|Yellow groove bamboo, Phyllostachys aureosulcata invading a natural area|
image by Caryn Rickel, Institute of Invasive Bamboo Research, Bugwood.org
The sound and fury of invasive bamboo species run-a-muck and over-running property boundaries has reached my county, Prince George's, just outside of Washington D. C. Gardeners have long known the story that I often repeat in lectures and talks I give across the county about the planting of so-called 'running bamboos' by neighbors who plant these species for short term landscape problem solving, ignorant of long term impact or just in plain spite. I use the story to illustrate the problems and challenges produced by invasive species as they move through and alter ecosystems and managed landscapes.
A home owner and enthusiastic gardener spends twenty years landscaping his or her property show casing the skills and artistry that comes with dedication and experience. As with all gardeners, the homeowner loves to showcase the work and wonders of the garden, but, alas, has a neighbor for whom the allure of gardening is nonexistent. So the gardener shares with distant visitors the growing intricacies of his or her work. Then one day the long time neighbor sells the next door house and moves away. The gardener looks out the kitchen window, and sees, much to his or her delight, that the new neighbor is coming around the corner with a wheelbarrow filled with something green and tools for planting. The gardener is ecstatic, for now surely there is someone with whom to share the stories and the surprises of the art and science of horticulture. Hurriedly the gardener puts together a tray of treats and a pitcher of lemonade and sallies forth in eager anticipation of hours of shared stories over the property line where the carefully tended 100 foot multi-species perennial border flowers throughout the year. As the gardener nears the property edge, the new neighbor is seen speedily digging holes along a line against the perennial garden; into each careful wrought hole inserting one sure-to-grow, fool-proof, lawn-mower resistant, and insect and disease free bamboo plant from the genus Phyllostachys, the great genus of running bamboos.
Imagine now the new relationship, and consider the plight of the natural area land manager who spends tent years protecting biodiversity only to have a manicured subdivision plopped in next door to the wilderness area, with all the ornamental invasives ready to do the 'bamboo-thing', and you begin to understand the complexities and complications of the bamboo wars writ large.
When your bamboo comes onto my property why should I bear the cost to remove it? Should not the cost of mitigation be on the originating property owner? Why should I have to deal with a species you bought and you planted and that you allowed to roam, my land? If you had a pit bull running loose, I should have recourse to have it controlled. Should not the same ideas be applied to your aggressive plants? This is the root of the invasive species issue plaguing neighbors who are dealing with bamboo incursions, loss of property use, and destruction of infrastructure that comes from Phyllostachys spp. out of control.
Invasive Bamboo Plagues Mt. Rainier, Md.