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Cloning Bamboo

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Producing bamboo quicker to save the world quicker

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet. It is capable of surviving as far north as Sakhalin in Russia and as far south as Chile. It is a hardy plant that uses less water than trees and absorbs more carbon than trees. Bamboo mostly propagates through its root system. It can spread very quickly. It is thus a great surprise to discover that someone bothered to learn how to clone bamboo.

That is exactly what Jackie Heinricher and tissue-culture expert Randy Burr managed to do. It took years of experimentation to make clones of bamboo in a ‘test tube’. The work was done at Jackie’s home in Anacortes. Since then she has managed to start a successful biolab in Mount Vernon. In just a few years Jackie and her husband have artificially cloned enough of what they call the ‘perfect plant’ to off-set the carbon footprint for the rest of their lives.

The inspiration for the cloning project began with Hienricher’s Chilean father. He witnessed the once a century occurrence of bamboo seeding. Bamboo is a gregarious flowering plant. That means all bamboo of a certain variety seed at the same time. In places like in India this spells catastrophe for local communities because the surfeit of seeds attracts thousands upon thousands of rodents. (see the Mystery of Bamboo Flowers)

This was not a concern for Jackie Heinricher’s father. He collected lots of the seeds and carefully stripped them of their protective outer layer. It was these seeds that his daughter was to use to learn the secret of bamboo cloning.

Now Jackie has a multimillion dollar business. Boo-Shot Gardens in Mount Vernon produces more than 2 million bamboo plants a year. This is the commercial benefit of cloning – it allows more plants to be propagated quicker and in a smaller space. With UN plans to reduce Global Warming by cultivating fast growing plants that can sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide Jackie has launched the ‘Plant-a-boo’ campaign that seeks to clone millions of bamboo plants to put throughout the globe.

“The idea that bamboo could have a meaning or a purpose above and beyond horticulture? You can't even entertain those thoughts without the ability to pump out millions of plants. It took eight full years to bring the technology to fruition.” Said Jackie.

She sees the potential for bamboo to be used as a medicine, as a food source, as a local income source, as an alternative to steel (already we have bamboo bicycles) and as a way of combating the problem of rising world temperatures due to an excess of carbon dioxide in the planet.

The only minor concern is that too much bamboo planted without due consideration for the perimeters could lead to bamboo invading areas where it is not wanted. Bamboo runners have a habit of moving across the ground at an alarming rate. It is also a concern that cloned varieties of bamboo will push out indigenous types of bamboo.

Nevertheless, we wish Jackie the best of luck of bringing the bamboo revolution to the world.

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