To the long list of natural disasters afflicting Westport — hurricanes, deer, drivers with no brains — add one more: bamboo.
The imported plant is incredibly invasive. Its stems are dense. Its leaves grow 35 feet or more. It spreads underground, overpowering sidewalks, fences and stone walls.
Caryn Rickel of the Institute of Invasive Bamboo Research (!) told the Connecticut Post, yellow grove bamboo is “the worst alien invader that the USA has ever encountered.”
Westporter Priscilla Weadon calls it “the fastest-growing grass on the planet.”
She should know. An Ambler Road neighbor planted bamboo a few years back. Now it’s everywhere — defying even “really powerful chemicals.”
Priscilla’s lawn is covered in new bamboo. She says it grew over 4 feet in a matter of days.
Priscilla says bamboo runs the length of a pond on North Turkey Hill. It’s on Turkey Hill South and Green’s Farms Road. Behind the shopping center next to Mitchells.
The Post story notes that Westport is “home to several astonishing mini-forests of yellow groove bamboo. If your only experiences with the plant are the torches at your neighbor’s tiki party, you’re in for a jaw-dropping experience.”
In many states, Priscilla says, “you cannot sell your home if there is bamboo growing in or bordering” your property. She strongly backs a bill working its way through the Connecticut legislature, providing protection and monetary damages to homeowners for the removal of bamboo. (It must be dug up, sifted through, and the rhizomes — fast-growing underground stems — incinerated.)
Right now, bamboo is not on the list of the state’s invasive species. The Post says that’s because it is not attacking natural habitats — only siding, roofs and the like — and its effect on native plants and animals is negligible.
The problem, the Post says, is with people who plant bamboo. Some apparently grow it just to get revenge on a neighbor. (The more neighborly reason is to create a privacy screen.)
There’s no word on how Westport’s bamboo infestation began.
Or — to Priscilla Weadon’s dismay — how and when it will end.