthusiasts Out There

For the last two decades, Jo Scheer has been actively growing and utilizing bamboo trees for all sorts of things. He has a gorgeous house, which he built from bamboo components, and he created many parts of his inner house using bamboo. His house, which he calls a “hooch”, was featured on TV and in many conferences to display how sturdy and well-structured it is. What is even better, Scheer wrote a book in which he discusses several bamboo projects that can be easily executed with the right material.

Now that you had a quick look at Puerto Rico’s amazing bamboo history, you can delve deeper into its different usages and purchase some of the products that utilize bamboo. You might also be interested in projects using bamboo as their main construction material, or even use it for something else entirely. After all, bamboo is the most versatile material you will ever find.

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