Japanese knotweed: Phil Spencer discusses plant
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Japanese knotweed is a weed that spreads rapidly during the warmer months but dies back in the winter season. The plant is characterised by its bamboo-like stems which emerge from rhizomes underground. The invasive weed can grow to be more than 2.1m in height and can spread further underground. The main problem with Japanese knotweed is the rhizomes. Even a small section of rhizome can cause the plant to grow. Japanese knotweed growing season draws to a close in the autumn and winter months. This is when the plant’s above-ground growth dies back.
However, invasive plant specialist Environet UK is warning homeowners and buyers that although it may look dead, knotweed will be replenished with new energy reserves from the summer growth which are drawn down and stored in its powerful underground rhizome system.
What this means is the plant will reemerge more strongly next spring with its usual reddish-purple shoots, pink ground-level buds and bamboo-like canes.
The plant’s canes have purple flecks and produce branches from nodes. The leaves are heart-shaped and green during the spring and summer months, however, in the winter months they turn yellow and tend to fall to the ground.
The plant’s bamboo-like canes also lose their green appearance at this time of year and start to turn brown and brittle. Despite their appearance, most of the plant’s canes will remain upright.
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The distinctive crown will still be visible, but no fresh growth will appear until the ground begins to warm up again in the spring months – usually around March or April.
Despite its withered appearance, Environet UK is warning homebuyers to be especially vigilant when viewing properties during the winter months.
This is when property owners may be tempted to take advantage of the plant’s hibernation because it makes it much easier to cover up.
However, doing this could land sellers in hot water. Since 2013, sellers have been required by law to state whether Japanese knotweed is present on the property when they fill out their TA6 Property Information Form.
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The TA6 form is used for conveyancing. The form asks the seller a direct question about whether or not the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. If it is, sellers must provide a management plan for its eradication from a professional company.
Failure to disclose the presence of knotweed could lead to a costly legal claim for misrepresentation when the plant regrows.
Nic Seal, founder and managing director of Environet UK said: “Risks to homebuyers are greater during winter, when knotweed is relatively easy to hide. There are thousands of legal cases brought every year after sellers have failed to disclose the presence of knotweed, in some cases even laying new lawns, patios, sheds and decking in an effort to hide it.
“But rest assured, it will grow back and when it does, the buyer may have a strong case to sue the seller for misrepresentation to recover the cost of treatment, legal fees and any resulting decrease in the value of their home.
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“I’d advise homeowners, whether they plan to sell or not, to take action through the winter months to tackle knotweed on their land to ensure they don’t face an even bigger problem next spring.”
Herbicide treatment cannot be carried out during the winter months, since it requires the plant to be in leaf in order to effectively absorb the chemicals.
But that doesn’t mean knotweed should be left until spring. There are very effective, low-cost treatments that can be undertaken through the autumn and winter months which will allow gardens to be fully operational during the summer months.
Environet UK suggested the DART™ method which involves excavating the bulk of the knotweed rhizomes from the ground, reducing the plant’s vigour and stimulating growth, enabling any new shoots that emerge the following spring to be herbicide treated.
How to identify Japanese knotweed during winter:
The green, heart-shaped leaves will turn yellow, then brown, before falling from the plant. These will likely be scattered below the plant’s dried-up canes.
The hollow canes will turn brown and die, though they usually remain standing. These can collapse or bend in extreme weather.
The distinctive crowns will remain visible, emerging through the surface of the soil. In spring, red or purple asparagus-like shoots will grow, quickly forming into green bamboo-like stems.
Environet runs a free ID service for anyone who has a suspicious plant in their garden and wants to check if it’s knotweed, which is commonly mistaken for ivy, bindweed and Russian vine. Just email a photo to email@example.com.
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