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What is Japanese Knotweed, and Why Is It So Dangerous? 

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Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast or not, the chances are that you’ve heard of Japanese knotweed thanks to the reputation it has as a notoriously invasive plant. Knotweed can become a danger to both natural and manmade structures. Learning how to spot the plant, as well as the risks it has if you find it on your property, will help you deal with the invasive species safely, without causing any further disruption to your premises.

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Japanese knotweed is an invasive vegetation species that can grow extremely quickly.  Rather than spreading through seeds like many other native plants, Japanese knotweed can regrow through roots and rhizomes. Rhizomes are tiny fragments of the plant; this means that any disruption to the area can cause them to easily transfer, and spread through the local area quickly. Because of this, it’s important to contact an invasive vegetation specialist like Ebsford Environmental as soon as you spot the plant on your property.

The plant dies back in the winter but can be recognised in the summertime by bamboo-like stems, large, shovel-shaped leaves and small white flowers. As the plant grows so quickly, it’s rare to spot it alone; usually, you’ll see Japanese knotweed in a thicket of several plants and stems together.

Where did the plant come from?

Native to Japan, Japanese knotweed arrived in England in the 1800s, as part of a drive to collect and study flora and fauna from around the globe. At this time, the plant was used as an ornamental feature in gardens, as well as feed for farmed animals. Unfortunately, by the time the destructive nature of the plant was realised, it had already spread.

Today, Japanese knotweed can be found all over Britain. You’re likely to spot the weed on verges by the side of the road, but it has spread so far, so quickly, that it crops up all over the country, in gardens and commercial premises as well as in the wild.

What are the dangers for homeowners?

Since it was made illegal to dispose of Japanese knotweed in England in the 1980s, it has become considerably more difficult for homeowners with the plant on their land to sell their homes. It’s common for mortgage lenders to refuse to offer a mortgage if Japanese knotweed is found on your potential new premises. As the responsibility for dealing with the plant lies with the person who owns the premises it is found on, homeowners can face hefty bills and a long eradication process in order to remove Japanese knotweed safely and permanently.

Knotweed’s roots can grow up to 3m long and are able to grow through concrete, tarmac and the foundations of most buildings. This makes them a real threat to the structural integrity of building premises, as well as your insurance premiums and so can be very dangerous for any inhabitants living there, as well as an expensive issue to fix.

What are the dangers for the local environment?

Japanese knotweed grows in harmony with other plants in its native environment. However, it can cause serious issues for local flora and fauna in the UK, as well as the habitat it is growing within.

Because the plant’s thick roots can grow very quickly, they pose particular risks for riverbanks, as well as fish and animals that rely on the water source. If left unattended, Japanese knotweed can even redirect the natural path of brooks and streams, and its thick leaves can create shade, stopping other plants from getting the sunlight they need to grow further.

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