· Rattan is a thorny climbing palm.
· There are 600 known species of rattan.
· Rattan grows from sea level to 3 000 m altitude.
· Rattan is used for a wide range of products.
· Some rattan species are edible.
· The local usage of rattan is worth US$2.5 billion.
· The external trade of rattan generates US$4 billion.
· 700 million people worldwide use rattan.

· Bamboo is a tree-like woody plant.
· There are 1 250 known species of bamboo.
· Some bamboos live over 100 years.
· There are over 1 500 possible uses.
· The local usage of bamboo is worth US$2.7 billion.
· Trade in bamboo generates US$4.5 billion.
· 2.5 billion people worldwide use bamboo.
· One billion people live in bamboo houses.

For more information, please contact: International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Branch Box 155, PO Box 9799, Beijing, China 100101.
Fax: +86-10-64956962/83

(Source: INBAR's Agenda for the 21st century, booklet.)


Bamboos in agroforestry
Many of the most useful bamboo species can occupy much the same ecological niche as trees and are well suited for agroforestry. Bamboo has many advantages over trees; it requires a relatively short time from planting to harvest, it has the ability to provide sustainable building materials and edible products for many years or even decades, and it has a versatility of use which outmatches most tree species. For its ecological adaptability, and wide range of uses, bamboo can be an essential component of many agroforestry systems.

Bamboo belongs to the grass family (Gramineae), subfamily Bambusoideae. There are over 1 500 bamboo species recorded, ranging in height from a few centimetres to over 30 m, with stem (culm) diameters of 3 mm to over 25 cm. Bamboos are found in a wide range of habitats, from tropical to temperate, arid to humid and coastal to montane.

Together with the palm family (Palmae), members of the bamboo family are some of the most useful and versatile plants on earth. Because of bamboo's desirable properties, materials harvested from bamboo lend themselves to low-technology processing for use as farm or community resources. Likewise, industrial manufacturing techniques can produce a wide range of long-lasting, strong and inexpensive goods from bamboo. The many products of various bamboo species include: durable materials for structural building, flooring, trim, and plybamboo (similar to plywood); light and strong materials for crafts, handicrafts and furniture; fiber for woven goods, such as panelling and baskets; pulp for paper and other fibre products; raw materials for agricultural uses, such as fencing, tools, rafts, trellises, water pipes, etc.; fodder for domestic animals, such as cattle, sheep and goats; edible shoots for food; medicine; and ornaments in the landscape or as cut foliage.

Examples of integrated agroforestry systems using bamboo include: erosion control; stream and pond bank stabilization; hedge, screens and windbreaks; wastewater treatment; livestock fodder systems; and wildlife habitat.

There are two main categories of bamboo: clumping (sympodal) and running or open (monpodal). The clumping type of bamboos spreads slowly at a rate of 0.5-1 m/year, and is easy to control. The running types can spread up to 30 m in a single year, and readily spread into areas where they are unwanted. For most agricultural uses, especially in tropical systems, clumping types of bamboo are recommended and rarely, if ever, should spreading types be planted because of severe rampancy problems and extreme difficulty of removal.

Although the status of bamboo has been elevated to a luxury building and ornamental material in many countries (such as the United States and Australia), bamboo has received an undeservedly negative reputation as "the poor man's wood" in so-called developing countries. As the many superior properties of bamboo are rediscovered and agroforestry systems are developed, there is no doubt of bamboo's potential value to people and healthy ecosystems.


The book of bamboo by David Farrelly. 1995. An introduction to the biology, history and myriad use of bamboo.

Bamboos by Christine Recht et al. 1992. A technical guide to growing bamboo, including descriptions of many tropical and temperate species.

Building With bamboo _ a handbook by Jules J.A. Janssen, et al. 1995. A rare resource for techniques of building with bamboo.

Bamboo rediscovered by Victor Cusack. 1998. Practical advice for selecting and using bamboo species on the small farm.

(Source: The Overstory No.30.)


The anatomy of bamboo culms
In terms of diversity, distribution and uses, bamboo is the unrivalled leader in the world of plants.About 1 250 species in 75 genera of this plant of prehistoric origin thrive in habitats that range from the steamy rainforests of the tropics to the chilly mountains of the temperate zone. There are over 1 500 documented uses for bamboo, and more are being discovered by modern science and technology. Given all this, it must be a paradox that more is unknown than known about the botany of bamboo and that its taxonomy is far from satisfactory.

In recent decades there have been several attempts to correct this situation. Bamboo anatomy especially has started receiving close attention from botanists.

