It's inevitable that you walk into a garden center or nursery and among the thousands of plants there is a bamboo plant that is either vaguely labeled, mislabeled or or with no label at all. Something I actually witnessed at the local 'big box' store recently. The bamboo plant is beautiful, but why take the risk, if it could be a running bamboo. Well, there is a way you can distinguish a possibly invasive running bamboo from a non-invasive clumping bamboo.
Many running bamboo plants have a vertical groove, known as a sulcus (pictured above), that is on the side of the culm (or cane). Simply run your hand, around the culm, if there is a groove, it is definitely a runner. Clumping bamboo does not have a sulcus, they are smooth all around the diameter of the culm. This method cannot detect all running bamboo, but it can detect most.
Hope this tip is of use!
Mad Man Bamboo
Twitter - @madmanbamboo