Bullards Park Project Provides for Pandas

City staff contacted the National Zoo’s Department of Nutrition Science about the possibility of harvesting bamboo to feed zoo animals as part of the city’s Bullards Park stream restoration project.

Removal of an invasive species as part of the city’s stream restoration at Bullards Park in Rockville’s West End comes with a side benefit – or in this case, an entree.

Along with stabilizing the stream, a tributary to Watts Branch and part of the Potomac River watershed, contractors will remove a grove of bamboo at the park’s entrance.

The bamboo, which damaged sanitary sewer and forced repairs in 2014, is difficult to contain and costly to remove. It’s also a favorite food of several animal species at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

In looking for disposal options for the bamboo, city staff contacted the zoo’s Department of Nutrition Science, which works to identify potential sources of bamboo to feed the zoo’s animals. After site evaluation in mid-March, members of the zoo’s Bamboo Procurement Team returned to the park on April 13 to harvest bamboo. Later that week, the bamboo was fed to the zoo’s pandas, elephants, giraffes and other animals.

Members of the National Zoo’s Bamboo Procurement Team harvest bamboo on April 13, 2020 at Rockville’s Bullards Park.

With zoo staff tasked with harvesting bamboo twice a week in order to keep up with animals’ dietary needs, bamboo identified at other city sites could provide a future feast.

Bamboo is an invasive species that threatens biodiversity and the health of native plants.

Bamboo is often planted as a privacy barrier. But as it spreads, bamboo destroys soil, killing surrounding trees and shrubs and threatening native plant health and biodiversity. For residential landscaping, a better alternative is native evergreens such as eastern red cedar and Atlantic white cedar. For more information, visit mda.maryland.gov and search “bamboo.”

To learn more about the Bullards Park stream restoration, visit www.rockvillemd.gov/bullardsstreamproject.