Is Japanese knotweed poisonous?

Timelapse shows alarming rate Japanese Knotweed grows at

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Japanese knotweed is a plant with a monstrous reputation for destroying all structures in its path. It is renowned as one of the world’s most invasive plants and requires multiple attacks for complete eradication. The herbaceous perennial plant dies back each winter and sprouts anew in the spring season where it begins to trouble Britons again.

Japanese knotweed, also known as Fallopia japonica, is a type of weed which spreads rapidly.

In the winter months, it will die back to ground level but by the early summer months, it will begin to flourish, creating bamboo-like stems which emerge from rhizomes deep underground.

These stems can shoot up to grow more than two metres tall and suppress all other plant growth.

The foundation-killing plant is stalking its way across Britain, terrorising victims as it makes its way from cities to the countryside, costing the UK more than £200m each year.

Japanese knotweed is native to Japan and considered to be a highly invasive species.

Therefore it is essential to identify and attack this weed early to ensure it does not cause horrendous damage and spread rapidly.

The plant has distinctive rhizomes or roots, which are underground structures that resemble roots, and these can be more extensive than the above-ground portion of the plant.

In spring, reddish-purple fleshy shoots will emerge from crimson-pink buds at ground level.

These can grow to reach more than seven feet (2.1m) tall and the canes will have characteristic purple flecks and will produce branches from nodes along the length.

Japanese knotweed can often be misinterpreted as other plants, most commonly Russian vine, Himalayan honeysuckle, Houttuynia cordata and Persicaria microcephala.

The leaves on Japanese knotweed are heart or shovel-shaped and grow to reach up to 14cm in length.

The leaves are born alternatively in a zig-zag pattern along the stems.

The stems will die back to ground level in the cold months, but dry canes can remain for several months longer.

The creamy-white flower tassels produced in the late summer and early autumn months can reach up to 15cm in length.

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Is Japanese knotweed poisonous?

Despite its fierce reputation, Japanese knotweed is not actually poisonous.

However, the plant grows incredibly quickly and therefore can prove to be a difficult adversary to homeowners.

The plant is not known to be harmful to humans or pets.

Often people confuse Japanese knotweed with Giant Hogweed which is poisonous; its sap causing skin irritation including blisters, rashes and even blindness.

Why is Japanese knotweed so dangerous?

Although the plant is not poisonous, that does not mean it is not dangerous.

Under the provisions made within Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to cause Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild.

Japanese knotweed is particularly harmful due to its ability to cause costly damage to its surrounding environment due to its rapidly growing root systems.

The roots frequently damage property foundations, flood defences and pavements with some plants invading houses.

Japanese Knotweed was introduced into the UK in the mid-nineteenth century as an ornamental plant in parks and gardens and to line railway tracks in order to stabilise the soil.

But the plant has since been dubbed one of “the most problematic species” in the country.

Research from 2019 suggested Japanese knotweed affected four to five percent of all UK properties at that time.

Environet UK has created a heat map here which outlines which areas are worst affected by Japanese knotweed.

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