Is Bamboo An Invasive Plant

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The answer to whether bamboo is an invasive plant depends on the context.

According to some sources, bamboo is not an invasive species and is only expansive on a small localized scale because viable spreading only occurs from the root system.

Control the root system, and you control bamboo

However, other sources state that several species of running bamboo have proven invasive in the U.S., both colonizing uncultivated lands and spreading into neighbor’s yards outside of where it was planted.

Two species of bamboo, Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) and Golden Groove Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata), are regulated as a Tier 2 invasive plant by the Maryland Department of Agriculture

In Virginia, Golden Bamboo and Yellow Grove Bamboo are native to China and were first introduced into the United States in the 1880s for ornamental purposes.

If left uncontrolled or removed, bamboo will form dense, monocultural thickets that displace native species. Therefore, it is important to research the specific species of bamboo and its growth habits before planting it.

If you choose to plant running bamboo, expect that it will run out of bounds.

Running bamboo spreads by underground runners, but the invading rhizomes can be terminated.

January 2021 Invasive Plant of the Month — State of Indiana ...

Identifying Invasive Bamboo Species

Identifying invasive bamboo species can be challenging as there are many different species of bamboo.

However, some species of bamboo are more invasive than others.

The most invasive varieties of bamboo belong to the genus Phyllostachys, which are temperate bamboos native to East Asia and have running rhizomes that can spread indefinitely

Other aggressive, running bamboo genera include Sasa and Pleioblastus, but they tend to grow much smaller. In Maryland, invasive bamboos belong to four genera: Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus, Pseudosasa, and Bambusa.

Two of these species are regulated as a Tier 2 invasive plant by the Maryland Department of Agriculture: Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) and Golden Groove Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) 

To identify invasive bamboo species, it is essential to look for the following characteristics:

  • Running rhizomes that can spread indefinitely
  • Extremely vigorous growth and resilience despite control efforts
  • Heavy seed set and excellent germination
  • Regular and abundant flowering
  • Dense, monocultural thickets that displace native species

It is important to research the specific species of bamboo and its growth habits before planting it.

If you choose to plant running bamboo, expect that it will run out of bounds.

Running bamboo spreads by underground runners, but the invading rhizomes can be terminated.

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Bamboo’s Growth Habits

Bamboo’s growth habits can vary depending on the species.

Some species of bamboo are clumping, meaning they grow in tight clusters and do not spread aggressively.

Other species are running, meaning they have underground rhizomes that can spread quickly and make them potentially invasive.

Running bamboo can spread indefinitely, and only a heavy physical barrier and some control measures can slow their growth. Bamboo culms (canes) only grow during the spring and early summer, and each culm only has a 60-day growth cycle before it stops growing.

Every generation should be taller than the previous year’s shoots until maturity for a species is attained. Bamboo has abundant but extremely irregular flowering, typically on 75+ year cycles for temperate bamboos

Heavy seed set and excellent germination are also characteristics of invasive plants. Therefore, it is important to research the specific species of bamboo and its growth habits before planting it.

If you choose to plant running bamboo, expect that it will run out of bounds.

Running bamboo spreads by underground runners, but the invading rhizomes can be terminated.

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Environmental Impact

Invasive bamboo species can have a significant impact on ecosystems.

Running bamboo can easily colonize forest edges and gaps by means of vegetative reproduction through their rhizomes, whereas herbaceous bamboos are characteristic of shady forest floors.

The large biomass of bamboo stems and leaves provides an excellent habitat for a wide variety of animals

However, bamboo’s rapid elongation, tall, hard stems, and copious somatic branching allow woody bamboos to compete with trees for light, leading to the loss of species diversity and destruction of native forest ecosystems

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Invasive bamboo species can also displace native plants, degrade natural areas, and cause damage to structures such as retaining walls, house foundations, and pools

Manufacturers often use sodium hydroxide, a contributor to pollution, when they make bamboo textiles. However, some sources argue that bamboo is not an invasive species and is only expansive on a small localized scale because viable spreading only occurs from the root system

Therefore, it is important to research the specific species of bamboo and its growth habits before planting it.

If you choose to plant running bamboo, expect that it will run out of bounds.