The anatomy of bamboo culms (INBAR Technical Report No. 18) is the first attempt to synthesize information from various studies that date from 1874 and ties up the theoretical aspects to the practical side. About 125 black and white plates and illustrations and colour plates support the text. The anatomy of bamboo culms is appealing to both bamboo enthusiasts and bamboo scientists: to the former, it provides an exciting journey into the enigmatic realm of bamboo's ultrastructure; and to the latter, it is a valuable reference tool that captures the essence of bamboo culm anatomy.

For more information, please contact the publishers: International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Branch Box 155, PO Box 9799, Beijing 100101, People's Republic of China.
Fax: +86-10-64956983

(See Liese, W. in Publications of Interest.


Bamboo Association of Fiji
The Bamboo Association of Fiji was formed in 1998 to encourage the use of bamboo in Fiji. While in Asia, South America and other regions it finds myriad applications (as much or more than wood), it is underappreciated in Fiji and the Association seeks to promote its extraordinary versatility besides that of timber.

The first workshop and conference on bamboo was held in Suva in September 1998 and was a great success. Initially 25 people were expected to participate, but over 60 attended and it was necessary to extend the workshop by two days. The workshop, which was held at the Fiji Institute of Technology, was organized by the Association and supported by the UNDP Small Enterprise Development Programme.

(Source: SPRIG, Pacific Islands Forests and Trees, June 1999.)

Rattans in Africa
Rattans are climbing plants found in lowland tropical forests, the flexible stems of which are used in the manufacture of baskets, furniture and other woven products. Although the majority of international trade is concentrated in Southeast Asia, the rattans of Africa are also an important forest resource and play an important role in indigenous subsistence strategies as well as contributing to a thriving cottage industry.

Until recently, very little was known about the rattans of Africa. Despite this, and with the growing focus on such high-value non-timber forest products, rattans have recently been identified by many government and bilateral development agencies as a high priority resource with the potential to contribute to the conservation of the forests of West and Central Africa through sustainable development.

However, this proposed development has been thwarted by the lack of even basic knowledge of the taxonomy, ecology and utilization of these species. Recent attempts by a number of workers across Africa to address this basic shortfall in information has resulted in the initial background information surrounding the biological and social aspects of the rattan sector in Africa now being available. More recently, attempts to unify these research initiatives have led to the formation of an informal network comprised of those institutions interested in rattan research in Africa.

(Source: Brochure on the International Expert Meeting on the Conservation and Development of Rattans of Africa: The rattans of Africa.)

For more information, please also see the Web site of the African Rattan Research Programme: www.africanrattanresearch_fsnet_co_uk.html

(Please see under Forthcoming Events for more information.)


Research grant on the many uses of bamboo
In Southeast Asia, bamboo grows widely, both naturally as well as in plantation forests. There are some 61 different species in Viet Nam alone, belonging to the genera Arundinaria, Oxytenanthera, Babus, Dendrocalamus, Neohouzeanua, Lignania and Phyllostachys. The versatility of bamboo, not only as a material for furniture and household ornaments, but also for construction, is carefully documented in a booklet produced by Ms Pham Minh Thoa as part of her research project sponsored by the International Foundation for Science (IFS).

In her application for an IFS-research grant, Ms Pham recalled the severe damage caused to forests in Viet Nam during two consecutive wars. The 14 million ha of forest that once existed have been reduced to 6 million ha. She sees good potential in bamboo cultivation as part of a larger strategy to protect endangered tree species. Bamboo can be grown anywhere in Viet Nam, in practically all types of soil, and has a short initial harvesting cycle and long productive life span. It needs little care and fertilization, and has a root structure that promotes soil retention.

IFS has continued to grant support to this research project in order to adapt the results on bamboo to help promote the well being of ethnic people living in the mountain regions of Viet Nam.

(Source: International Foundation for Science News, Issue 6, September 1999.)

Biomass production of bamboo plantations
The Department of Botany at Bharathiar University is carrying out research in biomass production of bamboo plantations.

For more information, please contact: Dr P. Shanmughavel, Department of Botany, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore 641046, India.



The Internet is a rich source of information on bamboo species and their uses.

· American Bamboo Society
Contains general information and links on bamboo, bamboo organizations and species.

· Integrated Rural Bamboo Project
Includes a set of articles on the use of bamboo for farm and economic development in rural communities

· Découverte du bambou--Bamboo Discovery
A very interesting and useful database including processing and uses of bamboo.

(Source: The Overstory No.30.)

(See Web sites for more information on The Overstory.)



Benecol products have been introduced on the Finnish and UK markets by the company Raisio: in Finland as normal and low fat spread; in the UK as vegetable fat based Benecol fresh cheese. New markets are targeted for this year.

