Bamboo identification guide
Bamboo plant identification can be difficult as there are so many different species. Popular in many gardens, many are non-invasive. Some, however, can grow out of control and begin to take over the garden, in some cases spreading to neighbouring properties.
One of the issues with bamboo is the speed of growth and the way it can suddenly take over a garden, potentially also causing damage to areas such as patios and paths. As with Japanese knotweed, it’s also the rhizomes that spread underground that can cause the biggest issue and make this a difficult plant to eradicate.
Our bamboo identification guide looks at how to spot this plant in your garden and how to decide whether it is invasive or not so that you can deal with it before it gets out of control
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo itself has increased in popularity itself over the last 20 years. It is farmed extensively around the world and is used to create eco-friendly products from cutting boards to toys and even clothes. It’s a versatile material that can be grown quickly in a variety of different soil types and conditions.
Bamboo is technically a grass and some species can grow as much as a foot a day. Identifying bamboo can be challenging as there are some 1,400 different species. The tallest will grow as high as 40 metres and these types of plants are most often seen in regions such as south and east Asia. In the UK, as far as bamboo identification is concerned, there are two sorts of plants you are likely to see in a garden:
- Running bamboo: This develops rhizomes underground which extends away from the initial plant. Each rhizome can then grow a separate culm or stem which can spread throughout your garden.
- Clumping bamboo: This tends to form over a compact area and is generally easier to manage. Essentially, you can identify this species of bamboo because it is mostly confined to one area of the garden.
When it comes to being invasive, running bamboo is far more troublesome for UK properties and, if left unattended, can begin to spread quite quickly. Of course, this also depends on the species. There are several ways to identify bamboo including the shape and size of the leaves, what the stems look like and the roots.
The big question most homeowners have is if bamboo is identified on their property, should they be worried?
It all depends on the species, how widely and quickly it spreads and how invasive it can be. Currently, bamboo is not considered an invasive species like Japanese knotweed but mortgage companies are taking a closer look at it with regards to whether some properties have an issue or not. There are cases where neighbours have taken legal action after bamboo has spread from one property to another.
If you are thinking of buying a property and you have identified bamboo on it, it’s worth taking a closer look and carrying out a full survey to make sure there are no underlying problems.
Bamboo leaves: what do they look like?
Depending on the species, bamboo leaves can be long or short but are generally shaped like a lance or spear that tapers to a point. The leaves tend to be fairly tough and a little leathery and they are often used in cooking in Asia, for example, to wrap rice or meat that is being cooked over a fire. Bamboo leaves are also used in traditional medicine, as animal fodder, and in the construction of things like roofs and baskets, to name just a few. Mostly the leaves of bamboo are green, but some species have variegated leaves, with white, or pale green stripes.
Bamboo stems: what do they look like?
The most distinctive part of the bamboo is the stem or culm which is usually rounded and quite thick. This is the part that you see above ground and is very distinctive in appearance.
The length of it will be broken up by horizontal nodes which are a slightly different colour and create a ridge on the stem. Branches, if there are any, will generally emerge from these ridges and can form offshoots with leaves.
Most species of bamboo have smooth stems, but a key characteristic of the Phyllostachys group is a defined ridge or groove on the stem, often changing sides after each node.
Bamboo roots: what do they look like?
As with many invasive and troublesome plants, it’s what’s going on underground that is often more important.
Rhizomes are not exactly a root in the traditional sense but another part of the plant that grows underground and can spread horizontally. Like the stems, these develop nodes from which new growths above ground can occur. In running bamboo, these rhizomes spread horizontally and may finally take over a garden, damaging other plants. Because they are quite tough, they may even work their way into areas like building foundations causing structural problems.
The roots initially grow quite shallowly in the soil but once the bamboo of certain species has gained a hold (after around 5-10 years) they can be tough to remove using simple garden tools – that’s why it’s important to have more serious infestations handled by a professional team with the right equipment.
Bamboo species identification
With over a thousand different species, you won’t be surprised to learn that there are some variations between the types that you might find invading your garden.
Planting bamboo in the garden has become increasingly popular in the UK and, for the most part as long as the growth is properly managed, there is little or no problem. Gardening experts and landscapers suggest that you stick to clumping varieties of Bamboo if you want to put them in your garden as these tend to remain in one place and not spread.
If you are looking to buy a house and there seems to be a bamboo problem, however, it’s important to get the area assessed and identify the species of bamboo. Some can be very invasive. They can also spread from neighbouring gardens and begin to take over everything from the lawn and patio to your plant beds.
