January 9, 2013
By: Janet L. Kaminski Leduc, Senior Legislative Attorney
You asked if running bamboo is considered an invasive species in Connecticut and if any states have banned or restricted the planting of such bamboo, specifically bisset bamboo (Phyllostachys bissetti) and yellow-groove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata). You also asked for the most effective way to prevent running bamboo from spreading to neighboring properties.
Running bamboo (genus Phyllostachys) has a root system with rhizomes that run underground and can quickly spread from one property to another unless carefully maintained.
Running bamboo is not considered an invasive species under Connecticut law, according to the Connecticut Invasive Plants Council. However, the council has stated that it will be supportive of legislation that would (1) require sellers of running bamboo to educate customers about the plant, (2) require property owners who plant bamboo to install and maintain proper containment, and (3) assign liability in situations where property owners fail to prevent the spread of bamboo.
No state currently bans or restricts the planting of running bamboo. However, New York recently passed a law to prohibit the sale, possession, or transportation of invasive species beginning in January 2013 (2012 N.Y. Laws ch. 267). The state Department of Environmental Conservation, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, must develop regulations to implement the law by September 1, 2013. The regulations must include the list of prohibited species. Media reports suggest that running bamboo may be among the species prohibited (for example, see http://shelterislandreporter.timesreview.com/2012/08/16615/bamboo-ban-gets-a-thumbs-down-locally-but-state-trumps-the-issue/).
There are several ways to maintain running bamboo, including using physical barriers, mowing frequently, digging trenches, and using herbicides. But, according to Logan Senack, Connecticut's Invasive Plant Coordinator, there is a lack of evidence to support one method over another. Thus, we cannot identify which method is the most effective way to prevent bamboo from spreading to neighboring properties.
Connecticut's Invasive Plants Council, created by law in 2003, has collected information on various species of running bamboo, particularly golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) and yellow-groove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata), since 2010. At its September 18, 2012 meeting, the council decided by a vote (two for and six against) that running bamboo does not meet the state law criteria as an invasive or potentially invasive plant (see below). Specifically, some on the council questioned whether bamboo meets the requirement that “under average conditions, the plant has the biological potential for existing in high numbers outside of habitats that are intensely managed” (Invasive Plants Council Annual Report, December 2012, http://www.cipwg.uconn.edu/pdfs/2012Minutes/2012_IPC_AnnualReport.pdf).
At its October 9, 2012 meeting, the council unanimously approved a motion to recommend action to the legislature regarding running bamboo. The text of the motion follows here:
The Connecticut Invasive Plants Council, while recognizing in a split vote on September 18, 2012, that yellow-groove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) and other species of running bamboo in the genus Phyllostachys do not meet the criteria for invasive or potentially invasive plants as set forth in CGS § 22a-381b, does recognize that said species have demonstrated the potential to cause significant damage to residential properties when not properly installed and maintained. The Council therefore is supportive of legislation that (1) requires sellers and installers of bamboo in the genus Phyllostachys to provide to the retail customer educational material on the growth habit of the plant and how to properly contain the plant, (2) requires property owners to install proper containment for any planting of bamboo in the genus Phyllostachys when such planting is within 100 feet of any abutting property or public right-of-way, and (3) addresses situations in which property owners fail to prevent the spread into neighboring properties.
CONNECTICUT INVASIVE PLANTS LAW
With limited exceptions, Connecticut law prohibits individuals from importing, moving, selling, purchasing, transplanting, cultivating, or distributing 80 listed invasive plant species. The law does not apply to moving the plants for eradication, research, or educational purposes. Violators can be fined up to $100 per plant (CGS § 22a-381d).
Until October 1, 2014, the law bars municipalities from enacting ordinances regarding the retail sale or purchase of invasive plants (CGS § 22a-381d(e)).
The law also requires the Invasive Plants Council, among other things, to publish and periodically update a list of plants considered invasive or potentially invasive and recommend ways to control them. The council may determine that certain plants are invasive or potentially invasive using criteria the law sets out and, by a two-thirds vote, recommend to the General Assembly's Environment Committee that it ban the plants (CGS §§ 22a-381a and 22a-381b).
For a list of invasive and potentially invasive plants, including those that are banned by state law, see http://www.cipwg.uconn.edu/pdfs/CTInvasive%20PlantList2012ScientificName.pdf (copy attached).
When publishing and updating the list of invasive plants, the council must determine that a plant meets all of the following criteria:
1. the plant is nonindigenous to Connecticut;
2. the plant is naturalized or has the potential to become naturalized or occurring without the aid and benefit of cultivation in an area where the plant is nonindigenous;
3. under average conditions, the plant has the biological potential for rapid and widespread dispersion and establishment in the state or a region within the state;
4. under average conditions, the plant has the biological potential for excessive dispersion over habitats of varying sizes that are similar or dissimilar to the site of the plant's introduction into the state;
5. under average conditions, the plant has the biological potential for existing in high numbers outside of habitats that are intensely managed;
6. the plant occurs widely in a particular state habitat or region;
7. the plant has numerous individuals within many populations;
8. the plant is able to out-compete other species in the same natural plant community; and
9. the plant has the potential for rapid growth, high seed production, and dissemination and establishment in natural plant communities (CGS § 22a-381b(a)).
Potentially Invasive Plants
When publishing and updating the list of potentially invasive plants, the council must determine that a plant possesses each of the characteristics of invasive plants set forth in (1) to (5) above and at least one of the characteristics of invasive plants set forth in (6) to (9) above (CGS § 22a-381b(b)).
MAINTAINING RUNNING BAMBOO
We asked Logan Senack, Connecticut's Invasive Plant Coordinator, for ways to maintain running bamboo. Senack noted that maintaining bamboo to prevent it from spreading to other properties requires diligence. He also noted that there is a lack of evidence to support one maintenance method over another. Thus, we cannot identify the most effective way to prevent bamboo from spreading to neighboring properties.
The Invasive Plant Council invited a Connecticut retailer to share his experience and best practices for maintaining bamboo. At the council's September 2012 meeting, Mike Johnson of Summer Hill Nursery in Madison, Connecticut, recommended a 36-inch plastic 60-mil (0.060 inch) barrier be planted 34 inches into the ground around the bamboo with two inches protruding above the soil surface. According to Senack, the barrier should be angled outward, leaning away from the stand of bamboo, to direct the rhizomes and new shoots to grow up and out of the soil and over the barrier. A person can then find and remove the new bamboo growth before it spreads.
Other methods of maintaining running bamboo include mowing the surrounding area frequently during the spring season when new shoots appear, digging trenches around the bamboo stand and keeping them clear of new growth, and using herbicides. Because bamboo is an aggressive plant, Senack notes that annual maintenance is required, regardless of the maintenance method employed, to keep it from spreading.