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What is Mexican Bamboo?

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  • Written By: Deneatra Harmon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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Mexican bamboo, also referred to as Japanese knotweed, grows as a perennial and develops large areas of thickets. Native to Asia, this plant grows up to 9 feet tall (approximately 2.7 m) with leaves and stems of varying widths. The Japanese knotweed does not really classify as a real bamboo, but it gets the nickname of Mexican bamboo because of its hollow stems. Rhizomes of the perennial may be planted in mostly wet areas. Cutting and transporting methods help control the spread of Mexican bamboo and prevent it from invading common areas.

This "false" bamboo derives from the Fallopia japonica family, which also goes by the name buckwheat or smartweed family. Labeled as an herbaceous perennial, the Mexican bamboo sometimes gets confused with its cousin, Bohemian knotweed, because they share similar characteristics. The Mexican bamboo plant produces dense growth of its trees and shrubs, also known as thickets. Because of the bamboo plant's density, thickets tend to form large colonies in open spaces, limiting the diversity of other plant species in that particular habitat.

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Japanese knotweed originated from east Asia, but the bamboo-like plant produces stems and leaves in other areas such as Nova Scotia in Canada and areas of the U.S. such as Maine or North Carolina. The Mexican bamboo grows upward from 3 feet to 9 feet tall (approximately 0.9 to 2.7 m), and forms thick, ovate-shaped leaves as lengthy as 7 inches (about 17.78 cm). Greenish white or cream-colored flowers follow starting in August or September. Shiny, three-sided, black and brown fruits typically develop within the blooms. One of the most notable features of the Japanese knotweed is its tall, hollow, cane-shaped stem that remains standing even during the winter season.

Planting Japanese knotweed, or Mexican bamboo, usually requires seeding of the soil or the transport of rhizomes from one area to another. The perennial tolerates moist, well-drained soil with some heat, sun, and shade. Wetlands, roadsides, riverbanks and streams are among some of the locations where the false bamboo thrives, so cold, damp, or flooded areas also do not hurt the hardy perennial.

Plant invasion seems to be a common problem regarding Mexican bamboo. Its dense thickets of shrubs, trees, and stems spread like weeds into the space of other plants. Such an invasion may potentially hinder the growth of these other plants or endanger their habitat. Complete removal of the perennial's rhizomes and stalks reduces out-of-control growth and prevents encroachment into other areas such as a playground or a parking lot. Gardening experts also recommend using glyphosate herbicide on the knotweed's foliage to keep it from overpopulating.

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