Controlling non-natives: going too far


I love bamboo. I have bamboo bath towels, bamboo sheets, bamboo chopsticks, bamboo placemats, and I once owned a bamboo sweater and several bamboo polo shirts.

It is the bamboo outside the west wall of my home that gives me the most pleasure. The bamboo stays green all winter and is most beautiful when there is snow on its delicate leaves. I watch it sway from my bedroom window and take delight in seeing the bamboo shadows dance across the wall in the afternoon.

In May I will go outside each day and look for culms pushing their way through the soil, anticipating the remarkable new growth that may reach the top of my house within a month. When I put in the first clump of bamboo, it was in front of my dining room window. Now I look for new shoots sprouting from front to back of the house.

This is a wondrous season for me, but if I lived in Woodsburgh Village, about 15 miles from my home, instead of enjoying my little grove, I would be worried. I would redouble my efforts to stomp on the delicate new shoots that pop up in unwanted places and cut the roots that have crossed over onto my neighbors’ ground. A law passed last week in Woodsburgh would make me responsible for confining the plant (actually a grass) to my property, taking reasonable action to prevent the bamboo from invading other properties and I would be liable for expenses incurred by the owner of the invaded property.

The new law also prohibits future planting of bamboo, declaring it an invasive species.

A non-native species is defined as plants or animals introduced by human activity in locations other than their natural range. In the US, these are plants and animals introduced after European settlements. In New York, 35% of all plants are non-native and about one-third of these are also defined as invasive, as they have disrupted the native ecosystem, causing harm to the environment, economy or human health. Soon to be banned for sale on Long Island by state law are Norway maple, loosestrife, honeysuckle and burning bush, amongst others.

Bamboo is on the state’s management list, but it isn’t banned.

I think Woodsburg got it wrong in banning bamboo. Unlike other plants and trees on the state’s list of banned invasive species, bamboo doesn’t spread by seed. Seeds are spread by wind and by birds that have eaten the seeds, so there is no way that such plants can be confined to just one area. They go where wind and birds go. Bamboo spreads by runners. It can’t jump distances. New culms may appear 20 or so feet away from the clump each season, as roots seek a place in the sun. But new shoots can’t appear in a non-contiguous area.

Woodsburg is right in taking action to make bamboo owners responsible for what happens in a neighbor’s property. It is perfectly reasonable for property owners who plant bamboo to take reasonable action to prevent bamboo from invading another’s property.

But it is taking it a step too far to prevent planting bamboo in the first place. It is actually easy to control the spread of bamboo when new shoots come up—they are soft and can easily be crushed by foot and new runner can be torn out of the ground without much effort. It is the grown culms that are difficult to get rid of.

Before I planted my bamboo, I told my neighbor the risks involved and asked his permission to put it in. And each Spring, as new shoots emerge, I walk around, reminding him to look for unwanted bamboo, and crushing culms on his side when I see them. After 20 years, there has been no problem.

If homeowners can confine the growth to their own property, it is the law that is too invasive, not the bamboo. There is too little beauty in the world as it is for an unnecessary law to make it even harder to find.

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6 thoughts on “Controlling non-natives: going too far

  1. Bamboo is indeed beautiful. My neighbor planted a “stand” of it right on our property line. Now, after consulting with three different plant nurseries about limiting its growth, I find that there is “…nothing you can do to get rid of it.”
    The “beautiful” grasses are now 15 feet high and slowly intruding on my shrubery. I will probably live long enough to see it, the bamboo will spread its “lovely” shoots throughout my whole neighborhood – that is, if I live another half hour.
    It certainly is “pretty,” but I hate it.

  2. The truth when you are informed is:
    The scientific fact is that yellow groove, Phyllostachys
    is timber bamboo, and in the “long run”cannot be contained
    even with the best intentions. This is a very very agressive
    alien invasive, and even in Tokyo you cannot plant it
    without permission from your neighbor as it knows
    no property lines. Even WIKI ENCYCLOPEDIA got this
    right…you do need to read the section on barriers.
    Barriers do not stop the annual rhizomes, it just
    deflects them for pruning. This is a very difficult task
    as most barriers are not effective. I will not go into
    what constitutes an effective barrier. It would be
    too long. And what happens when land is sold
    to new owner who does not do this ?
    Most all plantings are from shared rhizomes, and with
    Phyllostachys-when you realize it is a problem it is
    almost too late. Any 2 inch fragment of rhizome
    will recolonize it, and fast.
    This is one of the most difficult invasives to eradicate
    once it invades. Problem is everyone is planting it on
    property lines. It will destroy septic and all landcape
    underground.
    Lastly, IT DOES SEED !! It seeds every 70-100 years,
    and then the viable seed will be a huge problem.
    This is per USDA scientists. Pls do not plant
    running bamboo. Appraisers and home inspectors
    are just now finding out . This information
    is easily seen, and supported widely on the internet.
    Let’s not confuse people with :mis-information”.

  3. I would like to inform people, that almost no one is buying
    invasive bamboo. Everyone is sharing rhizomes.
    Where I live, no one knows what a barrier is.
    No one knows in 10 years or so they will have
    a bamboo forest that will be eating up everyones land.
    It resists herbicide, and if you look at YOU TUBE
    there is a 5 minute video on backhoe removal.
    I had to do that, and its all back…except now it
    is on 7 properties in my neighborhood.
    A new driveway was destroyed last summer, and it went into central a/c unit. The neighbor could care less.
    They know there are no laws !!!! This must change. Woodsburgh I absolutely commend you, and I will call the mayor there to say finally someone cares !!
    There are hundreds asking for help on the internet.
    This is far too invasive !!!!and destructive..
    people are not maintaining barriers!
    the majority of plantings are invading.
    We need regulation and fast.

  4. Thanks for your comments.
    I guess I’ve been lucky. In fifteen years, it hasn’t been a problem.
    I have to re-think my position.
    I can still love it—but from a distance.

  5. Pingback: This Non Invasive Bamboo

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