Spring in the Bamboo Forest

April 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

There’s such magic at this time of year that cannot be ignored. The days grow longer, life springs up all around us at lightning speed, and undeniably, we feel more connected to each other and everything around us. Very recently, Dan Smith, of Smith&Fong, spent a few weeks enjoying the awe-inspiring splendor of the bamboo forrest. The following account is from Dan’s experience of the sights and sounds in China:

Spring is a very special time all over the world and no less so then in a timber bamboo forest in China. Spring expresses itself most profoundly with the shooting of the bamboo in late March. Shooting is one of the most miraculous aspects of a bamboo forest. This is the period when bamboo does its most rapid growing. A shoot can come out of the grown at 6” to 7” in diameter and reach full height in 50 to 60 days. At top speed, bamboo has been clocked at an inch an hour over a 24 hour period. This is also a time when bamboo culm harvesting is limited as well as entry into the forest itself creating a temporary shortage in supply. To get through this period manufacturer’s typically stock up before the Chinese new year and this allows them to keep production flowing through this time of shortage. Here are a few shots from my recent trip to the forest.

Maozhu (moso bamboo) shooting in spring.

Bamboo forest in spring. The yellow bamboo is the new growth that shoots in the spring from late march to late June.

Freshly cut crown section remains from culm harvest. A culm can be taken down with as few as 3 to five swings of a bamboo forester’s machete. Typically the diaphragm, the inner seal of the bamboo culm is tapped with the machete or bamboo knife to create a puncture that allows the decomposition process to progress more rapidly, nourishing the bamboo rhizome system to support next years’ growth.

A year old crown section working its way to full decomposition in the bamboo forest.

A shoot just breaking the surface. This one was later harvested for our lunch. Shoot harvesting is pretty much over by mid-March and so this lunch shoot, constituted a late harvest. A week later there would be no further harvesting of shoots until the fall season.

Maozhu, or moso bamboo forest in spring. Bamboo forests in Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces take up vast areas of mountainous lands providing both a food source as well as a raw material source to fuel many different bamboo industries including our own, bamboo plywood and flooring.

Wear marks in the stone pathway from many years of dragging Maozhu culms down the mountain to the weigh station for sale.

Mountain path in bamboo forest in spring

Bamboo forest in spring.

Weather shelter for bamboo foresters during both monsoon summer months and cold winter days when temps can drop into the 20s (Fahrenheit).

Lao Tu, is an old friend whom I have know for more than an 15 years. He is a retired bamboo weigh man for this forest. Everyone here knows him, as he has been a fixture for more than 60 years. We have climbed these mountains, cut culms, hunting for shoots together and in previous years have done some famous drinking of the locally distilled baijiu or Chinese vodka.

There are many facets and subtleties of the bamboo forest. The seasons, harvesting techniques, working a living from the land, even the people of these mountains have their secrets shared only over time, plied with much good local food, spirit and friendship.

Dan