Gumballs, Wisteria And Bamboo....Oh My, Gumballs, Wisteria And Bamboo....Oh my
I loved Wisteria with its fragrant chandeliers of purple dangling from my back fence where is had taken up residence from my neighbor’s yard. It was still lovely when it crept over the shed, lending a cottage-like appearance to the unfinished wood. Then it ate my pear tree and I had to start keeping my children and dogs inside.
The gumball droppings and bamboo have never been palatable. I didn’t planrt them and I don’t want them. But what to do about this horticultural Welcome Wagon?
Virginia’s law regarding trees was a subjective mess until 2007, but is now fairly straightforward:
Accordingly, we hold that encroaching trees and plants are not nuisances merely because they cast shade, drop leaves, flowers, or fruit, or just because they happen to encroach upon adjoining property either above or below the ground. However, encroaching trees and plants may be regarded as a nuisance when they cause actual harm or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to adjoining property. If so, the owner of the tree or plant may be held responsible for harm caused to [adjoining property], and may also be required to cut back the encroaching branches or roots, assuming the encroaching vegetation constitutes a nuisance. We do not, however, alter existing . . . law that the adjoining landowner may, at his own expense, cut away the encroaching vegetation to the property line whether or not the encroaching vegetation constitutes a nuisance or is otherwise causing harm or possible harm to the adjoining property. Thus, the law of self-help remains intact . . . .
Fancher v. Fagella, 274 Va. 549, (2007).
So two basic rules:
1. You can always cut roots, branches or anything that crosses onto your
property line, no matter what it might do to the host plant, as long as you’re
willing to pay for it.
2. You can compel the neighbor who has the host vegetation to cut back the
roots or branches if it is causing actual damage to your property, at their
expense. For example, roots causing the driveway to buckle are actionable
but those vicious gumballs that fling themselves under your bare feet are
Of course the very best rule is to maintain a good relationship with your neighbor that allows you to have a reasonable conversation about these issues and solve them in a way that really does accommodate everyone. Turns out my neighbor hates those gumballs too so we both chipped in to have it removed. Now if only we could figure out where that bamboo is coming from.