4 Tall Bamboo Genera You Can Use for Timber

Although many people associate tall bamboo plants with highly decorative backyards and canopies, they also have a more practical use: timber. Many tall or timber bamboo varieties offer constructive properties for builds.

In the world of bamboo, “tall” starts at around 25-30 feet (8-9 m) and continues into the 50-foot or higher range (15 m and up). Keep in mind that the taller it is the more maintenance work it may require. Although bamboo is quite easy to grow and care for, you should be familiar with the plant care.

Are you about to embark on a small construction project, but not sure which tall bamboo plants are ideal for harvesting wood for the cause? Or do you want an extra high privacy fence? Here is a list of different tall bamboo plant genera that are best used as timber and for your privacy.

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Why use tall bamboo for timber? 

Tall bamboo (which also happens to be known as timber bamboo) is an excellent alternative to using conventional lumber from trees. It offers a wide range of benefits as its own kind of building material, from reduced costs to leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

But, out of the thousands of known bamboo species on the planet, only a select few (like the following) are suitable for construction. (Stick around until the end of this list to learn more about the benefits!)

Why use tall bamboo for groves and privacy screens?

Maybe you have larger buildings around your property or you just want your own bamboo forest. That’s when these massive species become interesting. They can separate you from nosy neighbors and function as a noise protection.

As an evergreen grass, this will be a great way to have a beautiful oasis in your backyard.

What are the tall bamboo genera?

There are 123 bamboo genera. Some of them are cultivated more than others.

Guadua Bamboo is a tall green timber bamboo with a white stripe around the nodes
Source: Flickr

1. Guadua

The Guadua genus can be found in the more tropic and subtropic regions of the world such as Central and South America. It consists of over twenty different timber bamboo varieties, some of which being the largest bamboo plants in the American tropics. These bamboo plants can grow to be over 100 feet (30 m) tall and roughly 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter.

Guadua bamboo is mostly of the clumping bamboo type, meaning that they naturally grow in large bunches rather than being spread out. These bamboo plants grow very quickly, also making them a consistently renewable resource, ideal for the restoration of large, deforested regions. 

Specific Guadua bamboo varieties

Guadua Angustifolia

  • Height: 100 ft (30 m)
  • Diameter: 8 in (20 cm)
  • USDA zones: 10 to 11

Guadua Aculeata

  • Height: 100 ft (30 m)
  • Diameter: 8 in (20 cm)
  • USDA zones: 9 to 11

Guadua Chaparensis

  • Height: 82 ft (25 m)
  • Diameter: 5 in (12 cm)

Guadua Lynnclarkiae

  • Height: 89 ft (27 m)
  • Diameter: 7 in (17 cm)

All 33 Guadua species

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Source: Wikipedia Commons

Well known for their immense size and strength, the Guadua genus has been used for construction since the early 1800s. However, out of the few species within the Guadua genus, there is one that stands out as having the best properties for construction. As such, it is considered the most valuable variety of bamboo: the Guadua Angustifolia (Kunth Bamboo)

Discovered in 1822 by Kunth, a German botanist, this bamboo variety originates from South America and offers the most versatility and strength out of all of the other species of its kind. It reaches a maximum height of roughly 100 feet (30 m) and can have a diameter measuring up to 8 inches (20 cm). Its superior strength nearly matches that of steel and has approximately twice the compression ratio of concrete.

Kunth bamboo is more likely to meet the International Building Code requirements for construction, so it’s usually a go-to for any type of construction project, from housing to large buildings. 

