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Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

Every living thing known to man has a Latin name that should be used when referring to that species in a formal scientific context. For example, human beings are Homo sapiens, polar bears are Ursus maritimus, and the common sunflower is Helianthus annuus.

In theory, these scientific names are internationally recognised - what you call a 'dog' is called a 'chien' in France and a 'koira' in Finland, but biologists in all three countries should understand what Canis lupus familiaris means.

So what is the proper name for Japanese knotweed? Read a few articles online, and you may notice that different sources use different Latin names when referring to this pesky plant - Fallopia japonica and Reynoutria japonica are the most common, but Polygonum cuspidatum and various other monikers pop up from time to time as well.

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Property with a garden

In a recent interview with the Daily Express, property expert Ray Harriot advised that sellers should tell the truth about Japanese knotweed on their property - even if this would complicate the transaction.

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Japanese knotweed

Outside of fictional works like The Day of the Triffids and Little Shop of Horrors, very few plants inspire as much dread as Japanese knotweed. This invasive weed has caused countless headaches for homeowners all over the UK, devaluing affected properties by 10 per cent on average.

And yet, as we've discussed before on this blog, Japanese knotweed is barely a problem at all in its native land. While the plant is still considered a weed in Japan, it does not have anything like the toxic reputation it has in this part of the world.

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Pink flowers

SHORT ANSWER: Japanese knotweed flowers are usually white, but dwarf Japanese knotweed - a related species - sometimes grows pink flowers. Additionally, there are several other pink-flowered plants that are commonly mistaken for Japanese knotweed.

Japanese knotweed can be identified by a number of distinctive characteristics: the bamboo-like stems, the heart-shaped leaves, and the clusters of flowers that appear in late summer.

These flowers are quite small, and they're usually white or cream in colour.

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Rubbish skip

Disposing of Japanese knotweed is a delicate business. One must be extremely careful when handling this invasive weed - even a tiny fragment of its hardy rhizome root system can grow into a whole new plant if returned to the soil.

For this reason, there are a lot of rules about what you can and can't do with Japanese knotweed after digging it up. If you allow the plant to spread into the wild, you may be fined thousands of pounds or even imprisoned (see Japanese Knotweed Law).

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UK property

Moving into a new home should be a happy experience. You're starting a fresh chapter and (hopefully) moving a step higher on the property ladder. But if you've unknowingly bought a house that's affected by Japanese knotweed, your joy may be rather short-lived.

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Tree stump

When a tree is cut down, a stump of wood is usually left behind. These unsightly stumps can be removed via a process called stump grinding, where specialist machinery is used to grind the wooden tree stump down to chippings.

But is this actually necessary? Granted, a bare tree stump can be unattractive, but are there are any reasons to remove a tree stump other than making the landscape more picturesque?

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Last month, the Daily Mail reported that a homeowner in Buckinghamshire had found Bohemian knotweed (Fallopia x bohemica) growing in his garden. Stuart Marshall from Aylesbury ended up calling in an invasive weed specialist to remove this troublesome plant from his property.

Bohemian knotweed leaves

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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Is Japanese knotweed poisonous?

SHORT ANSWER: No, Japanese knotweed is not poisonous. In fact, the plant can make a tasty and nutritious addition to all sorts of different recipes!

Japanese knotweed is a troublesome plant that causes a lot of problems here in the UK. It grows very quickly, it can cause damage as it spreads, and if there's Japanese knotweed in your garden, you may find it difficult to sell your property.

Still, knotweed's not all bad. Unlike some other invasive plants (such as giant hogweed, whose sap can cause severe skin inflammation), Japanese knotweed is not directly harmful to humans - you can actually cook it and eat it with no ill effect.

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UK motorway road

We love plants, but as any gardener will tell you, they can be a nuisance when they grow in the wrong places.

It's especially crucial to keep roads clear of vegetation. All too often, weeds are allowed to flourish on roadsides until they're actually encroaching on the highway itself.

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