What Is the World’s Tallest Grass?

  • Time to read: 6 min.

What’s the tallest grass in the world? Well, it’s not the grass in your yard, whatever you think or your neighbors say. You probably don’t even realize that the tallest grass in the world is grass, but it is.

The tallest grass in the world is Dendrocalamus giganteus, also known as giant bamboo, dragon bamboo, and giant Burmese bamboo. This species grows to an average height of 65 to 82 feet (20 to 25 meters), but the record of 137.8 feet (42 meters) belongs to bamboo growing in Arunachal Pradesh, India. 

Not only is dragon bamboo the tallest grass, but it may also be the fastest-growing. Read on to learn more about this bamboo species and what it has in common with the grass in your yard.

Giant Bamboo (Dendrocalamus Giganteus)

As mentioned, the average giant bamboo grows to 65 to 82 feet (20 to 25 meters) with culms or canes averaging 3.9 to 13.78 inches (10 to 35 cm) in diameter. It can grow as much as 15.75 inches (40 cm) per day. The distance between the nodes on the canes measures 9.8 to 15.75 inches (25 to 40 cm). 

Of course, you’ll find Dendrocalamus giganteus growing in India, where the record-setting clump was found. You’ll also find it growing in Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and China’s Yunnan province. You may find it growing at altitudes from sea level to 6,600 feet (2,000 meters) above sea level. Giant bamboo most commonly grows along river banks or in forests.

Giant Bamboo Isn’t a Tree

Unlike trees that form growth rings, bamboo grows in areas where the canopy foliage can be dense. Because of the way that giant bamboo and other bamboos grow, survival depends on quickly sending the leaves or sheaths up into or through the canopy. Consequently, the culms are hollow and stretch upward rapidly, reaching full height in around three months.

Giant Bamboo Changes Rapidly As It Grows

When fresh shoots of giant bamboo emerge from the ground, they are blackish-purple in color, but they change to grayish-green as they grow. You can see aerial roots extending from the culms up to the eighth node. 

The growing culms have a white covering that acts as a natural insecticide. After the culms reach their full height and diameter, they stop growing, dry out with a smooth surface, and turn brownish-green. 

The long, triangular leaves branch out from the top of the culms and range from 5.9 to 19.7 inches (15 to 50 cm) long and 1.18 to 3.94 inches (3 to 10 cm) wide. 

Giant Bamboo and Your Lawn

One thing that Dendrocalamus giganteus does have in common with your lawn is that it grows in clumps like fescue and ryegrass. Other bamboo species send out rhizomes, which is the same way that Kentucky bluegrass grows. 

Because Dendrocalamus giganteus and other bamboos grow from clumps or rhizomes, they flower infrequently and may flower only once. Dendrocalamus giganteus flowers every 40 to 76 years. Bamboo that’s gone to seed looks a lot like grass that’s gone to seed, but on a much larger scale for larger species of bamboo, 

The Roles of Bamboo in Its Native Lands

In its native lands, bamboo plays an integral role in people’s lives. The leaves are fed raw to animals, while people eat the seeds of some species as grains. When properly prepared to counteract the toxins, young bamboo shoots can be eaten as a vegetable. 

Some species of bamboo come close to the tensile strength of steel. Huts that use bamboo to support the walls and roofs can stand for as long as three years. Bamboo leaves cover the walls and roofs of huts. Bamboo is also used to reinforce cement and for bridges, scaffolding, water pipes, flooring, boat masts, and rafts. 

Bamboo is used to build furniture and make utensils including buckets, pitchers, vases. It provides hunting spears, fishing poles, and has been used to make weapons. It’s also a source of plant stakes, walking sticks, handheld fans, mats, hats, handicrafts, fine quality paper, and decorative parquet. 

Bamboo fibers can be made into yarn, crochet cotton, and woven to create sheets and even clothing. 

Bamboo in the United States

Some bamboos are native to the southern United States. You’ll find them growing in marshes and along river banks where it forms dense canebrakes. 

In the United States, bamboo is used as flooring, furniture, fishing poles, plant stakes, yarn, crochet cotton, and in more and more sustainable products. 

Bamboo as a Landscaping Plant

Bamboo also is used in landscaping. It’s popular for creating a privacy fence and a statement plant. If you’re considering using bamboo in your landscaping, be sure that you choose a species that will grow in your plant hardiness zone. You’ll also want to carefully consider whether you want a species that grows in a clump or from rhizomes. 

Clumping Bamboo

The species of bamboo that grow in clumps spread out from the center. However, once you get your bamboo grove started, you will be removing the older canes. Removing older canes from the center makes room for new shoots to emerge from the center. You can also use root barriers to encourage bamboo that grows in a clump to grow out to the sides rather than in a circular clump.

Completely surrounding your bamboo with a root barrier will cause it to grow poorly, though. You’ll need to fertilize your bamboo more frequently to compensate. So, if you can, allow your bamboo to grow on at least two sides. 

Running or Rhizome Bamboo

If you choose a bamboo species that grows from rhizomes, you can contain it in a planter. Because planting bamboo in the ground provides more protection from the cold than a planter can, you will want to choose a hardier species for container planting. 

If you plant rhizome bamboo in the ground, you will definitely need to use root barriers to prevent your bamboo from spreading. Bamboo has a shallow root system that extends down around 14 inches (35.56 cm), so your barrier needs to extend deeper than the root system. 

Other Considerations Regarding Bamboo as a Landscaping Plant

Another issue to consider is that bamboo is difficult to remove from an area. Take your time deciding whether or not to include bamboo in your landscaping. If you choose to remove it later, it could take a few years to completely eradicate it. 

If you do decide to add bamboo to your landscaping, start it from plants, not seeds. Bamboo seeds have very short periods of viability. In addition, larger plants will produce larger offshoots, so starting with larger plants enables you to create your bamboo hedge or grove more quickly.

You can find Bambusa Green Hedge Bamboo on Amazon.com. This clumping, non-invasive bamboo species grows in full sun to full shade in USDA hardiness zones 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. You can use it as a single specimen, plant it in a container, or grow it as a hedge or privacy screen. 

Final Thoughts

Bamboo may not look anything like the grass in your lawn, but they do have a few things in common. Bamboo grows the same way the more familiar species of grass grows – in clumps or rhizomes. 

While having grass spread by rhizomes to quickly cover your lawn is a good thing, you won’t want bamboo taking over the same way. Root barriers provide an easy way to keep bamboo under control, though. 

On the other hand, bamboo provides many products that the grass in your lawn can only envy. From food and shelter to household goods and more, bamboo has contributed much to its native lands, and it now contributes to the world as a sustainable source for many goods. 

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