Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Wicked Inconvenience of Invasive Golden Bamboo

Selected Images from
    One person's simple solution to a landscape problem is another person's complex ecosystem challenge. Because as the US Forest Service notes "Golden bamboo thrives in full sun in all but the hottest climates where it requires some shade, it will grow in sparsely wooded secondary forests. Furthermore vigorous growth and spread is seen in moist, deep loamy soils. In habitats less than ideal, it will continue to grow and spread at a diminished rate." These traits make it a perfect choice for those who want a fast growing, impossible to kill,  quickly spreading property barrier that works effectively to shield against noise and visual distractions. Moreover, even non gardeners can successfully plant and grow a lush stand with no extra work as golden bamboo offers an attractive, easy, quick inexpensive fix to many landscape challenges. For all these reasons golden bamboo can be an immediate, cheap landscape solution.

    However, according to, Phyllostachys aurea Carr. ex A.& C. Rivière "Golden bamboo is a perennial, reed-like plant that can reach heights of 16 to 40 ft. (5-12 m). The canes (stems) are hollow with solid joints and can be 1 to 6 in. (2.5-15.2 cm) in diameter. Leaves are alternate, 3-10 in. (7.6-25.4 cm) long and 0.25-0.75 in. (0.6-1.9 cm) wide. Flowering is very rare (maybe once every 7 to 12 years). Plants spread by rhizomes. Infestations are commonly found around old homesites and can rapidly expand in size. Golden bamboo can form dense, monocultural thickets that displace native species. Once golden bamboo is established, it is difficult to remove. Golden bamboo is native to China and was first introduced into the United States in 1882 for ornamental purposes."  The aggressive displacement of native or beneficial species, whether in managed gardens or in natural areas, is extensive and unrelenting.

    Aside from the issues of supporting the local native ecological system on one's own property, the issue becomes one of externalization of costs onto another's landscape. There seems to be an idea that one may plant or do anything on his or her own land, whatever the effects, both ecological and aesthetic, that may impact another's property. That world view is perceived as natural and therefore permissible. If someone plants golden bamboo and it spreads off from his property, should he not be held liable for the mitigation of damage, and the abatement of the intrusion? In other words, if a person has the right to plant any plant does he have the right to allow any natural predilections of unconstrained exotic species to move off the property to go uncompensated? Why is it that planting a particular plant is a human activity but as soon as it negatively impacts a neighbor's land then  recourse is made to defend its spread as natural even though the original planting was anything but natural?

    This dichotomy of desires is a part of what I call the wicked inconvenience of invasive species. That stakeholders approach invasive species with radically, sometimes absolutely, different world views is a crucial challenge in the effort to bring parties to the table, and even, once the interest groups arrive, given "the information needed to understand the problem depends upon one's idea for solving it", the conversation may rapidly degenerate into hardened, contentious disagreement of a subjective and very ad hominem event. Neighbors pitted against neighbors can be the result of the inevitable spread beyond the original planting site of golden bamboo when no strategy was put into effect for long term control. The lack of a plan is inherent in the original planting choice which called for quick simple solutions. Simplification of complex ideas arise from a desire to avoid short term time consuming and possibly costly efforts and leads to expensive long term complications.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Your argument that homeowners should be responsible for what they plant and the ecological damage that it does, extends to developers and businesses as well.
If only all could learn to appreciate the value of a natural landscape and rich biodiversity!