There are several different types of running bamboo that can quickly grow across your garden and onto the neighbour’s property if you are not careful. These include:
While these can form clumps as well, they are mainly classed as running bamboos. There are about 50 different species and it’s important to investigate how each is likely to affect your garden. This family has a distinctive groove on the culm. P. aurea and P. nigra are both highly popular and are quite striking but be warned, they can also spread quickly and grow several metres in height.
Sasa & Sasaella
Commonly known as Japanese bamboo, these variegated varieties with white and green striped leaves can produce spreading clumps of stems that reach about 2 metres in height. They are evergreen and can look highly attractive if you want an ornamental plant in your garden but can spread widely if not contained.
Less commonly available in the UK, they can grow 7 metres tall or more and are characterised by deep olive stems and leaves and are often used for hedging or screens in the garden. If managed correctly, they can be an attractive addition but will become invasive in warm, moist conditions.
Pleioblastus varieties are dwarf bamboos, making them popular for ground cover. Small they may be, but they are also very hardy and can spread vigorously. Once they have invaded your borders, the runners grow through the root systems of other plants, making removal really difficult.
How tall does Bamboo grow?
One of the first questions people tend to ask is how high does bamboo grow? You won’t be surprised to learn that this largely depends on the species. Some only grow a few metres others can, when allowed to flourish, reach ten metres or more.
The largest species of bamboo, which is not seen in the UK, is called Dendrocalamus sinicus and that can grow to heights of nearly 50 metres (about the size of two tennis courts).
How fast does Bamboo grow in the UK?
One of the characteristics that make bamboo such a good manufacturing material is the speed with which it grows. Stems can be cut down and within a few months are replenished. The growth rate of Bamboo depends on the species – some can grow as quickly as 91 centimetres in 24 hours.
How quickly does bamboo grow in the UK? Left unattended, clumping Bamboo varieties will grow around 1 to 2 feet every year. Running bamboo is more vigorous and a stem is likely to grow 3 to 4 feet in a year but may also spread across the ground.
Identifying the type of bamboo you have in your garden will help you understand how invasive it is likely to be and what you need to do if you want to get rid of it. In many cases, bamboo can be managed quite easily and, if you find it attractive in your garden, there’s no reason to have it removed.
If you have identified bamboo in your garden and now want rid of it, getting a specialist team in to handle the removal makes sense. They will have the right tools and equipment, particularly important if the growth covers a large area.
At Environet, we’ve got the expertise and the solutions you need to rid your property of a wide range of different invasive species.
Start fixing your invasive plant problem today by requesting a survey
Rest assured, where invasive species are identified at an early stage and tackled correctly, problems can usually be avoided. Our trained specialists carry out site surveys to map specified terrestrial invasive plant species and provide management plans tailored to your requirements.
What our clients say
What our clients say
“We are so pleased that the bamboo has gone – Aiden and his team were lovely and we felt very confident that they knew exactly what they were doing. The survey beforehand was very helpful and informative and it’s reassuring to know that they will be back to follow up. Thank you!”
Running bamboo removal works
“I would definitely recommend Environet as a company, from my recent dealings with them. The work undertaken was the removal of running bamboo from our back garden, that we rather naïvely planted 20 years ago and which had run amok meanwhile, towards the house. All dealings with the Environet team, from the initial assessment to the admin team, to the lads that turned up on the day, were smooth, professional and efficient. Emails were concise and explanatory, and responses to my queries were immediate. The lads who did the physical work slogged away over two days in appalling weather conditions (wind, rain, cold) but could be heard laughing and joking while they worked. I was kept informed at all stages and when the job was finished, they tidied up very nicely. Five stars well deserved all round.”
Removing a 25 year old Bamboo clump no mean feat.
“The guys managed to remove a 25 year old clump of bamboo from my garden and all the runners from my neighbours garden. They were very efficient and completed the job in less time than I anticipated. I was expecting there to be only two guys but in fact there were four. Well done and thank you.”
Professional and knowledgeable
“From the start of the work (the initial quote) to the end (the removal of an entire bamboo screen growing within a couple of metres of my house), I found great reassurance with Environet. I know it’s important to have bamboo removed responsibly (and completely) so I went to the experts, and they didn’t let me down. They explained everything to me, and advised me on best steps forward. After a growth spurt in the bamboo over the summer (to about 15′ high), they came and removed it all, including roots and rhizomes (with minimal disruption). I feel comfortable knowing this job has been done properly. They are very professional and knowledgeable.”
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