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The State of Things (Part 2)

on Oct 29, 2012 | General | 0 comments
 

This is the second of my rants, although a lot shorter than My Big Plastic Rant from the other week. I am just going to get to the point here; invasive species, or particularly Japanese Knotweed. It is one of those things that ecologists know all about, but many people don't seem to even know what it looks like (I will attach some photographs for identification).

Once established at a site it spreads rapidly, growing to be 2 or 3 meters in height from the base. Its roots can go down to depths of 3 meters and it can spread outwards to around a 7 meter circumference. It can quickly establish a large bank of plants, dominating whole hedge rows, spreading out over open ground. It can break through concrete, tarmac, foundations and block water courses. It can re-grow from less than a gram of plant material. It likes being cut down and disturbed. Over the last couple of years I have seen it spread widely throughout parts of South and Central Wales. If you get the train through South Wales, just watch the vegetation that you pass by (it is particularly obvious in late summer when it is flowering). These scrub areas on the backs of industrial sights and open land backing onto the railway and roads seem particularly at risk. There are huge banks of the stuff. In one area not far from Swansea railway station the bank of Japanese knotweed rises up above you and left and right for hundreds of yards.  It is more competitive than many of our native species, and threatens the destruction of many natural ecosystems throughout Britain.

Each year the UK government spends 150 million pounds trying to control this plant. There are a number of different ways to control it, use of natural predators, herbicides, and controlled removal as well as a number of experimental methods including using sea water. I'm not sure if it is for me to say how you should go about removing it, as this may depend on your location, but rather I have written this short article just to help raise awareness. I think if more people can recognise this plant and know to remove it when they find it then that is half the battle. You should also be aware that it is an offence under section 14(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981 to "plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild" any plant listed in Schedule nine, Part II to the Act, which includes Japanese knotweed.

Japanese Knotweed in the autumn as it dies-back:
Japanese Knotweed.

Japanese Knotweed in mid-summer:
Japanese Knotweed in mid summer

For more information have a look at the link below:
http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/wildlife/130079.aspx

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