Neighbor Complains Bamboo Is Taking Over (Published 2017) (2023)

Real Estate|Neighbor Complains Bamboo Is Taking Over

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Q. Soon after we moved into our home in Bayside, Queens, 13 years ago, we planted bamboo in our backyard. The plants have grown quite large. We like how they look and the shade and privacy they provide. Recently, a neighbor demanded that we remove the bamboo, claiming that, as an invasive species, it is illegal to grow. He said the roots are invading his yard. We told him he could cut or destroy any roots or plants on his property, but that we would not remove bamboo from our yard. He has threatened to sue us. Must we remove the bamboo to avoid a lawsuit?

A. New York State bans two varieties of invasive bamboo — golden bamboo and yellow groove bamboo. Commonly known as running bamboo, these varieties grow uncontrollably, spreading onto neighboring properties and reaching enormous heights. A prohibited species cannot be sold, transported or planted in the state.


Although not all varieties of bamboo are invasive, the ones you describe fit the description of running bamboo, according to Todd Haiman, a New York City landscape designer.

Assuming your bamboo is banned, it would be grandfathered into the law given its age, meaning you would not have to remove it, according to Bruce A. Cholst, a real estate lawyer in the New York City office of Anderson Kill. However, you cannot take cuttings from the existing plants and replant them elsewhere.

Your neighbor, frustrated as he may be, cannot force you to remove the plant. He can prune any branches or roots that encroach on his property, at his own expense, so long as he does not destroy the root system. If he kills the plant, he could be liable for damages.

Your neighbor’s legal options may be limited, but his concerns are not unreasonable. “There is a responsibility on the part of the homeowner,” Mr. Haiman said. As a good neighbor, control running bamboo by pruning the roots and installing an underground barrier, such as high-density polypropylene. These steps will limit the spread of the plant, minimizing the work that your neighbor must do to remove the invasive plant’s roots from his property. Your efforts may be rewarded should you need his cooperation in the future.

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