Many people do not realize that bamboo is actually a grass and not a tree. Bamboo brings its own set of problems to the environment in the wild, but these problems are not often seen unless you live in an area where bamboo grows wild. These problems are managed in plants used for landscaping purposes.
The bamboo spreads with rhizomes and is very invasive, whether it is the clumping type or the running type. A rhizome is an underground stem that sends up new shoots of the parent plant. The clumping bamboo grows rhizomes closer to the main plant, so it is easier to manage, while the running type spreads its rhizomes much farther and faster. If bamboo rhizomes are not contained, the plant, which grows quickly, takes over a large area in a short time.
Several diseases affect bamboo, but there are only a few diseases that cause severe damage or death to the plant. Rhizoctonia solani and leaf rust affect the bamboo in the wild and can kill the plant.
Rhizoctonia solani was first discovered in 1858, by Julius Kuhn. This basidiomycete fungus reproduces asexually. It usually attacks the parts of the plant that is underground, but it sometimes attacks the stems and leaves. It causes non-germination of seed and kills seedlings before they can emerge from the soil. Those seedlings that do live are often infected with cankers.
Leaf rust gives the bamboo a yellow-green color. It attacks grasses in shaded areas. When you get closer to the plant, you notice that the leaves have yellow-orange pustules on the blades. Leaf rust spreads when the pustules are disturbed. The disturbed pustules spread spores on the wind, affecting nearby plants.
The bamboo mite, aphids and spider mites are attracted to bamboo plants. One type bamboo mite usually only affects bamboo that is outside or in the wild, if the bamboo is in cooler climates. The mites live under the leaves, in a small web. The mite gets its nourishment by sucking the juices from the leaf, leaving white patches on the leaves. In a severe infestation, the white patches cover most of the leaf.
Aphids also suck on plant juices for their nourishment. The aphids leave little holes in the leaves of the plant and, if not controlled, will cause the plant to die.
Spider mites also live in the juices from the plant. These pests leave little flecks on the leaves. If the infestation is severe, the bamboo leaves might become discolored. Leaves drop prematurely and, eventually, the stress kills the plant.