Hoyt Arboretum Friends (HAF) is a membership-based, nonprofit organization working in partnership with Portland Parks and Recreation to support Hoyt Arboretum.

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Hoyt Arboretum Bamboo Forest


In July 2016, we celebrated the grand opening of the Bamboo Forest in conjunction with the annual Portland Bamboo Festival. Situated just off Fischer Lane, the Bamboo Forest is the culmination of a 10-year vision to create the largest bamboo collection in the Pacific Northwest and features over 30 global species represented by over 100 plants. Suspended over the collection’s pond is a steel sculpture by Portland artist Ivan McLean entitled "Basket of Air," which is an official installation in the City’s public art collection. Planting for the Bamboo Forest began in the summer of 2014, and many staff and volunteer hours went into excavating, planting, and readying the area for public visitors. Over the next few years, some species will grow to cover the entire 0.36 acres, creating a bamboo tunnel through the forest.

The Bamboo Forest is a project of Hoyt Arboretum Friends and Portland Parks & Recreation and is made possible through a generous donation from Janice Stewart and Gordy Allen through the Allen Family Foundation. Additional support comes from the Ned Jaquith Foundation, Bamboo Garden Nursery, the deWeese family, the Pacific Northwest Bamboo Society, the ESCO Foundation, and the Nancy Hebb Freeman Trust. Initial plants were installed in July 2014 and the project was completed in the summer of 2016.



Don’t be afraid of Bamboo!

People are often concerned that bamboo can spread and take over an area. With bi-annual pruning of the running rhizomes by arboretum staff and volunteers, the species that spread via runners will be contained by being surrounded by a trench of sand and soft soil to allow for easier pruning of the runners. Our Bamboo Forest also contains clumping bamboo that does not spread via runners. Additionally, there is a loop road surrounding the Bamboo Forest that serves as a barrier. Bamboo can be controlled with proper maintenance, just as one would trim a hedge or prune a tree.

Why Bamboo? Why Now?

Conservation - Giant Cane Bamboo (Arundinaria appalachiana) is one of only three species native to the United States. Only small patches remain in the wild due to clearing for agriculture, thus making cross-pollination nearly impossible. The Bamboo Forest also creates choice song-bird habitat, making it a feast for the ears as well as the eyes.

Education - Featuring over global 30 species, the Bamboo Forest allows Hoyt Arboretum Friends to offer classes in bamboo identification, maintenance, and Asian art. Visitors, especially children, will be fascinated by witnessing several species actually grow inches per day. School children are encouraged to conduct classroom science projects in the collection. Through interpretive signage, the myriad uses of bamboo are highlighted as well as the wide variety of historical uses of bamboo by Native Americans, such as medicine, weaving, food, weapons, construction, etc.

Collaboration - In addition to educational collaborations with schools, the arboretum partners with the Oregon Zoo to provide cuttings to feed the animals. Stocks from the cuttings are offered to local artists to use in their artwork, some of which can then be purchased in the Visitor Center Nature Store. The Pacific Northwest Bamboo Society, which holds their annual festival in July at the Hoyt Arboretum, supports the project along with Bamboo Garden Nursery and Portland Parks & Recreation.

Visitor Interest - Hoyt Arboretum previously featured a bamboo collection, but it was removed for two reasons: it was not thriving in its location along Johnson Creek and the creek’s bank required restoration. Visitors continued to ask to see the collection and showed a particular interest in bamboo as a fast-growing, sustainable resource used in a myriad of ways including clothing, building materials, paper, and food products. Bamboo is a study in eethnobotany - the relationship between people and plants.

Display - Bamboo is dramatic and beautiful, both visually and aurally. The forest contains over 30 species of various types and sizes of plants - from 2’ to 45’ tall - from around the world. A trail is cut into the collection and allows visitors to view the plants up close and learn about each species. A small creek currently runs through the site and has been restored to create a small pond in the center of the forest. This water source provides water for those species that like “wet feet.” A steel sculpture by Ivan McLean titled "Basket of Air" hangs over the pond and enhances the beauty. Strategically-placed rock features add character and dimension.

Timeline - The Bamboo Forest was completed in the summer of 2016. A number of activities occurred to complete the forest: landscape design, clearing and excavation of the site, preparation of the soil, installation of an irrigation system, planting of large plants followed several months later by planting of smaller plants, and the building of a fence around the collection to protect the new shoots as they spread. Once the plants were established, the pond, paths, and interpretive signage were added. As the forest matured, various plants were added as needed.

Support - The budget for this project was $23,000 - $27,000. The Bamboo Forest is a project of Hoyt Arboretum Friends and Portland Parks & Recreation and was made possible through a generous donation from Janice Stewart and Gordy Allen through the Allen Family Foundation. Additional support came from the Ned Jaquith Foundation, Bamboo Garden Nursery, and the deWeese family. The Pacific Northwest Bamboo Society supplied volunteer maintenance, Portland Parks & Recreation supplied labor and some materials, Bamboo Garden Nursery supported the collection with reduced rates for plants and services, and Hoyt Arboretum Friends’ volunteers support Parks staff with labor for planting and maintenance.