Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Engaging Bamboo at Princeton Battlefield, Part 2

The Princeton Battlefield Society has an issue with the bamboo that was planted long ago near Clark House. It's expanded to the point that it's starting to block pathways. Responding with a workday in the spring, the volunteers had a big above-ground impact, reducing the forest of bamboo to long piles of thick stems. I made the case that, despite that great accomplishment, it was not time to declare victory. A month later, the bamboo would quietly send up a new forest of shoots from energy reserves in its massive root system, and restore its strength over the long summer.

From high atop my horse, or at least my horticultural soapbox, I offered a plan to outsmart a grass species long schooled in the art of survival. We'd wait until its new stems are ten feet tall, then seize the day, along with some loppers, and cut them all down. That's just what board members Kip and Marc did this past weekend, with an admirable sense of thoroughness. Now it's the bamboo's move. Having spent all that root energy for no return, it may abandon ambitions of tall stems for the time being and merely send up short, shrubby sprigs dense with leaves. If these, too, get cut down, then the bamboo's roots will be well along the way to being exhausted.

We found a few natives growing in the void left by removing the bamboo: spicebush, blackberry, black raspberry, jewelweed, and white snakeroot. Their presence is heartening, and though we discussed encouraging them it's too early to think about nurturing the peace. The bamboo is not yet quelled, and porcelainberry vines are creeping in from the sides, ready to outcompete the relatively tame natives.

We then headed across the backyard of the Clark House to check out another clone blocking another trail. We tasted a young bamboo shoot or two. Not bad, even raw. Maybe what we have here is a failure to utilize. If only Princeton had a ravishing hunger for locally grown bamboo shoots, the clones would be held nicely in check.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Mercer Street, the dogwood trees lining the field are growing new leaves that can actually get sunlight, now that they've been liberated from suffocating vines.

All of this speaks to the progress that can be made in local parks by a few people with some plant knowledge, some strategy, a few spare hours, and some loppers.

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