A Panda A Day Might Keep the Bamboo Away, But Not Likely in Connecticut

A non-native plant threatens to take over backyards in Woodbury, Bethel and Newtown.


One man’s bamboo is another man’s bamboozle.

Caryn Rickel is a passionate advocate for designating yellow groove bamboo, or Phyllostachys, as an invasive species. She has been working around the clock to bring recognition of the devastation she believes this strain of bamboo is causing to the area.

According to Rickel, "Phyllostachys is not allowed in the ground in Tokyo. In China, it is only used for building. When it cures, it is as strong as steel. The rhizomes (roots with shoots) damage sewers, septics, foundations, chokes all native plants and release a natural herbicide. Nothing else grows in a bamboo forest. There are costs to owners, damages to the ecosystem, and it wipes out forests."

"We need laws," Rickel said. "The rest of the world already knows."

In fact, several towns and cities in New York and Pennsylvania, among others, have created ordinances regulating the use of the species Rickel calls invasive.  In Smithtown, N.Y., an ordinance bans planting bamboo within 10 feet of another’s property.

On a tour of Bethel and Newtown areas where bamboo appears to be growing unabated, Rickel showed how one single plant became dense acres of bamboo in less than two decades time. 

“One 10 inch piece creates a whole forest," said Rickel. "Each plant creates rhizomes that extend  20 feet around, and each rhizome creates more trees," holding a piece of root that held shoots every six inches apart. "In May, the shoots come up from the ground almost two feet a day.  This grows faster than anything in the world."

Chief Scientist Jeffrey Ward, Department of Forestry and Horticultural is also part of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

Ward does not dispute Rickel’s claims. In a letter included in the annual report for The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Ward writes, “I have never seen a species so thoroughly dominate a site and form a mono-culture that completely excludes other plant species.”

Rickel has working hard to push House Bill 5122, which would deem the bamboo an invasive species in need of regulation. But Ward is still not so sure.

“It isn’t technically invasive,” Ward said, “because it is not producing seeds. If this produced seeds, it would be quite a problem.”

The lack of seeds is what keeps the bill from falling under the category of invasive.

Ward thinks the lack of seeds may be that they cannot cross pollinate because they are not indigenous to the area. “They are sold sterile, they can’t pollinate with themselves.”

Rickel said seeding is only a matter of time.

“Invasive Species of Concern in Maryland” named Phyllostachys, Invasive Species of the Month, and stated that there are two kinds of bamboo.  One is a clumping sort that grows very slowly.


Interested in Middlebury and Woodbury's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Woodbury-Middlebury Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


The other, Phyllostachys, is called running bamboo because of the way the roots spread. It is known to seed only once every 30 to 150 years, and the articles also said that the only natural enemy of the bamboo is hard to find in Connecticut. Pandas.  

Once the bamboo in Maryland area seeded, it died. Because it does not appear to have seeded in Connecticut, it is only of concern where it is planted, so invasive is a hard designation to come by for this grass-based plant. It is also less hardy in shaded areas and cannot tolerate water or swampy conditions, Ward said. 

However, Ward added, “I would be really irritated if my neighbors planted it.”

One of the local growers and a lot of people like the way it looks. Mike Johnson, owner of the Summerhill Nursery in Madison, is working with Ward to develop controlled areas of bamboo to determine the manageability of the grass shoots. 

“If it’s in a happy place, and soil conditions are right, over time it could spread,” Johnson said, adding his simple solution. “Spray it with Round Up towards the end of July. The plants in the spring are taking nutrients up from the root and that’s where you get the growth. By the end of July that stops and nutrients are beginning to be sent down to the root for next year. That’s the time to spray because the herbicide goes down to the root and kills it.”

Johnson said they sprayed one area in late July and again in August and the next year it was dead.

“I had eight different varieties that were sprayed, and they were all Phyllostachys," he said. "It’s a runner, so in the early summer, I go around the edge of it with Round Up, and that controls the spreading of it.”  

Rickel disputed the theory and said that removing the rhizomes would take nothing less than a backhoe and four years of chemicals.

Johnson said that there are advantages to using bamboo, it just has to be handled properly.

“We sell barriers, and 36 “ deep and 60 mil thick polyethylene sheeting," he said. "Bamboo is just a matter of using good sense and planting it in the right way. Deer don’t eat them, and that’s one of the advantages for a barrier.”

“I look at the highway,” Johnson said. “A lot of people get killed, but you don’t ban the highway.”

