Saturday, October 13, 2012

Invasive Bamboo Wars Heat Up

Phyllostachys aureosulcata
image taken from:

               When it comes to invasive species, all the world is divided in to three parts[1] (factions). In the first faction are those who see loss; in the second, those who see profit, and in the rest, the major part, those who see nothing at all. Invasive species are impacting the waters of the Pacific Northwest (Didemnum vexillum, sea squirt)[2]  and the Great Lakes (Dreissena bugensis, quagga mussels)[3] the  deserts of the Southwest (Pennisetum ciliare, buffelgrass)[4] and smothering the old Confederacy (Pueraria montana var. lobata, kudzu)[5]. Oh, and I forgot to mention, invasive species stinking up the Mid Atlantic (Halyomorpha halys), brown marmorated stink bug and killing trees in the Midwest (Agrilus planipennis, emerald ash borer) which is now in the Mid Atlantic.
               Not to be outdone, New England is engaged in the bamboo wars that clearly make the point of the tripartite division of interests in invasive species or a lack thereof. Homeowners in New England are discovering that certain species of bamboo cross property lines and destroy ornamental landscapes, patios, driveways and foundations.[6] These impacted parties constitute the first faction - the faction suffering damage and loss. The second faction is well represented on line as the vividly shown in the YouTube video : "Bamboo, (yellowgroove Bamboo) now shooting, Amazing grass !"[7] The opportunity to make some money with little cost and healthy profits is partnered with no worry about the possibility of damage to the ecosystem. The third, the largest stakeholder faction in the bamboo wars, is caught in the crossfire of apathy and unawareness. It is largely landscape illiterate, not immediately impacted, and definitively uninterested.[8]
               The opportunists are enraged that those who are bearing the financial burden of cleaning up and mitigating the damage to their own property as well as to public lands have successfully mounted a grass-root campaign to begin regulating invasive bamboos. The local legislative effort is in response to the profit seekers long term strategy to prevent a national policy, and to derail state regulations. The result is entirely predictable: we are heading towards a mosaic of confusing, conflicting, local laws, policies, procedures and guidelines. I asked Ms. Rickel (Institute of Invasive Bamboo Research) to share her notes on the growing list of local legal efforts that have arisen out of her fight to make good the landscape around her house. Ms. Rickel tells me that she "...struggles to stop the continual damages on her three adjoining properties under invasion from one planting." She provided links to 26 communities that have chosen to try to control and manage the costly invasions of personal properties. The war is centered in Connecticut but battles are being waged from North Carolina to Massachusetts.  

1.     Dover, DE bans bamboo
2.     Hempstead, NY bans bamboo
3.     Greenport Village, NY bans bamboo
4.     Nether Providence, RI passes bamboo ordinance
5.     Brookhaven, NY Bamboo Ban
6.     Manchester, New Jersey
7.     Brick Township, New Jersey
8.     Carolina Beach, North Carolina getting ready to move on this.
9.     New York State called upon to add to states list
10.  Long Branch, New Jersey
11.  Middletown, Penn.
12.  Loma Linda, Calif.
13.  Village of Branch, New York: 10 foot set back with possible ban :
14.  Long Beach, New York:
15.  Oyster Bay, New York
16.  Rutledge, Penn. 10 foot set back
17., Penn.
18.  College Park, Maryland
19.  Doylestown, Penn.
20.  West Bradford, Penn. 40 foot set back
21.  Smithtown, New York 10 foot set back
22.  Woodsburgh, New York Bamboo Ban
23.  Saltaire, New York Bamboo Ban
24.  Smyrna, Delaware 10 foot set back
25.  Islip, New York             
26.  Cambridge, Mass. proposing possible ban
a.      Http://

               The American Bamboo Society (ABS)states that it "is concerned about misinformation regarding the potential invasiveness of bamboo, because if planted and cared for properly bamboo is not invasive."[9]   Weed risk assessments such as that done by the State of New York of specific species such as Phyllostachys aurea or aureosulcata disagree with the statement that certain specific species are not invasive.[10]  Assessing risk of invasiveness versus assessing impact and damage are oft times confused. The war between the bamboosers and the bamoosees is heating up as each tries to define terms to suit its own needs, and as each wanders through the taxonomic minefield of actually knowing which species they are attempting to sell or control.

