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Bamboo

Bamboo WN 10-9-14The recent cool temperatures in the evenings have announced the beginning of autumn in Wakulla County. With this distinct change of seasons comes the alteration of scheduled activities and events.

The most popular mass market sporting events are transitioning from the diamond to the gridiron. The World Series is just around the corner, but football team ranking are still in the making.

Leaves are beginning to drop so homeowners can spend more time collecting material for mulching the flowerbeds. Sweet gums, Florida maples, and many others are just starting their annual defoliation.

Lawnmowers, both push and rider, are not being used as frequently since the growth of grass has slowed noticeable. When the thermometer drops below 70 degrees at night most grasses cease their push to conquer new territory.

The exception to this dormant takeover effort is bamboo, the tallest grass in north Florida. There are more than 700 species of bamboo worldwide, ranging in height from 12 inches to 100 feet or more in ideal growing conditions.

In the U.S., only two species occur naturally (Arundinaria gigantea and A. tecta). Neither of these two plants is used for human food, but other bamboos are a dietary staple or flavoring condiments in Asia and Africa.

Bamboo holds two impressive records in the plant kingdom. It is the largest perennial grass on the planet and it can be the fasted growing plant under the perfect environment.

It has been deliberately propagated and used as an ornamental plant for many years in Florida and other locations. The wide variety of colors and shades combined with the exotic shaped and delicate leaves add to the landscaping appeal.

Generally speaking, the two native bamboos are not extremely weedy and are relatively easy to manage. However, there are scores of imported bamboos which are highly invasive and exceedingly difficult to contain in a limited area.

The most common invasive bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) is commonly known as fishing pole or golden bamboo. It was imported into this country in the 1880’s as an ornamental, being popular as a cold-hearty and quick growing privacy screen.

Because of its weight and relative strength it became an inexpensive and popular source of cane fishing poles. Curiously, bamboo fly fishing rods are usually made from a less common, but stronger bamboo species native to China.

This and other invasive bamboo varieties have large and complex underground root systems called rhizomes. These shallow roots maintain the plant’s viability by storing and distributing large volumes of nutrients.

Once an invasive bamboo is established the root system supports rapid growth and expansion. Other plants are quickly overwhelms and pushed out.

To control these invasive varieties, the entire rhizome network must be exhausted and killed. This makes control of bamboo expensive, intensive, time consuming and difficult.

Being a grass bamboo easily tolerates occasional mowing, but regular and intensive mowing is much more effective for destroying this plant. The mowing frequency is similar to that used on home lawns if success is to be achieved.

The removal of the plant’s above-ground portion is required to deplete the rhizomes and control or eliminate the population. It usually takes one or two seasons of rigorous mowing before control is achieved.

To learn more about bamboo and its use in Wakulla County, call the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Office 850-926-3931.