There are dozens of types of bamboo in Louisiana including the Sugar Cane extensively farmed along wide bayou and river levees, Roseau Cane picturesquely lining coastal waterways and myriad varieties growing in Louisiana uplands. While these grace the landscape with a profound, unique beauty, they can be considered a bane to many homeowners and land managers because the plant does not necessarily know when to quit.
This trait arises from the plant’s horizontal, underground structure called a rhizome. It looks sort of like the cane itself but with roots coming out of the joints or “nodes.” Depending on species and conditions, these rhizomes can quickly fan out just under the surface at a rate of one inch to one yard per day and spread into new areas where it and may or may not be wanted. As they do this they send up new stalks high into the air to create a leafy canopy to take over its new territory with competition-killing shade. Unlike trees that take decades, even centuries to evolve the appearance of the landscape, bamboo has a much shorter lifespan of 5-7 years and can either die off and be replaced by something else or grow more replacement stalks to maintain its ill-gotten territory.
Here at Camp Salmen we have an unusually large, thick clump of Chinese Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) just off the main parking lot between the Bayou Liberty Boardwalk and the Outdoor classroom. It is what is known as clumping bamboo because of a curious trait the rhizomes of this type has — instead of growing straight away from their parent bamboo stalks to spread out, each rhizome grows in a u-shape, thus keeping all of its vertical stalks concentrated in one tight area; maybe making it less obnoxious to property owners. The golden name is from the yellowish color of its fading leaves and the golden-red hue of its mature stalks. Some park visitors can’t resist leaving the trail to walk over and break off its big stalks for their novelty or to have a handy thrashing tool for damaging park vegetation or for some other such mayhem, however, they should, instead, leave our vegetation alone for others to enjoy.