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What is Bamboo?

Other than a nightmare and a potential hazard to your property, bamboo is an incredible strong invasive species of plant. Bamboo is a tribe of perennial evergreen plants in the grass family Poaceae, in the subfamily Bambusoideae, and in the tribe Bambuseae.

Bamboo is known as a strong, flexible, woody grass (which flowers every 65+ years), and it has earned quite the reputation as the fastest growing member of the grass family.

While we tend to think of lush, soft turf when we think of grass, the characteristics of bamboo couldn’t be more different. Bamboo is used to make “hardwood” floors & furniture and very durable; so different than grass, which is a fibrous, bendable plant. Within the 91 genera of bamboo, there are over 1000 different species throughout the world, growing in a variety of climates, regions, and soils, so the answer to what is bamboo is a very complex one.

Bamboo Anatomy:

  • Rhizomes = Roots
  • Bayonets = Young Cane Stalks
  • Culm = Mature Cane Stalks

Types of bamboo:

The horror stories associated with poorly managed running bamboo gone amok are too numerous to count.

As the names imply, running bamboo spreads and can grow all over your yard quickly, while clumping bamboo clumps together and stays in one place. When most people with a bamboo “problem” think of bamboo, they envision the running bamboo variety, as it has the most potentially invasive and destructive capacity of the two.

Clumping bamboo

Grows in a single bunch and doesn’t take over your neighbor’s yard. The clumping bamboo roots grow only a few inches/year. You may still have a serious problem with clumping bamboo depending on its placement.

Running bamboo

Is the most-likely to crack solid concrete, grow into a building’s infrastructure, or invade neighboring properties, exposing you to legal action. Removing a well-established grove can be a daunting task. Once established, running bamboo plants create a strong and complex network of plants, making the emergence of new culms (bayonets) unpredictable. Simply cutting the culms (cane stalks) and bayonets (young culms) at ground level will not suffice for effective bamboo removal, because the rhizomes (roots) will continue to travel underground in search of new territory to colonize. The entire rhizome system must be removed or destroyed to completely stop the emergence of new shoots.


One can only begin to imagine the potentially destructive nature of bamboo by examining the root structure of grass. The roots of running bamboo normally spread horizontally down about 12-18″ underground, unless they are contained which would force them to grow deeper. A running bamboo’s root system will extend 20 feet annually and over 100 feet from the original plant in its lifetime. The roots can be as dense as steel cable and are very difficult to eradicate. If left unchecked, roots can be very destructive causing mayhem in yards, existing trees, and infrastructure nearby.

The root system of bamboo utilizes rhizomes (large, underground growth “hubs”) to propagate itself. This is where energy is stored for both horizontal and vertical growth.

Rhizomes: “subterranean stem of a plant that is usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes”

Culms & Bayonets

Generally speaking, bamboo stalks emerge from the ground in early-mid Spring. They grow to their full height within 3-4 months. Over the next couple of years, the inner pulpy wall of each culm hardens as it matures.

Bamboo Removal Service
Invasive Bamboo Species

The height and diameter of each culm is dependent on both the age and variety of the particular bamboo/root structure. In very cold temperatures, leaves and stalks may brown and die. However, since the roots are hardy, new shoots and foliage will emerge later in spring.

The real damage is incurred with the sharp “bayonets” (young cane) and “culms” (mature cane stalks). They can pierce skin like an arrow causing deep puncture wounds, requiring stitches. Forceful enough to penetrate concrete, asphalt, foundations, roofs, driveways, pools, tennis courts, etc. During peak season, they can grow 3-5 feet in 1 day.

When only the bayonets or culms of running bamboo are removed, the energy is redirected to the rhizomes, roots below the ground. Bamboo is a hearty plant; it can continue growing without sunlight for 90 days. The growth continues horizontally then upward somewhere else and pretty soon, you have a neighborhood problem. This causes the financial, physical, and emotional impact of your bamboo problem to grow exponentially.

In other words, mishandling bamboo removal can actually exacerbate the problem. Whether the problem began in your yard or someone else’s, a mishandled or neglected bamboo problem can create a silent and unseen “invasion”.

As seen in this tennis court picture, the root system grew silently underneath until a hot day came and the canes emerged.

Don’t wait until it’s too late!