Japanese knotweed is among the biggest challenges for today’s homeowners. As it is a highly invasive weed, which can spread very quickly from only a small fragment, and cause extensive damage to property and displace native species of flora.
Japanese knotweed is a tall, vigorous ornamental plant that escaped from cultivation in the late nineteenth century to become an aggressive invader in the urban and rural environment.
What does Japanese knotweed look like?
Japanese knotweed, scientific names Fallopia japonica is a member of the dock family (Polygonaceae). It is a rhizomatous (produces underground stems) perennial plant with distinctive, branching, hollow, bamboo-like stems, covered in purple speckles, often reaching 2-3 metres high. The leaves of the mature plant are up to 120 mm in length with a flattened base and pointed tip and are arranged on arching stems in a zig-zag pattern. The plant flowers late in the season, August to October, with small creamy-white flowers hanging in clusters from the leaf axils (point at which the leaf joins with the stem). The underground rhizomes are thick and woody with a knotty appearance and when broken reveal a bright orange-coloured centre. The rhizome system may extend to, and beyond, a depth of at least 2m and extend 7m laterally from a parent plant.
During winter, the leaves die back to reveal orange/brown coloured woody stems which may stay erect for several years. Stem and leaf material decomposes slowly, leaving a deep layer of plant litter. During March to April, the plant sends up new shoots, red/purple in colour with rolled back leaves. These shoots grow rapidly due to stored nutrients in the extensive rhizome system. Growth rates of up to 40 mm a day have been recorded.