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Eradication of Japanese Knotweed Plants

Japanese Knotweed Eradication Difficult, But Possible

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Photo: Japanese knotweed.

Picture of Japanese knotweed plants.

David Beaulieu

The subject of this article is the eradication or control of one of the world's most invasive plants, Japanese knotweed. These noxious weeds go by many other names, including Polygonum cuspidatum (one of its scientific names). But no matter what you call them, these indomitable plants deserve the title of "killer bamboo."

This invasive species is not a killer of people, but of landscaping hopes and gardening dreams. Having wreaked havoc in lawn and garden across both North America and the UK, Japanese knotweed has caught the attention of stewards of the land. And if you yourself have ever attempted the eradication of this noxious weed, you already know of its Godzilla-like qualities.

Japanese knotweed plants were introduced from Japan first into the U.K., then into North America in the 19th century as, believe it or not, a landscaping ornamental (alas, there is no accounting for tastes!). Japanese knotweed soon spread like wildfire, a mad killer taking on a life of its own, independent of its human sponsors. A common habitat for Japanese knotweed is sunny, moist areas, including riverbanks, roadsides and, yes, your lawn and garden. Japanese knotweed is often spread via landfill: all it takes is one fragment of one root, furtively submerged within a pile of fill dumped onto an unsuspecting yard and, next thing you know, a burgeoning menace is gaining a toehold. Before you know it, all other plants are crowded out by this highly successful competitor for landscaping space, resulting in a monoculture.

Fortunately, Japanese knotweed is not inclined to invade forested areas. Rather, Japanese knotweed typically takes advantage of areas disturbed by humans, areas affording not only ample sunlight but also friable soil for its invasive roots. If you already have a patch of Japanese knotweed at the edge of the woods on your property, whatever you do, do not begin clearing the wooded land until you have completed the eradication of this killer bamboo. You'll only invite it to spread, if you clear land adjacent to the currently infested area. Eradication of an entrenched stand of Japanese knotweed, however, is easier said than done....

You slash Japanese knotweed plants to the ground, but they come back. You root them out and burn them on a would-be funeral pyre; but it is only you who feel dead, fatigued from all your labors. Why, Japanese knotweed even mocks concrete bonds, bursting up through any available crack in a driveway or sidewalk with its incredible strength. Japanese knotweed may not be the fabled Godzilla let loose to wreak havoc across a cringing populace. But it's the closest thing that you'll find to Godzilla in the plant world.

So how do you get rid of Japanese knotweed plants? Page 2 considers eradication and control strategies for Japanese knotweed plants....

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