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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

Recent studies suggest that Japanese knotweed could be more effective than antibiotics at treating Lyme disease!

Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection that is known to cause numerous unpleasant effects including meningitis, face paralysis, heart palpitations and severe headaches. While people think that Lyme disease is fairly uncommon, there are over 365,000 new cases of it in the USA and Europe alone.

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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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Since its introduction to the UK way back in 1854, Japanese knotweed has caused a tremendous amount of damage to lands, buildings and ecosystems up and down the country. Its invasive nature means it has the ability to spread and grow anywhere, even through concrete and brickwork, making it a nightmare for homeowners throughout the UK. 

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Throughout history, invasive plant and animal species that have been introduced to certain locations around the world have caused both micro and macro ecosystems to crumble. Without any natural predators, these new species are often left to cause irreversible damage that results in entire habitats being completely destroyed as well as communities being hampered with costly damage. 

For those of you who don't know, an invasive species can be any kind of living organisms such as fish, insect, amphibian, fungus or plant that is introduced to an ecosystem that they are not part of and proceed to cause harm and/or damage to the surrounding environment, economy or human health. Species can also be classed as invasive if they grow and reproduce at a fast rate, spread aggressively and carry the threat of causing harm. 

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Some people may look at Japanese knotweed as a beautiful, ornamental plant. After all, that's one of the reasons it was brought to the country in the first place! Planting Japanese knotweed on your property is forbidden for a number of reasons. However, when you realise how damaging Japanese knotweed can be, you'll probably wish you never considered planting it anyway.

You'll remember from our blog - What Damage Can Japanese Knotweed Do? - that Japanese knotweed can make it difficult to sell your home, can cause structural damage to buildings and roads and can even disrupt cables and block drains. This plant is likely to cause you a great deal of hassle, so why you'd want to plant it is a mystery!

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