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A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Lessons in Bamboo: Love it but Don’t Leave it Alone

by Arjuna da Silva

Previous owners gifted Earthaven’s main street with a healthy stand of bamboo that’s now prolific near the Forest Garden Learning Center. Early Earthaven members added additional stands around the community.

What a beautiful and useful plant (we thought)!

Bamboo IS beautiful. AND useful. But like a beautiful and useful animal, bamboo has to be trained and maintained. Otherwise, despite one’s love for it, IT WILL TAKE OVER!


We had the naïve idea that if bamboo is planted between natural “barriers,” such as creeks and roads, you don’t have to worry about its invasiveness. Think again. Bamboo spreads, like any grass, in every direction through networks of rhizomes and root mats. Although it may be stopped by a road bed or other deep boundary it’s definitely hard to control. If it gets close to a road, come heavy snow and ice, it will lean down frozen and stiff and block traffic.


Excavation to remove Bamboo from the Bellavia pond.

One year, we tried making eating bamboo shoots an incentive to control one stand, but the thrill of eating them didn’t seem to justify all the effort to prepare them. This year, encroachment on a building became too risky to ignore, and a major excavation was undertaken. It will take several years of pruning as new sprouts emerge before we can consider the job done.

Now all neighborhoods and the commons are being managed for bamboo to stop its spread. Harvests are providing material for future decorative and useful experiments.

bamboo, bamboo shoots, excavation, Forest Garden, rhizomes

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