Uses of Guadua Timber Bamboo

  • Housing – Due to its size, Guadua bamboo is commonly used as timber to build affordable housing in parts of Central and South America. Walls, door frames, and more can be made with this durable bamboo. 
  • Furniture – From dining tables to beds, Guadua bamboo is a reliable material for building solid furniture pieces.
  • Crafts – Guadua bamboo wood is commonly used in arts and crafts pieces such as baskets and jewelry. 
  • Panels – Guadua bamboo, especially the Angustifolia variety, is often used for building panels for floors, laminates, and more. 
  • Musical Instruments – Guadua bamboo makes excellent crafting material for musical instruments such as didgeridoos and flutes.
Culms of the Dendrocalamus Giganteus bamboo variety as an example for tall bamboo

2. Dendrocalamus

The Dendrocalamus bamboo genus originates from the tropic and subtropic regions of India and Southeast Asia. Some of the defining features of these clumping bamboos include large branches and leaves, with thicker culm walls. The majority of the Dendrocalamus species can grow between 50 to 60 feet (15-18 m) tall, with culms ranging from 3 to 5 inches (8-13 cm) in diameter. 

Specific Dendrocalamus varieties & their uses

Dendrocalamus Strictus (Calcutta Bamboo or Rock Bamboo)

  • Height: 65 feet (20 m)
  • Diameter: 3 inches (8 cm)
  • USDA zones: 9 to 11
  • Light construction – For building items such as furniture
  • Paper Making – This hardy bamboo is most often used in paper mills as a raw material.

Dendrocalamus Asper (Rough Bamboo)

  • Height: 50 feet (15 m)
  • Diameter: 5 inches (13 cm)
  • USDA zones: 10 to 12
  • Heavy Construction – Asper bamboo is commonly used in large bamboo construction projects, such as full buildings and bridges. For example, the Green School in Bali, Indonesia, is entirely built from the giant bamboo.
  • Housewares – Asper bamboo culms can double as a container to hold water as well as a cooking pot. The culms can also be made into utensils such as chopsticks.
  • Cuisine – Young Asper bamboo stems offer a tender, sweet taste. Often they are used as a vegetable and can be pickled or preserved. They are also used as a common ingredient in certain kinds of soups.
Green School in Indonesia build with the timber of Dendrocalamus bamboo
Source: Flickr

Dendrocalamus Giganteus (Giant Bamboo)

  • Height: nearly 115 feet (35 m) – record heights!
  • Diameter: 6-12 inches (15-30 cm)
  • USDA zones: 9 to 11
  • Scaffolding – Giganteus bamboo’s length makes it a great candidate to use in the production of large scaffolding pieces.
  • Rural Housing – It is sometimes used in the construction of houses for lower-income families in Southeast Asia and Central and South America.
  • Clothing – The culm sheaths on this large bamboo plant are sometimes used to make weather-resistant hats.
  • Cuisine – The Giganteus bamboo’s young shoots make great vegetable products in specific cuisines. 

Dendrocalamus Latiflorus (Taiwan Giant Bamboo)

  • Height: 82 ft (25 m)
  • Diameter: 3 to 5 inches (8-13 cm)
  • USDA zones: 9 to 11
  • Light Construction – Latiflorus bamboo is popular for light builds such as furniture, medium-quality housing, and bamboo mats.
Node joint of a Bambusa Oldhamii bamboo
Source: Wikipedia

3. Bambusa

Bamboo from the Bambusa genus is the most common out of all the bamboo varieties, containing over one 100 clumping bamboo species native to subtropical and tropical climates. Some of their defining features include robust and thick culm walls reaching heights up to 60 feet (18 m), in addition to small branches and leaves. These clumping bamboos are popular home garden additions but offer many valuable building properties as well.

Specific Bambusa varieties & their uses

Some of the most common species of Bambusa bamboos include:

Bambusa Balcooa (Female Bamboo)

  • Height: 72 feet (22 m)
  • Diameter: 6 inches (15 cm)
  • USDA zones: 10 to 11
  • Paper Making – The Balcooa species make excellent raw material for paper pulp, which is its primary use.
  • Fencing and Scaffolding – The Balcooa bamboo’s stems make durable building materials for large fences and scaffolding.
  • Building material – For houses, bridges, fishing floats, and more

Bambusa Oldhamii (Sweet Shoot Bamboo)

  • Height: 50-60 feet (15-18 m)
  • Diameter: 4 inches (10 cm)
  • USDA zones: 9 to 12
  • Cuisine – Can be used as a common food source, often a focal point in specific soups, curries, and stir fry (especially in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine).
  • Bridges and Pathways – The sturdy, practically weather-proof, nature of Oldhamii bamboo makes it ideal for making small bridges and pathways over mud or small streams.

