Invasive Bamboo

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Don and the Burke’s Backyard team visited a garden that was being invaded by golden bamboo. This vigorous, running bamboo spreads by means of long, underground stems (or rhizomes). Every year new rhizomes are produced, and each rhizome is capable of suckering along its length. Don discovered shoots coming up through the lawn, in the garden beds, and even through the steel backing and plastic liner of a garden pond.

Running bamboo

There are two forms of bamboo: running (monopodial) and clumping (sympodial). Running bamboos such as the golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) spread so successfully that they soon invade areas where they are not wanted, including neighbouring properties. If plants from your garden damage a neighbour’s property, it may be seen as a breach of your civil duty of care (or a ‘tort of negligence’). You may be liable for the damage, even though the negligence may not have been deliberate.

Eradicating invasive bamboos

It’s not easy to eradicate invasive bamboos, but it is possible. Don suggested the following method:

1. Cut off each stem about 30cm (12″) above ground level.
2. Water and fertilise the clump, using any fertiliser you have on hand.
3. When vigorous, new growth appears (this will only take a few weeks) treat with a glyphosate based product such as Roundup or Zero. It will also be necessary to locate and treat culms that have suckered in other parts of the garden.
4. Repeat treatments may be necessary.

Growing bamboos in the garden

It is best to avoid planting running bamboos. Instead, choose a clumping species. The growth of clumping bamboos is limited because each rhizome produced develops into a single culm, or hollow jointed stem, located very close to its mother culm. This makes the plant predictable and genetically non-invasive. In most cases a clumping bamboo can be substituted for a running bamboo without any of the problems. Seek the advice of a qualified horticulturist at your local nursery before planting any bamboo in your garden.

Further reading

‘Bamboo World’, by Victor Cusack. Published by Kangaroo Press/Simon & Schuster (ISBN 0-86417-934-0). Cost $80. Order through your local bookstore, or from:

Bamboo World
1053 Teven Rd
Tuckombil NSW 2477
Phone: (02) 6628 6988
Fax: (02) 6628 6987
Email: bamboo@bambooworld.com.au