Well, that’s the shortened version of the question that asked on Quora:
“Why isn’t bamboo wood a bigger worldwide industry, since it grows so quickly and is so strong? couldn’t it replace lumber and save many trees?”
It’s a question that I’ve often thought myself. You hear regularly about how bamboo is such a superior resource for many things, but I’ve never seen an objective reason why it’s not as widely used.
But in his answer, Raphaël du Sablon came to our aid with some very interesting reasons:
Okay, here is the long answer. Bamboo is the collective name for several dozen genera of grasses, all in the Bambusoideae branch of the “BOP” clade. While most bamboo species are either shrubby or relatively short plants, a couple genera include particularly large species, typically called “timber bamboo” or “giant bamboo.” These are the bamboo of relevance.
Being in the grass family, bamboo is not a tree. Thus, material cut from bamboo stalks is not technically “wood.” Because of its roughly similar properties, however, and for marketing reasons, it often is referred to as a wood.
With that pedantry out of the way, let’s consider the uses of wood, and how bamboo compares. The big ones are fuel, lumber, and paper.