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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - March 26, 2006

From: Cortlandt Manor, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Native alternatives for non-native, invasive bamboo in New York
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I hope you can help me. This is not about wildflowers. I'm interested in planting bamboo as a screen (25'+). I know all the pros/cons and would need to have a nursery to put in barrier. I need some good sources/and or contacts to purchase bamboo that will thrive in this area. Can you direct me? Thanks so much.

ANSWER:

Our focus and expertise are in plants native to North America. The only bamboo native to North America is switch cane or giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea). There are two subspecies, Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl. ssp. gigantea and Arundinaria gigantea (Walt.) Muhl. ssp. tecta (Walt.) McClure. A. gigantea is apparently hardy down to -23 degrees F, grows to 25 feet and does occur in New York. You are already aware that bamboos can be invasive since they spread quickly by rhizomes (underground stems). You certainly should install a barrier to keep it from spreading out of control. A suggestion for a different native plant to serve as a screen is Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). It is evergreen and would also form a dense, tall screen, although it would not grow as quickly as the giant cane.

For nurseries in your area that specialize in native plants, visit our National Suppliers Directory There are also internet sites (such as, Bamboo Garden and Lewis Bamboo) that list A. gigantea as well as non-native bamboos for sale.
 

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