Bambusa Bambos (Giant Thorny Bamboo)

  • Height: 65-100 feet (20-30 m)
  • Diameter: 4-7 inches (10-18 cm)
  • USDA zones: 10 to 12
  • Housing – It is often used in many facets of housing construction, from roofing to fencing.

Bambusa Blumeana (Thorny Bamboo)

  • Height: 50-82 feet (15-25 m)
  • Diameter: 3-6 inches (8-15 cm)
  • USDA zones: 10 to 12
  • Reinforcing – Blumeana is commonly used as a form of concrete reinforcement in large-scale projects.
  • Crafts – Common as a material to craft everyday tools. 
Large bamboo canes of the Giant Gray Bamboo, green canes with a white shade on it

4. Phyllostachys

Another popular genus of bamboo, Phyllostachys (roughly meaning “leaf spike”) also contains over one hundred species. However, what makes this group of bamboo different than the previous three is its root habits, unlike Guadua, Dendrocalamus, and Bambusa bamboo.

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Phyllostachys is running bamboo. They grow very aggressively and spread across vast distances very quickly. 

Learn how to stop your bamboo from spreading here!

Specific Phyllostachys bamboo varieties

One of the most common species of Phyllostachys bamboo used in construction is Moso (Phyllostachys Edulis). Its towering 70 feet (21 m) tall and 7-inch (18 cm) diameter structure is ideal for a large variety of construction needs, including flooring and plywood.

Phyllostachys Edulis (Moso)

  • Height: 30-90 feet (9-27 m)
  • Diameter: 4-7 inches (10-18 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7 to 10

Phyllostachys Bambusoides (Madake or Giant Timber)

  • Height: 70 feet (21 m)
  • Diameter: 7 inches (18 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7 to 10
  • Multiple cultivars available, such as Mandake, Castillon, Allgold

Phyllostachys Vivax (Golden Vivax)

  • Height: 40 feet (12 m)
  • Diameter: 3 inches (8 cm)
  • USDA zones: 6 to 10
  • Multiple cultivars available: Aureocaulis (Golden Vivax), Chinese Timber Bamboo

Phyllostachys Rubromarginata (Red Margin)

  • Height: 40-60 feet (12-18 m)
  • Diameter: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • USDA zones: 5 to 10

Phyllostachys Nigra (Black Bamboo, Henon)

  • Height: 50 feet (15 m)
  • Diameter: 5 inches (13 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7 to 10
  • Multiple cultivars available, such as Megurochiku, Henon, and Bory

Phyllostachys Viridis (Pigskin Bamboo)

  • Height: 40 feet (12 m)
  • Diameter: 3 inches (8 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7 to 10
  • Multiple cultivars available, such as Robert Young and Houzeau

Phyllostachys Decora (Beautiful Bamboo)

  • Height: 30 feet (9 m)
  • Diameter: 2.5 inches (6 cm)
  • USDA zones: 6 to 10

Phyllostachys Nuda (Nude Sheath Bamboo)

  • Height: 34 feet (10 m)
  • Diameter: 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm)
  • USDA zones: 5 to 10
Eco-friendly bamboo flooring in a reddish hue

Uses of the Phyllostachys Bamboos

Phyllostachys Bamboo has a wide range of industrial uses and is standard for all types of construction and building projects. 

  • Scaffolding – The Phyllostachys’ strength and flexibility make it a suitable building material for massive scaffolding. 
  • Light Home Construction – One home construction use for Phyllostachys bamboo is panels for flooring. 
  • Crafts – Although Physllostachys bamboo timber is excellent for larger projects; it’s equally useful for smaller arts and crafts, such as baskets. 
  • Clothing – From shoes to jewelry, Phyllostachys bamboo can be used to create unique, long-lasting clothing pieces. 

