I know this is really basic, but I encounter so much confusion about how bamboo grows, I just have to write it: bamboo doesn't have bark! And, it doesn't have bark because? It's a grass, and grasses don't have bark! If you are brand new to bamboo, that's a key bit of info you'll need in order to understand how bamboo grows. I go into this topic more thoroughly in my article Bamboo vs. Wood, but for now, let's move on to some basic bamboo botany. Bamboos, along with all other true grasses, are in the family Poaceae. The majority of bamboos are evergreen perennials with woody stems, but there are some herbaceous perennial bamboos as well (bamboo wannabees I call 'em). The woody bamboos are segregated into a "tribe" called Bambuseae. This tribe contains all of the tropical and temperate, woody bamboos. Depending on what you read or who you talk to, there are somewhere between 1000-2000 different species and forms of bamboo, and it seems a few new bamboos are discovered each year. Of these, there are probably around 500 or so temperate bamboos. And of those 500, there are about 250 or so frost hardy bamboos that will grow west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon and southern British Columbia. By far, the greatest number of temperate bamboos available in the U.S., are native to Asia. To sketch it out very roughly, the timber-size bamboos (runners that are potentially invasive) are native to lower elevations of China and Japan; many of the mid-size running bamboos are found at somewhat higher elevations or further north; and some of the very cold hardiest shrub and dwarf bamboos are native to northern Japan and the Kuril Islands. Most of the hardy clumping bamboos (non-invasive, usually slow to spread) found in the U.S. are native to montane environments in China, Nepal, and Tibet (Himalayas and other ranges). Several species are native to Chile (Andes Mountains) and one species is native to mountain regions of South Africa. This is a extremely simplified explanation of bamboo distribution, but these first articles are for Bamboo Beginners, after all. Look for more specifics in future articles! In the meantime, there are many books and websites with very detailed information. For starters, try bambooweb.info for the most comprehensive database of bamboos growing in the U.S., including details on cold hardiness, and maximum size. Bambooweb.info also has pictures of many of the bamboos listed there, and much, much more.