NEWS, Va. ó If there is an expert on runaway bamboo,
it has to be Dorothy Geyer, a natural resource
specialist with the Colonial National Historical Park in
Virginiaís Yorktown and Jamestown.
spends a great deal of her work time evaluating and
managing invasive species, including golden bamboo, a
runner grass known scientifically as Phyllostachys aurea,
that has claimed 23 acres of land in those two park
of it probably came from someone planting it in their
backyard, with the exception of the Glasshouse at
Jamestown," Dorothy says.
think that at the Glasshouse someone may have
misidentified the bamboo for native canebrake and
planted it as a screen. There is some secondary
documentation that said it was planted in that area. But
we donít have much beyond that."
Dorothy does know is how aggressively the bamboo has
spread in those areas ó the 2.3 acres on the Colonial
park/Yorktown Victory in 1999 turned into more than 5
acres by 2011, while 1.2 acres at the Yorktown
Battlefield has become 3.3 acres in the same timeframe.
Aerial imagery that maps the stands shows smaller,
slower growth at the Glasshouse at Jamestown.
deter more growth, the park service works to eliminate
the bamboo, having cut and chemically treated 8 acres so
far. Dorothy says she has read of no biological
controls for bamboo.
best control bamboo, Dorothy suggests getting it while
itís small ó stalks no bigger than an inch in
diameter. Cut the bamboo and spray the stump tops
with a glyphosate product that has a sticking agent in
and stump spraying is a good winter activity,"
try to go out on a sunny day in the 50s temp to get this
work done. This is mostly for human comfort."
bolder bamboo demands heavier equipment and effort, she
says. Depending on the type of bamboo you have, you need
a chain saw, weed whip or weed whacker, Swedish brush
axe, pruning snips or other tool that cut through bamboo
stems. Hand-held pruning snips work fine for the thinner
stemmed running bamboos (Psuedosasa), but it is more
labor intensive and time consuming. Cut down as low as
is comfortable and leave the remains alone for the
summer, allowing it to regrow. In October or early
November, on a sunny, no-breeze day, spray the leaves of
regrown plants with a 2 percent rate of glyphosate ó
Accord or Roundup Pro ó mixed with water,
according to the label directions ó Dorothy says the 3
percent rate has worked best for her. Apply thoroughly,
just to the point of drip.
this is when I stop for the season," she says.
the Glasshouse location had some very mature bamboo, and
there is more re-sprouting going on here, so I am going
to try a second spray schedule."
schedule includes: Wait 10-14 days and reapply the
glyphosate at the same rate. After the second treatment,
leave the bamboo alone. Do not cut, mow, or remove plant
material. The following spring, the bamboo will be
browned out and should not grow back. At this point, you
can cut and remove the dead vegetation. If any bamboo
remains or does reappear, repeat the procedure.
Learn more about this process at www.nps.gov/plants/alien/pubs/midatlantic/control-grassesandsedges.htm.
manuals say a continuous mowing of the shoots prevents
their spread," says Dorothy.
is somewhat true, but if you back off the manual
cutting, they shoot out quickly. The root tips are
amazingly strong and look like little spears. Bamboo has
been recorded to grow as much as 10 feet a year in some
places. I havenít seen that here, but Iíve seen at
least five feet."
you donít have bamboo in your yard, donít plant it,
advises Dorothy. The unruly species she deals with is a
runner kind that spreads by underground rhizomes. There
are better-behaving clumping types, but when you deal
with a bad batch of bamboo, you are usually scarred
has been known to completely take over driveways,
concrete pads, etc.," says Dorothy.
one ever thinks this stuff will spread until they plant
it. This species, as I read the literature, seems to be
the most invasive in the Southeast. It is on
Invasive.org as a rapid runner. I have found roots that
go under and through heavily compacted trails and come
out through filter fabric.
wonít suggest any varieties as an alternate because I
donít trust the genus, but I have been told that black
bamboo isnít bad. But then what happens when the
recommendation is to stick with the native canebrake,
also known as switch cane, or Arundinaria tecta. It
grows thick and tall like bamboo but does not spread at
the rate that bamboo does. We have a lot of it in the
park and by the Glasshouse site where bamboo got a
Smithfield, Va., plant collector Linda Pinkham agrees
the average gardener should not plant bamboo in the
ground ó but possibly in pots that can contain it.
love bamboo," says Linda, including landscape
have two kinds of bamboo in the ground ó each actually
planted in a kiddy pool with the edge exposed so we can
see when it tries to jump over the edge. One is an
unknown that has yellow vertical stripes on the stems
and the other a named cultivar of the black stem bamboo
called Black Jade.
also have two kinds in pots so they wonít spread. The
Sasa veitchii is lovely ó the edges of the leaves turn
brown in the winter ó a highly prized dwarf form in
most bamboo planters have good intentions of keeping
things under control, itís not as easy as you think,
keeping it contained in a kiddy pool can be a little
tricky," she says.
our big striped one has the edge covered with mulch
around the edge, the bamboo shoots jump over in the
spring and start growing outside the pool likely crazy.
Most gardeners donít want that kind maintenance.
have also seen landscapes where bamboo has gotten loose
and taken over. It can cause feuds between
neighbors ó one letting it go and the
other trying to keep it off their property.
is the kind of plant to be used very thoughtfully ó
if at all."
bamboo, a slower-spreading running bamboo, is used and
sell black bamboo ó Phyllostachys nigra ó which is
the only running bamboo that we offer," says Bill
Kidd, vice president of merchandising at McDonald Garden
Center in Hampton, Va.
one is slower to spread and we make sure customers are
aware that it is a runner. When choosing a running type
itís important to consider installing a barrier to
keep the roots from spreading out past where you want
them. My neighborís son planted bamboo 20 years ago in
her wooded area and we still have to work to control it,
so use running only if the correct preparations are made
or if you are willing to work to control on a regular
Bailey, a Yorktown landscape designer, likes black
bamboo ó but only in containers because it runs.
bamboos are marketed as safer bamboos, but even those
depend on where they are planted and how they are
few years ago, I spoke to a bamboo grower about
clump-forming bamboos ó and he laughed and said there
was no such thing ó they just grow slower," says
a brand name of plants sold extensively at local garden
centers and nationwide, markets several new
clump-forming bamboos, including Golden Goddess and
Staddon, director of new plant introductions for
Monrovia ó www.monrovia.com ó likes bamboo because
itís a sustainable crop, and provides material to
craft garden stakes, trellises and fences. Also, fresh
bamboo tips can be used in stir-fry dishes, he says.
bamboo is a far cry from the running type, he maintains.
the Pacific Northwest, I saw a 15-year-old clump with a
15-foot-high canopy and a clump that was 3-feet
wide," he says.
you fear bamboo, by all means plant it in a container,
he says. Bamboo planted in the ground can be safeguarded
with a rhizome barrier such as the ones featured and
sold by Bamboo Garden at www.bamboogarden.com.
favorite use of bamboo is a restaurant owner who plants
it in wheeled carts that can be quickly arranged to
create screening for large-party patrons. This same
concept could be used around a home patio.
creates an instant room and instant privacy," he