MAKING BAMBOO TABOO
A frustrated homeowner takes her beef about
unwanted vegetation to Trenton.
Elaine Walsh is a busy woman. A dedicated nurse and single mother with four children, three grandchildren and a dog, she lost her Atlantic City home in Superstorm Sandy and
spent two years bouncing around in temporary housing.
After her insurance settlement came through, she was finally
able to buy a new house in Linwood, about 10 miles from her old
home. She found a 1950s ranch with a backyard full of “pretty
bushes and vegetation.” Soon after moving in last March, she
gathered her family to celebrate.
That’s when her adult daughter, Theresa, told her that running
bamboo was growing in the yard. “I said, ‘What are you talking
about?’” Walsh recalls. Before she bought the house, she had a
final walk-through, but it was winter and she hadn’t noticed that
the neighboring house, which was in foreclosure, was surrounded
by bamboo, some of it 20 feet high.
By July, she was watching in horror as the bamboo slinked
across her lawn, under her patio and right up to the foundation of her new home. “It grew inches a day,” she says. She tried
snipping the shoots as they came up, but it was a losing battle.
Frustrated, Walsh contacted local officials, then she went to
Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-Northfield), who introduced
legislation to control the spread of bamboo, an invasive species.
Mazzeo’s bill passed the Assembly in 2014; it is pending action
by the Senate. Whatever the fate of the legislation, Walsh is glad
to know that somebody is paying attention to the problem.
The bank that is foreclosing on the neighboring property has cleared away the bamboo—perhaps because of
her complaints—and she has been vigilant about clipping
any shoots that stray into her yard. She says she’d like to
plant a few hydrangeas, her favorite flower. Until she finds
the time to get back there, she’s happy to settle for what’s
already in the yard, which is full of greenery, including a few
Walsh was surprised to find out that butterfly bushes,
too, are considered invasive. “Really?” she says.
“Wow. They’re getting ripped
out.” —Anthony DePalma
(Continued on page 217)
boo to potential home buyers. The final
version of the bill passed by the Assembly
last December dropped that clause, but
added a requirement that sellers disclose
the presence of bamboo on their property.
The bill also kept a controversial $100 fine
for anyone who plants bamboo within 100
feet of a property line.
Seventeen assemblymen voted against
the bill. One of them, Michael Patrick Car-
roll (R-Morris Plains), says he opposed the
bill not because he thought it was a bad
idea, but because it “effectively criminal-
izes unknowing behavior.”
“If you just happen to own a plant,
suddenly you’re a criminal?” Carroll
asks. He acknowledges that there’s room
for a law controlling invasive species, but
not this law.
As the bamboo bills awaits action in the
state Senate, a more aggressive invasive
species bill (A-3125) is stalled in the Assembly. It would prohibit the sale or planting of
nine invasive species, including purple
loosestrife and Japanese stiltgrass.
However, the bill excludes Japanese
barberry and many other invasive
species that are being grown and
sold in the state.
Despite those limitations, environmentalists are optimistic that
Trenton is finally moving in the
“We look at it as a first step,” says
Megan Tinsley, conservation advocate
for the New Jersey Audubon Society.
Tinsley says one reason New Jersey
has fallen behind other states is because the landscape nursery industry has resisted attempts to control
which plants can be sold.
Dominick Mondi, executive director of the New Jersey Nursery and
Landscape Association, says growers
are concerned about invasives, but cautions that if too many plants are categorized as invasives, it could hurt the industry and deprive property owners
of varieties of popular plants.
“There’s a difference of opinion,” says Mondi. “On the big pic-