As early as the 1950s, the cholesterol lowering effect of plant sterols was known. At the end of the 1970s, research showed that plant stanols were the most effective and safe of the plant sterols in reducing serum cholesterol. Since then more than 30 scientific publications have been published specifically on the effects of plant stanol ester on serum cholesterol levels. It has been proved that the fat soluble plant stanol ester in Benecol products effectively restricts the absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract and thus reduces serum total and LDL cholesterol.

Sterols are found in low concentration in every plant. Raisio obtains sterols from two main sources, the vegetable oil industry and the wood processing industry. The latter is believed to be the main supplier of raw sterols in the future. Much emphasis has been put on securing raw materials. Sterol extraction facilities are being built in France and Chile and there is a letter of interest for one in the United States.

(Source: Extract from an article by Sten von Hellens in EFI News Vol. 7, No. 1, June 1999.)



Ramnus alpinus spp. alpinus is an interesting shrub that colonizes dry and stony slopes. It is found in southern Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Balcanic peninsula and the Caucasus, as well as in northern Africa. It is a species with potential for use in enrichment plantings to increase biodiversity in forest ecosystems aimed at improving food availability for wildlife. In Italy, for example, its fruits are the preferred food of bears. It is a pioneer species that can be used to colonize difficult areas (slopes at an altitude of over 800-1 000 m) where few other plant species would survive. The bark, besides containing tannins, has important pharmacological properties. Fresh bark and dried bark extracts are currently used in therapies against various digestive complaints. Excellent charcoal is produced from its wood.

(Source: Moraldi, M. 1999. Il ramo alpino. In Sherwood N. 45.)



The bark of cinchona produces several alkaloids. The most important alkaloid, quinine, has certain febrifuge properties. Quinine has been used in the battle against malaria since the 1630s. Of the 38 species of cinchona, four have economic value for the production of quinine: C. calisaya, C. legeriana, C. officinalis and C. succirubra.

Cinchona, of the family Rubiaceae, is native to the South American Andes. It thrives best on steep mountain slopes in rich volcanic soils and an annual rainfall of 1 500 mm. The bark of wild species may yield a quinine content of as high as 7 percent, whereas cultivated crops yield contents up to 15 percent.

It is not certain who discovered the febrifuge properties of the bark. The Indians knew of it as a cure for fevers. Jesuits also have a claim on discovering the bark. Their method of finding new medicines was by chewing barks. The bark of cinchona is bitter and, therefore, labelled as a medicine. Father John de Lugo took an interest in the bark and undertook the propagation of its use. Yet the most famous story behind the discovery involves the wife of a Viceroy of Peru, Countess Ana of Chinchon. In 1638 the Countess contracted malaria while in Peru. She was given a powder that cured her of the fevers. Impressed by this new cure she collected the bark and gave it to others who needed it.

Acceptance of the cinchona bark was not as immediate as would be expected for an otherwise incurable malady, because of past failures with other claims to "cures". Nevertheless the importance of the bark was realized and intense harvesting in Loxa, the main source, left a large number of trees dead.

Alarmed at the scarcity of the cinchonas and the contamination of exports, expeditions were sent out to find cinchonas in other parts. In the mid-1800s, collection of young plants and seeds for crops began. Early attempts to grow cinchonas in India and Java failed because of difficulties with transporting young trees, low quinine yield and/or crop failure.

In 1860, trees and seeds of C. succirubra were collected and successfully transported to India. The red cinchonas thrived the best. By 1867 plantations in India covered 480 ha. In 1865 plantations in Java also started successfully and Java quickly became the largest producer accounting for 95 percent of the world's commercial supply.

Today other antimalarial drugs exist. In addition to its medicinal use, however, quinine is used as a tonic, an antiseptic, and in lotions against the sun and insects.

Cultivation, management and harvest
Cinchona may be propagated by seeds, cuttings or grafting. Young plants are thinned and kept shaded and protected from wind. In the tenth year, when the quinine content is highest, the trees are harvested. Trees may be partially stripped and bound with moss for protection. The moss also facilitates the growth of new bark. The replacement bark normally gives a higher yield of quinine.

Barks from trunks, roots and branches are all used. Removing the bark is done by beating the trees with sticks to loosen it. It is then stripped away with a knife and rolled. The barks from the roots, trunk and branches are separated and rapidly dried. The roots contain the highest quinine content with the trunk second.

Bark from pruned branches is also used. Extensive cutting back on the older tree promotes growth of new branches, which helps increase the yield of each tree.