Running bamboo spreads by underground runners, but the invading rhizomes can be terminated. Understanding how bamboo grows and implementing control measures can help prevent the spread of invasive bamboo species and minimize their impact on ecosystems.

Rapid bamboo invasion (expansion) and its effects on biodiversity ...

Preventing Bamboo Spread

To prevent the spread of invasive bamboo species, it is essential to implement control measures.

The following are some best practices for containing bamboo:

  1. Contain the running bamboo with a physical barrier: The safest containment methods for running bamboo are planting in containers or installing a vertical 30-40 mil thick plastic rhizome barrier 22-30 inches deep around the perimeter of the area in which the bamboo is to be contained.
  2. Mow unwanted shoots in lawn areas: If the bamboo is surrounded by lawn, then just mow frequently over the area where the bamboo is coming up during the spring shooting season.
  3. Using chemical weed killers may be helpful: Be warned that bamboo doesn’t respond well to any herbicide currently on the market.

    If glyphosate (Round Up) is used, remember it is taken in through the leaves only, and it must be applied in an undiluted form.

    Often the plants will still re-shoot.

    Some have used a “cut and paste method” with some success.

    Each culm is cut to within 6” of the ground and immediately (within 15 seconds) painted with concentrated glyphosate.
  4. Digging a ditch and putting in a barrier is a more permanent solution.
  5. Remove the rhizomes to stop bamboo spreading: Sever and remove any rhizomes you come across with a shovel.

    Line the soil with landscape fabric before filling the trench back in to prevent future problems.
  6. Cut the stalks to ground level to weaken them.

    Then, dig around the stalks and sever the roots underground with a pointed shovel, which will prevent the bamboo from spreading underground.
  7. Confine bamboo to a specific area by planting it in containers or using a root barrier.

It is important to note that controlling invasive bamboo species requires vigilance and persistence.

Understanding how bamboo grows and implementing control measures can help prevent the spread of invasive bamboo species and minimize their impact on ecosystems.

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Legal Considerations

Bamboo is not classified as an invasive species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, unlike Japanese Knotweed. However, some species of bamboo are considered invasive and can quickly spread to multiple properties

In response, some cities and states have adopted regulations for the sale and planting of bamboo. For example, a bill was signed on June 6th, 2013, by Connecticut’s governor regarding an act regulating planting and sale of running bamboo

The act’s purpose is to prohibit certain actions concerning the planting of running bamboo, establish liability for failing to contain running bamboo plantings, and require disclosures by persons who sell or install running bamboo

In Maryland, two species of bamboo, Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) and Golden Groove Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata), are regulated as a Tier 2 invasive plant by the Maryland Department of Agriculture

Homeowners wishing to plant bamboo in their gardens should avoid the running varieties in favor of clumping varieties and always plant them in sturdy pots to prevent their spread

While there are no specific legal obligations at present in relation to bamboo, for those considering buying a house with bamboo in the garden, they should be aware that this is an issue to look out for.

Community Awareness

Raising awareness of the invasive nature of some bamboo species is crucial to prevent their spread.

Educating the public about the potential hazards of planting invasive bamboo species can help prevent their spread and minimize their impact on ecosystems

Some organizations and communities have taken steps to raise awareness of the invasiveness of bamboo species.

For example, the Guam Service Learning project encourages students to communicate with their Mayor and various agencies to learn about how this invasive plant can be removed

Rutgers Gardens contained a bamboo forest that was allowed to grow to an immense size, and to raise awareness, the project proposed the installment of a warning sign educating people to the effect of growing bamboo in the United States on native species of plants and the surrounding environment

Homeowners wishing to plant bamboo in their gardens should avoid the running varieties in favor of clumping varieties and always plant them in sturdy pots to prevent their spread

It is important to note that bamboo is not classified as an invasive species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, unlike Japanese Knotweed

However, some cities and states have adopted regulations for the sale and planting of bamboo. Therefore, educating the public about the invasiveness of some bamboo species can help prevent their spread and minimize their impact on ecosystems.

Managing Invasive Bamboo

Managing invasive bamboo requires a combination of strategies for removal and control.

