By ASHLEY HELMS
When thinking about bamboo, images of the giant panda gnawing on shoots of the lush green plant in the Chinese wilderness may spring to mind, but the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees may put the kibosh on planting bamboo in lawns across the village following a suggestion put forth by its tree committee.
Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, who is a liaison to the tree committee, said Village Manager Richard Slingerland suggested banning bamboo due to the speed at which it grows, its ability to invade nearby lawns and the fact that other communities have banned the plant.
The plant is attractive since it grows densely and quickly, but Potok said that to keep it from spreading, a bamboo owner must dig a trench near the plant and insert something solid under the ground to block the roots from spreading.
“The thinking was better to ban it…anyone who has it [would be] grandfathered, but no new plantings,” Potok said.
Small, household bamboo plants would still be allowed, but residents would be barred from planting it in their yards, the trustee said.
Other New York municipalities have enacted bans on planting bamboo in residential lawns. The Town of Smithtown was the first Long Island community to enact a ban on the plants in August 2011. The idea for the ban came from residents’ bamboo plants invading adjacent lawns.
The Village of Malverne, also in Long Island, unanimously approved a bamboo ban in May 2013 that carries a $350 fine for residents who violate the law. Indoor bamboo plants remain legal, though, as they would in the Village of Mamaroneck.
Village Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said he brought the topic of banning bamboo up to the village Tree Committee in 2007 when he was serving as chairman. At the time, he said neither the committee nor the Board of Trustees were supportive of the measure.
“I find [bamboo] to be invasive. It’s a type of plant that once you let it go, it’s impossible to get rid of,” Rosenblum said.
Damon Aitchison, a nursery worker at Tony’s Nursery in Larchmont, said bamboo reproduces quickly under the soil once it’s planted; a process called rhizome. For every new shoot of growth, two more grow out along with it from the new shoot and the plant continues to multiply for years. If a resident wants to uproot the plant to stop it from growing, Aitchison said it’s an extremely difficult process.
“Even if you leave one piece in the soil, it’ll keep growing,” Aitchison said. “Clumping bamboos are okay, but the more common ones are very invasive.”
Clumping bamboo, a term for bamboo that doesn’t spread rapidly, is easier to control and is less likely to invade other lawn spaces nearby due to its shoots expanding more gradually under the soil. The bamboo stalks that grow up from the soil stick together in one location as opposed to spreading out. For these reasons, clumping bamboo are not considered an invasive species.
The more common bamboo species Aitchison referred to are called black and golden bamboo; these are the types of bamboo with the potential to do the most damage.
Black bamboo plants can grow up to 16 feet tall and turn black after two or three seasons, hence the name. Both the black and golden bamboo species, if planted in a lawn, can create a thick grove that can be used for privacy purposes since it’s difficult to see through.
But Aitchison said black and golden bamboo plants are the species that will invade all the lawn space it can.
“The ones with the 25-foot frames, that’s black bamboo. It never stops running [through the soil;] it’ll just continue to grow,” Aitchison said. “People have them because they’re fast and they produce a dense screen, but it’ll grow to your neighbors’ yards. It’s something that has to be controlled.”
Bamboo is considered an invasive species because it was introduced to North America through goods imports from Asia, Aitchison said. Today, he said the plants are cultivated in the United States and are available for purchase at many nurseries. It can withstand almost any type of weather and begins its spring growing period in March.
Resident Stuart Tiekert, a professional garden landscaper, said the state has a list of plants it considers invasive and bamboo is not on them. He said that while the Board of Trustees can pass a law, it doesn’t always mean that passing a certain law is a good idea.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Library, golden and black bamboo are not listed as invasive species in the State of New York.