Brick Township Fighting Bamboo Infestation

There is a forest of bamboo near the parking lot of the Airport Tract Bike Path on Drum Point Road. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – Think twice before planting bamboo in your yard, because it is one of the world’s most invasive and fast-growing plants and it is nearly impossible to control or remove once it is established.

  Bamboo is growing on a small strip of township-owned property separating the homes on Cleveland and National Avenues. Not only has it spread on the property, but also onto six adjoining private backyards.

  After receiving complaints from the residents, the township went out to bid and has awarded a contract of some $40,000 to Poison Ivy Removal, Inc. from Huntington Station, Long Island. Only two bids were received, said Township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin. The second bid was for $240,000.

  “Bamboo is specifically listed as an invasive plant in the Township’s ordinance,” Bergin wrote in an email. It is technically a giant species of grass.

A resident had cut back bamboo, but it grew back quickly. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  “The aggressive and invasive nature of bamboo can make it difficult to manage. Once established, bamboos create a strong and complex network of plants, making the emergence of new culms unpredictable,” she said. “Removing a well-established grove can be a daunting task.”

  Simply cutting the shoots and culms at ground level will not suffice for effective bamboo removal because rhizomes will continue to travel underground in search of new territory to colonize, she said.

  Rhizomes are underground horizontal stems which put out random, lateral shoots that grow continuously. When separated, each piece of a rhizome is capable of producing a new plant.

  The entire rhizome system must be removed or destroyed to completely stop the emergence of new shoots, Bergin said, which involves a multi-step process that requires several treatments to be effective.

  The origin of the bamboo is unknown, she said. The Division of Parks has been working to remove the grove, but it proved to be a task greater than they could manage, coupled with their additional responsibilities, Bergin said.

  That’s true, said Township Park Supervisor Robert Byrnes.

  “We thought it had only encroached on one property, but we started realizing there were multiple properties, and getting rid of it would be a commitment of year-round maintenance,” he said.

  Bamboo grows everywhere, Byrnes said, and now he notices it all around town.

  Steven Greenspan of Poison Ivy Removal, Inc., who was awarded the bamboo removal contract, said he went out to look at the site this summer before bidding on the job.

  “It’s overgrown with bamboo. It’s at least five to seven years old, maybe more,” he said in a phone interview. “Everyone takes a punch at it, and it temporarily alleviates it, but it comes back with a greater vengeance than before.”

Parks Supervisor Robert Byrnes shows the bamboo grove that is only accessible through the residents’ backyards. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  When you chop at the roots it wakes the plant up and it grows rapidly, he added. Each bamboo case grows out a minimum of 20 feet in every direction.

  His method for eradicating the bamboo does not involve pesticides or chemicals, but digging it out with a machine. Workers sift out the finger-thick rhizomes using “grunt labor,” Greenspan said.

  “If a half-inch rhizome remnant is left behind, it could regenerate into another bamboo grove in several years,” he said.

  The bamboo frequently comes back, but Greenspan guarantees the work and will return if necessary.

There is a forest of bamboo near the parking lot of the Airport Tract Bike Path on Drum Point Road. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  “Bamboo can grow three feet a day in the spring, so you can go to work in the morning and the ground is bare, and when you get back at the end of the day it looks like an alien plant has grown,” he said.

  Greenspan estimates the job of removing the bamboo grove will take about a week.