While some sources argue that bamboo is not an invasive species and is only expansive on a small localized scale because viable spreading only occurs from the root system, other sources state that some species of bamboo are highly invasive and damaging in the United States

Therefore, it is important to research the specific species of bamboo and its growth habits before planting it.

The following are some strategies for removing and controlling invasive bamboo:

  1. Physical removal: Cut the stalks to ground level to weaken them.

    Then, dig around the stalks and sever the roots underground with a pointed shovel, which will prevent the bamboo from spreading underground. Repeated cutting or mowing of bamboo through several growing seasons will eventually exhaust the energy reserves of the rhizomes.
  2. Chemical control: Using chemical weed killers may be helpful, but be warned that bamboo doesn’t respond well to any herbicide currently on the market. If glyphosate (Round Up) is used, remember it is taken in through the leaves only, and it must be applied in an undiluted form.

    Often the plants will still re-shoot.

    Some have used a “cut and paste method” with some success.

    Each culm is cut to within 6” of the ground and immediately (within 15 seconds) painted with concentrated glyphosate.
  3. Containment: Contain the running bamboo with a physical barrier, such as a vertical 30-40 mil thick plastic rhizome barrier 22-30 inches deep around the perimeter of the area in which the bamboo is to be contained. Confine bamboo to a specific area by planting it in containers or using a root barrier.
  4. Prevention: Homeowners wishing to plant bamboo in their gardens should avoid the running varieties in favor of clumping varieties and always plant them in sturdy pots to prevent their spread. If bamboo is coming from a neighbor’s yard, speak to them about removing and replacing with better alternatives.

It is important to note that controlling invasive bamboo species requires vigilance and persistence. Understanding how bamboo grows and implementing control measures can help prevent the spread of invasive bamboo species and minimize their impact on ecosystems.

Native Alternatives

Choosing non-invasive plants for landscaping is an effective way to prevent the spread of invasive species.

There are many native alternatives to invasive plants that can be used in landscaping.

The following are some resources for choosing non-invasive plants:

  1. The Royal Horticultural Society and Plantlife have produced a guide to plants that can be used in place of invasive non-natives. The guide suggests non-invasive plants for a variety of different landscaping occasions and cultivation conditions.
  2. The University of New Hampshire Extension has developed a fact sheet that provides a list of suggested alternatives for consumers and landscapers. The fact sheet includes alternatives to prohibited invasive plants in New Hampshire.
  3. The USDA Forest Service provides a list of native plant alternatives to invasive exotics. The list includes plants that are suitable for different regions and growing conditions.
  4. Better Homes & Gardens has published an article that lists 10 native alternatives to invasive plants growing in your garden. The article includes alternatives to Japanese Honeysuckle, Butterfly Bush, English Ivy, and Japanese Barberry.
  5. The Non-Native Species Secretariat provides information on non-native species in the UK and suggests alternatives to invasive plants.

Choosing non-invasive plants for landscaping can help prevent the spread of invasive species and minimize their impact on ecosystems. It is important to research the specific species of plants and their growth habits before planting them.

Research and Development

Research and development of non-invasive bamboo varieties is an area of interest for some organizations and researchers.

However, it is important to note that some sources argue that bamboo is not an invasive species and is only expansive on a small localized scale because viable spreading only occurs from the root system

Rutgers Gardens contained a bamboo forest that was allowed to grow to an immense size, and to raise awareness, the project proposed the installment of a warning sign educating people to the effect of growing bamboo in the United States on native species of plants and the surrounding environment

Non Invasive Bamboo | Palmco | Florida

Some researchers are working on developing non-invasive bamboo varieties.

For example, a team of researchers at the University of Maryland is working on developing a sterile bamboo variety that does not produce seeds or rhizomes

The team is using genetic engineering to create a bamboo variety that is sterile and cannot spread.

However, this research is still in its early stages, and it may be some time before non-invasive bamboo varieties are widely available.

In conclusion, it is important to research the specific species of bamboo and its growth habits before planting it.

Understanding how bamboo grows and implementing control measures can help prevent the spread of invasive bamboo species and minimize their impact on ecosystems.

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