Bamboo is Usually “Damn Boo!”

San Antonio Express News
GARDENING, Etc.
Sunday, September 11, 2005

By Dr. Jerry Parsons

When you do a “Search for the Answer” on PLANTanswers.com for the term “Bamboo” you get this write-up:
“In the proper setting, ornamental bamboo is useful as a specimen plant, screen or windbreak. Unfortunately, some bamboos SHOULD NEVER be planted this side of Hell!!! But some species of bamboo are aggressive creepers and become a real nuisance when spreading to areas where they are not wanted. From this uncontrollable, rampant growth pattern comes the common name for bamboo in this area — Damn-boo. The aggressive bamboo can indiscriminately emerge through concrete walks, home foundations and even in darkened garages! There is more than one way to control bamboo. The choice of a method or the combination of methods depends on the circumstances under which it is growing.”

“A large clump of bamboo looks as though it would be hard to dig out, but it really is not. Its many horizontal rootstocks are close to the surface. All pieces of the shoots and rootstocks should be removed or re-growth will occur.”
“Cutting bamboo shoots close to the ground, then removing the re-growth each time it reaches 20 to 24 inches in height will eventually kill established plants. Success with this method depends on exhausting the food reserves stored in the roots. The prompt removal of the shoots as they reach 20 to 24 inches is essential. It will have to be performed many times over a period of a year or more.”

“The length of time required for eradication can be considerably reduced by using the right chemical, in the right way. There are several types from which to choose: *Sprays that kill only the foliage they contact, such as cacodylic acid or vinegar for the organic souls, should be applied each time the re-growth reaches 20 to 24 inches in height. These chemicals substitute for the cutting of the shoots; their application must be repeated to starve the root. *Sprays that are taken up by the leaves, such as dalapon, MSMA, DSMA and glyphosate, and carried down to kill roots. Dalapon is available as Dowpon and glyphosate is available as Glyphosate, Roundup, Klean-up and Weed-and-Grass Killer. Spray the actively growing leaves to wet and allow a six hour drying period. Even with these herbicides and mixing a double strength solution, repeated treatments will be necessary to completely eradicate established plants. To prevent these chemicals from injuring roots of trees and shrubs in the area, irrigate thoroughly before treating. Then do not irrigate again for 7-10 days.”

“The bamboo should ONLY be planted in an enclosed, “containable” area from which this devil-plant can escape. The majority of “problem” bamboo originates from a neighbor’s planting. So BE CAREFUL and BE CONSIDERATE when planting bamboo or better yet, NEVER plant DAMNBOO!”

I wrote this on July 1, 1990, and unfortunately the bamboo situation has not improved. Invasions continue to occur from uninformed people who plant bamboo as a screen and eventually move away to leave the entire neighborhood to battle this horrible creature. Nearly twenty years ago I gave this horror the name “Damn-boo” in honor of the many neighbors who battle this pestilence year-after-year and cannot move to another neighborhood.

In 1995 when PLANTanswers was started, I shared the horror story of bamboo, now Damn-boo, with the world. It was not long that the few dozen people who actually like bamboo in Texas begin to show their colors. Our correspondence can be seen at: http://www.plantanswers.com/breakout/qa47.html, and in the third column in September entitled: BAMBOO IS USUALLY “DAMN-BOO” at: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_columns.htm.

I mentioned in 1990 that “sprays can be used that are taken up by the leaves” but since then some Damn-boo Rambos have found that there is a better way to apply the glyphosate herbicide. A technique which has worked for some folks is:

1) Cut the emerging bamboo off just below the first node or beginning of second section on a shoot. 2) Cutting below the first node exposes a hollow stem. With a dropper or sprayer, immediately fill this entire hollow stem or cavity with pure, undiluted glyphosate herbicide once a week for a month. 3) Wait 3 months, then dig up what is left of the root system. Pull as much of the runners out as possible. Some of these runners may be 12 feet long.

Other people who are wanting to commit bamboo-icide are using a more potent chemical named Remedy. See the third web-column in September to find out more. Some folks may not want to become “natural born killers” and may want to hire a bamboo “assassin”. People who claim to be able to take on Damn-boo and eradicate it are hard to find. In fact, I have found only one-let me know if you know of others. This person is in Austin and is a member of the Texas Bamboo Society and the American Bamboo Society. I was a bit suspicious until I saw the webpage at: http://bamboospecialists.com/. For more about this “savior from the bamboo invasion,” see the third web-column in September.

While we will NEVER accept the use of Damn-boo in residential landscapes, in the sake of fairness, we have put a link in the Miscellaneous Section of the Information Index at: http://www.plantanswers.com/resources.htm#misc of PLANT answers.com, under the title of Bamboo. A link to: http://www.americanbamboo.org/FAQ.html, which is a page by the American Bamboo Society, is trying to convince you that Damn-boo can be lovely Bamboo. This propaganda may convince a person whose landscape has not been invaded, but those of us who have been “violated” by Damn-boo will never be fooled again!! “Fool me once, Shame on you! Fool me twice, Shame on ME!”

Dr. Jerry Parsons is a Professor for Texas A&M University and a Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist for over 30 years in South Central Texas. For more information on this or other horticulture topics, go to www.plantanswers.com and our County Extension website at https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu.


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