(Source: extracted and edited from Motley, C. in



Ginger is an important export crop of India, which produces nearly half of the 30 000 tonnes traded on the world market each year. The spice does well in an area of about 56 000 ha in India. Kerala State supplies the largest share of India's exportable ginger, mainly Zingiber officinale, which is superior in quality and popular on global markets. Estimates indicate that the country will need to increase production by 12 percent annually to meet the growing internal and export demands.

Traditionally, ginger has been grown as a monocrop in open fields on large-scale commercial plantations. Because of population growth, however, per caput availability of land is shrinking, and there is less land available on which to grow monocrops. But researchers and farmers are finding that coconut (Cocos nucifera) gardens can provide a healthy and profitable place to grown ginger.

Ginger is a common feature in most of the Kerala home gardens, where smallholder farmers grow the crop mainly for home consumption. In a detailed case study of a typical coconut-based home garden in south Kerala, researchers found that farmers treat ginger as a cash, spice and medicinal crop. Furthermore, a study by India's Central Plantation Crops Research Institute found that the coconut-ginger system under rainfed conditions gave attractive returns and created additional employment of 500 person days/ha/year.

The economic advantages of such a coconut-based farming system have already been established in research stations and on farmers' fields. With the shade-loving nature of ginger confirmed, it would be a good idea to suggest to the farmers the possibility of using the coconut ecoclimate to increase ginger production. This would go a long way towards increasing farm productivity and profitability, as well as meeting the increasing demand for ginger.

(Source: Extracted from «Under the coconut tree», Agroforestry Today, July-September 1998.)



Commercial harvesting of wild mushrooms in Scottish forests - is it sustainable?
The wild mushroom industry in Scotland has grown rapidly over the last decade as species such as the chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), cep (Boletus edulis) and hedgehog mushroom (Hydnum repandum) have become fashionable foodstuffs. The commercialization of this resource has been accompanied by increasing concern about its ecological impact, particularly as fungal declines have been recorded elsewhere in Europe. To examine the sustainability of wild mushroom harvesting in Scotland, information from participants in the industry was ascertained by questionnaires and structured interviews, and involved landowners, mushroom pickers and buyers. Results indicated that the total mushroom harvest in Scotland is worth some UK£406 000/year. A total of 20 jobs are directly attributable to the harvest and approximately 350 pickers benefit from casual earnings (averaging £28.70/week). The mushrooms are collected from both natural and plantation forests, principally in highland areas. There are conflicts, especially between landowners and pickers with respect to ownership of and access to the resource. Consideration is given to how such conflicts may be resolved and how the industry may be developed in a sustainable manner in the future.

(Source: Scottish Forestry, Vol. 53, No. 2, 1999.)

For more information, please contact: A.J. Dyke and A.C. Newton, Institute of Ecology and Resource Management, University of Edinburg, King's Building, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JU, Scotland, UK.
E-mail: or

Special report of AMBIO
The September 1999 issue of the journal AMBIO is devoted to the biological, socio-economic and managerial aspects of chanterelle mushroom harvesting on the Olympic peninsula, Washington State, United States.

For more information, please contact: AMBIO, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Box 50005, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden.
Fax: +46-8-16 62 51




Quebracho (Aspidosperma quebracho blanco) is an evergreen tree that grows naturally in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and southern Brazil and sometimes rises to 30 m, and has an erect stem and wide-spreading crown. The wood of all the species of this genus is valuable, and owes its name to its hardness, being derived from two Spanish words, quebrar and hacha, meaning "the axe breaks". It is used for tanning.

The bark was not introduced into Europe until 1878, although it had been used in South America for a long time as a febrifuge. Commercially, it is found in large, thick pieces covered on the outside with a very thick and rough, corky layer of a greyish-brown colour, and deeply divided by furrows and excavations. The inner bark is greyish or yellowish, smooth or somewhat fibrous, and often with small, black spots. The taste is very bitter, but there is scarcely any odour.

Two other plants are known as quebracho: Schinopsis lorenzii, the wood of which is sold in commerce as "quebracho wood", and Lodina rhombifolia, "quebracho flojo", the wood and bark of which are sometimes substituted for the "quebracho colorado".

The bark of quebracho contains six alkaloids: aspidospermine, aspidospermatine, aspidosamine, quebrachine, hypoquebrachine and quebrachamine. All agree that quebrachine is the most active. Two new sugars, quebrachite and laevogyrate inosite, tannin and starch have also been extracted.

In medicine it is used as a tonic, febrifuge and anti-asthmatic. Quebracho colorado, or S. lorenzii, has been used as a substitute, but is essentially different, being probably a simple and gastrointestinal stimulant, although it has been said to be a much weaker form of quebracho blanco.

(Source: Extracted from the Internet and contributed by Mr Chris Brown, Forest Resources Division, FAO.)