Benefits of using bamboo for timber

As you can see, the Guadua, Dendrocalamus, Bambusa, and Phyllostachys genera all contain a variety of tall bamboo species (timbers) that are highly sought after for construction projects, both big and small. However, if you’re still not convinced about whether it’s worth using bamboo instead of traditional wood from trees for construction, here are some benefits that you can reap: 

Cost

Bamboo is an inexpensive building material compared to the wood used from trees and more simple structures can be assembled at a lower price. This is mostly because bamboo grows at such a fast rate – nearly 3 feet (1 m) a day!

Within 3 to 5 years, timber bamboo can be harvested and used for building, while traditional hardwoods can take between 20 to 100 years to be ready. Because bamboo is always readily accessible as a renewable resource, the costs of harvesting and producing timber from bamboo is much cheaper than any other alternative.

Also, bamboo can also offer more materials during one harvest. In fact, bamboo can produce nearly twice as much fiber as the fastest growing wood crop in the world. 

Ease of use

Bamboo has unique physical characteristics that make it easy to work with as a building material. For one, it’s very effortless to manipulate by bending or cutting without sophisticated tools. If you need to make the wood curved, simply apply more heat and pressure. If you need to split it in half, you only need a sturdy knife.

In addition, bamboo is light to carry in comparison to traditional timber. Construction workers can move and carry more pieces of bamboo wood around in contrast to having the added strain that comes with denser wood from trees.

Bamboo is also thin enough to store large amounts in smaller spaces. Even with smaller construction projects, you can never expect stacks of bamboo timber to get in the way of your progress. 

Keeps things green

Using the wood from bamboo results in a lower carbon footprint. The plant grows much faster than a re-planted forest of trees, and studies have shown that it has a higher carbon dioxide conversion rate. In fact, according to Everyday Health, “a field of bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than the equivalent timber forest, contributing positively to the atmosphere’s oxygen-carbon dioxide balance.”

Bamboo is also helpful in habitat restorations: it makes a great crop for areas of deforestation because it can grow fast and restores the soil for future growth. 

Safe to use

Bamboo is a safe building material to use. It does not pose any health risks as cement and asbestos do. 

Scaffolding made of timber bamboo
Scaffolding made of timber bamboo

Strength

Generally, some timber bamboo varieties have more compressive and tensile strength than wood, making it a robust and sturdy solution for different types of construction. It’s also strong enough to be used as reinforcement and is often used in combination with other building materials such as concrete and steel. On top of that, it also has a high strength-to-low weight ratio. 

And, with regular treatments and maintenance, bamboo structures can last as long as fifty years! 

Earthquake-resistant

Bamboo has a dividing wall inside of each of its nodes (mid-sections in the form of horizontal lines down the culm or stem) that keeps it strong even while bent. That, plus bamboo’s energy-absorbing ability makes it the ideal building material for seismic-resistant constructions. 

Fire-resistant

Bamboo wood is also more resistant to fire than traditional lumber. Its high percentage of silicate acid and water allows it to withstand temperatures up to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit (4,000 degrees Celsius).

Versatility

Unlike wood, bamboo can be used for a variety of things as a raw material, ranging from large scale buildings and scaffolding to paper and soft clothing. Bamboo has the flexibility to be used for both temporary and permanent constructions.

Although bamboo is more commonly used as a form of building material in regions such as Southeast Asia and South America – where the most durable bamboo species are more prevalent – it has become a much sought-after resource in other nations, including the United States. 

Some of the most building-worthy bamboo varieties, such as in the Guadua, Dendrocalamus, Bambusa, and Phyllostachys genera, offer benefits that cannot be matched by any other building material on the planet. There’s no harm in giving these amazing timber bamboo plants a try for your next construction project!

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Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

We are James and Natalie – newly-weds & nature lovers!

We want to give you the best information possible on bamboo. Get inspired to grow bamboo or to switch to natural bamboo products!

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