Bamboo Species of Brazil
Brazil is the country with the greatest bamboo diversity and the highest percentage of endemic woody bamboos in Latin America -- 137 species (32% of Latin American bamboo species) and 17 genera (85% of Latin American bamboo genera). The states of Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina, Bahia and Parana have the greatest diversity of woody bamboos.
Foremost among the world centers of bamboo diversity are the Atlantic forests of Brazil, which extend from the state of Paraiba to Rio Grande do Sul in a mostly narrow coastal strip characterized by abundant rainfall, and include 22 genera and 62 species (woody and herbaceous).
Several exotic bamboo species were introduced to Brazil during the period of colonization by the Portuguese. These species are widely distributed around the country and, along with some natives ones, have a large number of uses: building material (including raw material for low-cost housing); source of food for people and livestock; raw material for making a wide variety of handicrafts; source of medicine; raw material for paper pulp; for erosion control; as ornamental plants; etc. Bamboo is also under research as possible source of ethanol.
The area of bamboo forests in Brazil is still not clearly determined. However, it is known that the states of Amazonas and Acre have the largest area of bamboo. The extent and distribution of bamboo-dominated forest in south-western Amazon basin are uncertain. Recently, with satellite imagery, aerial photographs and site investigations, it has been calculated that the bamboo-dominant area is close to 180,000 km2, or 18 million hectares.
At least 3 genera of woody bamboos have been reported in this bamboo forest: Arthrostylidium, Elytrostachys and Guadua. The most dominant genus is Guadua, with Guadua weberbaueri, Guadua sarcocarpa, Guadua superba, Guadua paraguayana, Guadua capitata, Guadua ciliate, Guadua glomerata and several unknown species forming an impenetrable tangle of thorny vegetation.
The common view in Brazil is that the bamboo resources of the country are infinite. Even then, the alarming rate of destruction, especially of the ecosystems where the majority of native bamboo species are found, calls for an intensive campaign to protect some bamboo species from indiscriminate felling and extinction.
Currently, some Asiatic bamboos, principally in the genera of Bambusa and Dendrocalamus, fill a more important economic role than any native species in Brazil.
Of the 17 genera of woody bamboos native to Brazil, it can be said that only Actinocladum, Apoclada, Chusquea, Guadua and Merostachys consist of any species that have or could have any potential use.