Bamboo is quickly becoming a go-to for those looking to embrace a greener way of living. It’s been viewed as the plant of the future, as it can thrive in almost any environment and holds the power to potentially mitigate climate change. It takes only five to six years for shoots to develop into culms, of which 16 to 20% are harvested in a given crop. Because this method leaves 80% or more of a bamboo forest untouched, it’s a more sustainable option for everything from flooring to car interiors.
That said, bamboo has its downsides. It’s a highly invasive species, and when it’s planted outside its natural habitat, it can wreak havoc on an eco-system. In fact, many northeastern states have cracked down on bamboo sales, a measure that has now been adopted by the township of Teaneck, New Jersey.
Bamboo isn’t native to North America, but it spreads like wildfire. When homeowners plant it along their property lines to create attractive boundaries, it can quickly make its way into neighboring yards and grow as tall as 50 feet high.
Councilman Alan Sohn of Teaneck notes to NorthJersey.com, “Once that bamboo gets into the ground, it starts developing a mind of its own and really gets out of hand.”
That’s why the ordinance in Teaneck will now limit the planting of bamboo to above-ground containers situated at least 10 feet away from the property line. The measure applies only to future bamboo planting. Those who are caught violating the ordinance can be fined $100 and will have the bamboo removed.
Teaneck joins more than a dozen other New Jersey municipalities that have already adopted bamboo regulating measures. There’s also a proposed bill currently in the state Assembly that, if passed, would require all bamboo to be sold to nurseries and planted by professionals.
Other states in the northeast have already restricted sales on non-native plants. These invasive species can negatively affect those that are native to the region, as well as insects and birds that rely on those native plants. New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire have already banned cultivation, sale, and landscaping of burning bush, Japanese barberry, Norway maple, golden bamboo, and more.
But not all species of bamboo are created equal. Clumping bamboo is much less invasive than running bamboo, and it does well in droughts. It’s also fairly pest-free and won’t encourage deer to snack. That said, homeowners or cultivators looking for sustainable options should check with their local regulations before planting.