Bamboo forest beautifies, mystifies College campus

The College grounds provide a variety of plant life every season, but it is only when cruising Metzger Drive that students can see the clandestine bamboo forest. A more seasoned student at the College might consider this simply a hideaway, a gathering place to sneak a beer or smoke a “boag,” but at the very least, the bamboo forest is an exotic mystery – an unusual jungle just beyond the Lion’s turf.

When asked to shed light on the origin of the peculiar gathering, Thomas Hasty, head grounds worker for Campus Grounds and Landscape, didn’t have much to say. “I have been here for 26 years, and it was just as big then as it is now. I don’t know much about how the bamboo came to be here, but it certainly isn’t a native grass to our area.”

His experience with the forest has been limited to the rare instances when the grounds crew needed to remove “devil worship” paraphernalia or clean out litter. According to Hasty, former students once tried to recreate a Blair Witch-like phenomenon in the forest. “I’m not one to judge. I was in college once too,” Hasty said. He maintained the College ground’s crew has never done any tending to the forest.

An overwhelming number of students don’t know much about the bamboo – it is hardly noticeable on the lush campus. Most memories of the forest are of adventurous evenings with friends.

“I remember people going back there to hang out freshman year,” Erin Dwyer, junior engineering major, said. “It’s hidden so people considered it to be a place away from their (community advisor) where they could just hang out and have a good time.”

Dwyer and friends had their own fun in the bamboo forest. “We would dare each other to go back there at night and see how far we could get without getting scared.”

The amazing thing about bamboo is its rapid growth rate. In its normal tropical environment, bamboo has been measured at a daily growth rate of about 60-90 centimeters. At this incredibly fast development pace, shoots can grow quite tall in a matter of months.

“I would assume that those shoots are all from the same plant,” Janet Morrison, associate professor of biology, said. “Bamboo grows in a ring-like pattern around the original shoot, so according to that theory the forest could have been born from only a few shoots.”

Morrison explained that while bamboo is not considered an “invasive species,” it is a plant that when left to its own devices could overrun an area. Somehow the campus has been lucky in this regard, and the jungle has kept to its own area beyond the abandoned William Green House.

From all accounts the bamboo forest is an unmatched location on the campus and a place that is certainly worth a visit. It’s one of the College’s best-kept secrets, an environment rich with mystery and memories.