A few years ago, Rose Valley hired a contractor to apply herbicide to a large colony of running bamboo in the borough-owned Saul Wildlife Sanctuary. Rose Valley Boy Scout Troop 272 and other volunteers from the community hauled the cut canes out of the sanctuary for disposal. The Rose Valley Environmental Advisory Council is now interplanting native species where this massive colony once stood.
Dylan Candelora (r) and Ryan Dostillio(l) of Rose Valley Boy Scout Troop 272
rid Saul Wildlife Sanctuary of invasive bamboo.
In August 2013, an ambitious Eagle Scout project led by Dylan Candelora of Troop 272 removed a stand of bamboo covering roughly 10,000 square feet that spanned the properties of Old Union United Methodist Church and Hedgerow Theatre’s Hedgerow house. More than forty people worked for five days to cut down the bamboo and compress it into eight large dumpsters.
Finally, the Borough of Rose Valley laid down the law against this exotic invasive. In November 2013, it passed an ordinance prohibiting the planting or replanting of running bamboo, any monopodial woody grass from the genera of bamboos that spreads primarily by rhizomes that run underground. Running bamboo spreads very vigorously and often escapes from the property where it was originally planted. Its strong roots cause property damage by penetrating foundations and roadways. It provides little value to native wildlife and wreaks ecological havoc by practically eliminating native understory plants, which cannot grow within its tall and thick colonies.
Borough residents are encouraged though not required to eliminate existing plantings. It can take years to eliminate an established colony. Ideally, running bamboo should be dug up to remove all roots and rhizomes from the soil. Where that is impractical, the canes should be cut and an herbicide containing 5% glyphosphate applied to newly emerging leaves. Alternatively, a 25% glyphosphate solution can be applied directly to the freshly cut stumps. When applying near ponds, creeks and other surface water, there are specialized glyphosphate formulations that must be used.
If residents choose to keep existing plantings, they must be rigorously controlled with a bamboo-free buffer zone of not less than ten feet from any roadway or property line. A trench must be dug that completely encircles the plants, and a barrier such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE) installed as a continuous wall around the roots, leaving one or two inches above the soil line to prevent any rhizomes from escaping. Other barriers are no match for running bamboo. Sheet metal will eventually corrode and runners will penetrate any small crack in concrete or masonry barriers. Even with these precautions, vigilance is required, especially during the early summer peak-growing season.
Similar ordinances have been passed in many communities across the nation dealing with this problem. If you have running bamboo on your property and require further details, a fact sheet is available at the Rose Valley Borough office in the Old Mill.
David Firn has been a resident of Rose Valley for 15 years and is Vice President of the Borough Council. .