Oldtimers in Due West remember the several bamboo groves in the town. A street was once named “Bamboolevard,” and children played in the bamboo grove above Grier Field while their parents watched the Flying Fleet play baseball.
One such grove remains on the lawn of the former Reid House on the Erskine campus, but for years ugly dead branches between the bamboo stalks made it an impenetrable eyesore.
Botanist Mike Turner of Hodges noticed the bamboo grove in Due West while visiting Erskine for a recent plant swap. Turner holds the B.S. in botany from the University of Central Florida and the M.S. in plant pathology from the University of California, Riverside, and has been working with bamboo since the early 1980s. He has a formidable collection of over 20 species of bamboo on his sheep farm in Hodges. Fresh bamboo forage is a favorite and nutritious food for sheep, so Turner uses it to feed the sheep on his farm.
Turner presented to Professor Emerita of Biology Dr. Jan Haldeman a plan “to convert a liability (an impenetrable thicket taking up space on the campus) to an asset (a cool, quiet retreat from which to contemplate the world).”
Haldeman and her botany students worked with Turner to thin and sculpt the grove, providing light and space to restore its beauty. Vice President for Operations Robert S. “Bobby” Clarke chipped some waste bamboo to cover paths through the grove. Visitors can now enjoy a cool rest on the bamboo benches placed in the grove.
Students who worked on the project included Medicinal Botany class members Luke Archibald, Torri Bagwell, Sloan Bradley, Amanda Johnston, Hailey Patterson, Baylee Rhoton, and Megan Thees, as well as Jonathan Cooper, a student worker who assists with the Pressly Heritage Garden.
“We are grateful to Mike Turner for suggesting this project that has turned a town and college eyesore into an asset to the campus and Due West,” Haldeman said.
Shown above and at right, the bamboo grove after work was completed and benches were added.
Adapted from an article for the Village Observer by honorary alumnus Richard Haldeman, who served from 1961 to 1995 as public relations director at Erskine College.