Vincent April 27, 2012 at 12:22 PM
The Claim that bamboo releases a natural herbicide is false. Scientifically it actually purifies the soil. The claim that it is not allowed in the ground in Japan and China is false as well. I have advised Caryn Rickel that we can remove any bamboo problems in an environmentally friendly way for free. She blocked me and did not want our help. In a democratic society, how can you solve a problem without hearing or accepting a solution. A free solution. Bamboo is one of the easiest trees to remove as it has shallow roots. There are a lot of economic benefits to this as well. A new industry is in the making and given the current economic situation; this can be converted into something positive. "No bamboos are federally listed as noxious weeds or invasives and no bamboos are officially listed by any state (http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver). In almost every situation where bamboos are problematic, especially in urban and suburban settings, it is because people have not planted them properly, have not maintained them properly, or have not disposed of them properly." American Bamboo Society. We have a solution and will remove the bamboo. There's no need to waste tax payers money or waste the governments time. Please let us know how we can help.
Baerbalang April 27, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Caryn Rickel has a vendetta against her neighbors and getting laws passed against their bamboo is a means to this end. She will spread any lie or censor any dissenting opinion toward this end. Another Caryn Rickel Whopper I've seen is her claim that the USDA classifies Phyllostachys as an invasive. The link she supplies doesn't support that. In the past I have pointed out there are running bamboo species native to the United States. Her supporters were unable to believe this and judging from some of her postings it looks like she cannot tell the difference between Phyllostachys and Arundinaria. Bad news for a native species.
Vincent April 27, 2012 at 07:58 PM
To Clarify the ban on bamboo importation in the U.S. (The truth) This goes for importing pretty much any grass not just bamboo. It is not banned due to risks or being invasive. That is the plain old truth. In our modern times, we deserve to know the truth. That being said, invasive can be portrayed as a nuisance. If this is the case we hope we can help by removing it properly. Without the use of chemicals either. Running bamboo was native to U.S. "All bamboo is prohibited by the U.S.D.A. from general importation. Details can be found under Title 7 CFR, Chapter 3, Part 319 USDA Animal & Plant Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine. The reason bamboo is prohibited is not because the U.S.D.A. considers bamboo itself as a risk. Bamboo is grown in the U.S. almost exclusively as an ornamental plant. It is a grass, or poaceae. Importing bamboo, in theory, might allow a pest, virus, or disease that targets grass crops to enter the U.S. Again, in theory, this MAY present a threat to the major grass crops (corn, wheat, sugar) of the U.S. Most experts don’t believe there would be any bamboo hitchhikers that would affect commercial crops."
Steve Lau April 27, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Let me put in my 2 cents and I'll make it very clear that Caryn Rickel is a liar who is trying to spread her lies through her facebook, and website and she is either flagging all the comments against her, or banning every person who provides information that disproves her. For example: "According to Rickel, "Phyllostachys is not allowed in the ground in Tokyo. In China, it is only used for building" Running bamboo is actually loved by the Chinese culture and you can find it in parks, properties and anywhere else. It is actually far more common than it is in the U.S, and people in China understand the plant enough to know that it is not invasive. Here are some nurseries in China http://www.zhuzi.net/ http://tybamboo.huamu.cn/ http://www.lvhua.com/chinese/b2b/pd_list.asp?id=1257 “The rhizomes (roots with shoots) damage sewers, septics, foundations, chokes all native plants and release a natural herbicide.” Completely false. Here's the proof. Do any search for pictures and you can find that other plants and weeds can grow under a bamboo grove. http://www.flickr.com/photos/10770266@N04/3100130036/ "it wipes out forests." False. A bamboo cannot advance into a forest if the trees are taller, and provide too much shade. "Rickel said seeding is only a matter of time." Many running bamboos have gone to flower such as aurea, dulcis, kwangsiensis, nigra, and heteroclada. Seeds generally fall right underneath the canopy. Where's the bamboo apocolypse?
Baerbalang April 28, 2012 at 02:23 PM
An even better way to show just how big of a lie Caryn Rickel told when when she said that bamboo was not allowed in the ground in Kyoto, Japan is to use Streetview in Google Maps and look around Kyoto. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=kyoto&hl=en&ll=34.94892,135.698147&spn=0.046925,0.111494&client=safari&z=14&layer=c&cbll=34.948943,135.69824&panoid=wGhscsaBIjn9Bg5xPQLvIQ&cbp=12,297.78,,0,-9.84


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »