Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Solar Bamboo Forests

SpaceToys.com Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
(Note: Inspired by Ian O'Neill of AstroEngine, Image Credit: Paul Vlaar)

If one were able to measure the breadth of our solar system from the surface of the Sun to the distant orbit of Pluto, it would measure approximately 7 billion kilometers (or just under 50 Astronomical units).

While most of these worlds will probably be inhabited sparsely, some of the larger worlds in our solar system will probably be home to tens of millions (if not billions) of colonists, not to mention "zillions" of plants and animals.

Whether future residents choose to terraform their global habitats, or reside within biospheres instead, they will probably need a way to import some organic beauty and insert it upon their barren new homes.

Even though future settlers could simply grow a few flowers or bushes, they may choose to raise a forest in order to mimic life upon their Earthen cradle. Since many trees take decades to reach maturity, future colonists may opt to grow bamboo forests instead.

Sometimes seen as a pest in the west, bamboo is highly respected within Eastern cultures, which may have something to do with bamboos unique ability to grow very fast, ranging from 30 centimeters a day to (in one case) over four feet in 24 hours.

Their fast growth rate would make it easy for settlers to establish dense forests within a year (or two), making these outposts more appealing to not only families, but scientists needing a break from "all things metal."

While their fast growth and beauty may appeal to the artist, the bamboo's practicality may appeal to the pragmatist.

Despite the fact that other trees may grow thicker (and sometimes higher) than bamboo, very few (if any) can match the amount of oxygen generated by this eastern tree.

(Image Credit: Environmental Bamboo Foundation)

Bamboos are known to produce 35% more oxygen than their tree companions, as well as absorb more CO2.

If included within future space habitats, these fast growing trees could help reduce the cost of living away from Earth, as settlers would not have to import as much oxygen from Earth or the Moon.

Although off world inhabitants will probably view metal as the primary building material for outside the outpost, bamboo wood may prove to be an excellent source for building material within space colonies.

Often known for its "strength and toughness" (at least with some species), bamboo could enable settlers to build furniture (such as chairs, desks and tables), eliminating the need for importing these items from Earth (which can be quite expensive).

If building furniture appeals to the future solar craftsman, then eating bamboo shoots may appeal to the stomach.

(Image: Bamboo shoots (or sprouts) at a Japanese Supermarket. Credit: Chris 73 via Wikipedia)

Despite the fact that most bamboo species would be considered toxic to ones health, there is at least one species that may provide a source of nourishment for future settlers.

Since most worlds orbiting our star system lack a global magnetic field, scientist would have to depend upon ants to pollinate the flowers of these future bamboo forests, not to mention provide plenty of water for them to drink.

While it would not be surprising to see colonists importing (and planting) other trees upon worlds like Mars, Ganymede and Callisto, it may not be an uncommon sight to behold thousands of bamboo forests upon dozens of solar worlds.

Update: Edited a few words for grammar and clarity.

Want more space geek news? Then subscribe below via email, RSS or twitter for free updates!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Prefer another service? How about via RSS or follow Colony Worlds on Twitter!


  1. Very interesting and also important. My first memories are of Djakarta on Java, where when I was three my father was working in that notorious nest of spooks - at the time - USAID. Before that, we lived for a brief time in Saigon (now Ho Chi Mhin City, of course) and aside from ubiquitous equatorial monsoons and lizards, there was bamboo.

    Later, my father planted shoots to shield the open side of a driveway in suburban DC, where it thrived and through some particularly cold winters, at least through most of the remainder of the 1960's.

    Their hardiness is thus a proven thing to me, as is their exotic beauty, and usefulness.

    (How elso could the Professor have fashioned such Rube Goldberg Huts as he certainly designed for "the rest" of the castaways on Gilligan's Island?)

    Those semi-buried poly-material shelters on the Moon we may soon be experimenting with could find many uses for this plant to cozy up an otherwise drab Regolete igloo with these marching across the wall, as pioneer plants of the Value-Added lunar "soil."

    That they produce suce prodigious amounts of O2 is wonderful news.

    Very good stuff, and thought provoking. What else could we need?


  2. Hi Darnell, and thanks for the links. Those of us who spent childhood time in the South Pacific are quite fond of bamboo. I also remember Captain Kirk making a cannon from a bamboo tube into and blasting the Gorn. It really has 1001 uses!

  3. This is awesome, Thanks Darnell for following up on my bamboo article :-) Great bit of research there.

    I hope you are well!

    Cheers, Ian


You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

Note: You do not need a Blogger account in order to comment, but you do need to solve the universal puzzle below.