Golden bamboo, also known as fishpole bamboo or running bamboo, is an invasive plant that was introduced to North America over a century ago and is still offered for sale as a fast-growing ornamental plant.
What is it?
Golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) is native to southeast China, and has been cultivated in Japan for centuries. It was first introduced to the United States in 1882 at a site in Alabama. It became a popular choice for property owners wishing to develop a screening and/or noise barrier. Others planted it with the intention of harvesting them for fishing poles.
Since its first arrival, it has escaped from its original planting sites in the southeast, spreading from Texas to North Carolina, but it is also cultivated as far north as Buffalo, NY. Scattered escaped populations exist as far west as California and Hawaii; on the island of Oahu, researchers found a one-acre patch on a hillside that has crowded out native species. The patch had grown from a single roadside ornamental planting.
What makes Golden bamboo popular as a planting choice for property owners (in particular, its fast growth in a variety of light and soil conditions) also makes it a challenge for managers if it is not properly contained. It can grow in both open and wooded environments as well as on forest edges. It is now considered an invasive species in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Georgia. See the distribution map below.
How does it spread?
As with other species of bamboo, Golden bamboo plants rarely flower or produce seeds; it may be anywhere from 5 to 30 years between events for a stand of Golden bamboo. Instead, Golden bamboo spreads through underground rhizomes which grow quickly, spreading out horizontally from the parent plant. Stems generally emerge in early Spring.
How can I identify it?
Golden bamboo grows as solid jointed canes from one to six inches in diameter. The canes are hollow between the joints and range in color from golden green to deep green to black. They can grow up to 40 feet in height.
The leaves often grow in fan clusters, with long, “lanceolate” blades (elongated ovals that resemble lance blades) that range from 3 to 10 inches in length. See the image gallery below.
How can I control it?
The easiest way to keep Golden bamboo out of an environment is to not plant it in the first place. If control on an existing stand is desired, a combination of cutting, burning and herbicide applications may be required. It is essential that all rhizomes are removed through excavation, as they can continue to grow despite the loss of the above-ground plants. Repeated treatment of the area will likely be necessary to ensure complete eradication.
For more information:
A wide variety of resources exist about Golden bamboo:
Bugwood.org wiki page
Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants—University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Services
Golden Bamboo - National Invasive Species Information Center, US Dept. of Agriculture