Running Bamboo

BambooCode of Lexington, Chapter 131

At a Special Town Meeting in 2020, Chapter 131, Running Bamboo Control, was added to the Code of Lexington "…to preserve and protect private and Town-owned property and Town-owned rights-of-way from the damaging spread of Running Bamboo…". See the full text of Chapter 131 (PDF).

Summary of Chapter 131

Note: This is just a simplified summary of the bylaw, and does not supersede or replace the any part of Chapter 131 (PDF). You must read the bylaw itself to understand exactly what is required.

  • You can no longer plant running bamboo in Lexington. That includes replanting, transplanting, installing or reinstalling.
  • If you have running bamboo in your yard, you must put a barrier around it or grow it in a planter.
  • If your bamboo of any kind grows outside of your property line after June 15, 2021, you may be subject to the penalties stated in the bylaw.
  • If your bamboo of any kind encroaches on a Town-owned property or Town-owned right-of-way after June 15, 2021, you must:
    • remove it from the Town property at your own expense, or pay for the Town to remove it
    • construct a barrier around your bamboo to prevent further encroachment, or pay the Town's cost to erect a barrier
  • If you find that running bamboo has encroached on your property after June 15, 2021, you will need to deliver written notice to the abutting property owner and the Town manager by certified mail.
  • The Lexington Town Manager as designated the Department of Public Works as the authority to enforce the provisions of the bylaw.

What is Bamboo?

Bamboos are a group of perennial flowering plants in subfamily Bambusoideae of the Poaceae (Grass) family.

In the spring, bamboos produce new shoots, which grow into canes, or culms. These shoots emerge from rhizomes - horizonal roots running shallowly underground from the existing plant. The culms grow for one season. After that, they will put out new leaves every year, but will not grow in height or produce new branches. But they will produce rhizomes which will in turn produce more culms.

Clumping BambooWhat is Running Bamboo?

Bamboos are generally classified as either "running" or "clumping", depending on how their rhizomes grow.

Clumping bamboos have a pachymorph rhizome system. They produce short rhizomes that grow upward, ending in a new shoot. They therefore grow in dense clumps.

Running bamboos, however, have a leptomorph, or monopodial rhizome system. Their rhizomes usually grow 3 feet to 5 feet per year, sending up new shoots all along their length. But the rhizomes can grow up to 20 feet long in a single growing season. This is how they can quickly overrun an area.

The most common running bamboo sold and planted in Massachusetts is Phyllostachys.

Controlling Running Bamboo

Chapter 131-4 specifies barriers to be used to control running bamboo and keep it from spreading outside your property:

  1. A seamless barrier composed of high density polypropylene, or polyethylene, or a metal barrier with sealed, overlapping and reinforced seams, or an impermeable joint free concrete barrier. The barrier must extend at least 36 inches below the ground surface, and the barrier must extend at least 2 inches above the ground surface for the entire length of the installation, and the installation must extend such that the possibility of flanking the barrier system is not possible;
  2. The placement of the Running Bamboo in a fully enclosed above ground pot or planter; or
  3. Any other adequate barrier system approved by the Town Manager or their designee.