[1]C. Ivli Caesaris (Julius Caesar). c. 58 BCE.  Commentariorvm De Bello Gallico. Liber Primvs .

 Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.

[2] Smithsonian Insitution. 2010. Smithsonian scientists to help identify and eradicate invasive species in Alaskan waters. [accessed October 13, 2012]

[3] Christine Manninen, ed. 2012. Quagga Mussels in the Great Lakes Region. Great Lakes Information Network. [accessed October 13, 2012]

[4] Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center (SABCC). 2012. Southern Arizona Buffelgrass. [accessed October 13, 2012)

[5] USDSA ARS  NAL. 2012. Species Profiles / Kudzu. National Invasive Species Information Center. [accessed October 13, 2012]

[6] Caryn Rikel. 2012. Institute of Invasive Bamboo Research. [accessed October 13, 2012)   see also

[7] the author of the video unintentionally makes the case for the high risk of spread, establishment and destructive outcome of this species, though that is opbviously not his purpose.

[8] not disinterested but uninterested

[9] American Bamboo Society. n.d.  Bamboo Invasiveness and Control Statement. The American Bamboo Society ( [accessed October 13, 2012]

" Bamboos generally have low potential for invasiveness due to their rare flowering, but some
running bamboos can be aggressive spreaders and form large stands if left to their own devices.
Although bamboos have some potential to reach natural areas on their own, they tend to have
a narrow range of environmental conditions in which they thrive, and thus bamboos are
expected to fail the potential‐for‐expanded‐distribution test. Even an out‐of‐control bamboo
can be dealt with readily. No bamboos are federally listed as noxious weeds or invasives and no
bamboos are officially listed by any state ( In
almost every situation where bamboos are problematic, especially in urban and suburban
settings, it is because people have not planted them properly, have not maintained them
properly, or have not disposed of them properly."

[10] New York non-native plant invasiveness ranking form. 2010. Phyllostachys Seibold. & Zucc. spp. (includes P. aurea Carrière ex A. Rivière & C. Rivière, P. aureosulcata McClure, P. bambusoides Siebold & Zucc., P. dulcis McClure, P. edulis (Carrière) J. Houz., P. flexuosa A. Rivière & C. Rivière, P. nigra (Lodd. ex Lindl.) Munro, P. viridiglaucescens A. Rivière & C. Rivière USDA Plants Code: PHYLL6 . [accessed Ocotber 13, 2012]

" In 2008, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in New York and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) developed a system and protocol designed to assess the invasive nature of non-native plant species. The New York State Invasive Species Council, in consultation with the Invasive Species Advisory Committee, adopted the ranking system for use statewide. In addition, results of this work have informed invasive species legislation in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Consequences to the native species and natural ecosystems of New York are the focus of the ranking system. The ranking system is designed to be repeatable, based on the best available science, clearly explained, and fully documented. The system can be used to assess non-native plant species that are established in New York State, species that are new arrivals, as well as species that are not yet present. Additional information about the system can be found in "New York State Plant Ranking System for Evaluating Non-Native Plant Species for Invasiveness".  Species are assessed at a statewide level using the New York State assessment form. Questions are organized into four broad categories:

ecological impact
biological characteristic and dispersal ability
ecological amplitude and distribution
difficulty of control"


Caryn Rickel said...

Great New York has said if ever a plant was to be classified as *invasive, this surely is ! The continual damages and takeover of the soil are like horticultural concrete below grade.
Images :

Carol Merritt said...

Very informative article. I hope the Southern States soon follow the lead. Phyllostachys spp. needs to be banned in residential neighbohoods. Thank you for helping us to see the reasons for so many different opinions about this plant.