Knotty problem

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Is Japanese Knotweed really as big a menace as it is made out to be?

An interesting question. Introduced into the UK in the mid 19th century, Japanese Knotweed can – if not properly controlled - be extremely invasive. Left to its own devices, it is theoretically capable of doing all sorts of serious damage to buildings, lifting concrete and undermining walls and foundations. As a result, it has been elevated to the status of public enemy number one in the plant kingdom.

You are perfectly entitled to grow Japanese Knotweed in your garden if you wish. However, the problems start if you allow it to spread beyond the boundaries of your own property. It has long been a criminal offence to deliberately plant it in the wild. Now, under new Home Office guidance on anti-social behaviour, the same rules apply if the plant gets out of control in residential areas. Thus, if you find Japanese Knotweed invading your garden from next door, you can now make an official complaint to the local authority and/or the police. If the neighbour responsible then ignores an order to control the plant, they will be committing an offence, resulting either in an on-the-spot fine of £100 or prosecution, which could bring a £2,500 fine.

Not surprisingly, surveyors hate the stuff, so much so that mortgages have been refused on properties where it has been spotted growing – even in a next door garden.

And yet…there is some doubt whether Japanese Knotweed really deserves such a villainous reputation. Despite all the sensationalist headlines about this ‘alien invasion,’ it actually grows quite happily in many gardens without causing any problems at all. Nor is it the only plant capable of damaging buildings. In fact, more property damage is probably done by ivy, buddleia and wisteria – yet nobody has ever been refused a mortgage because of them. The resident ‘Property Doctor’ in a respected national newspaper recently even went so far as to suggest that the whole problem has been grossly exaggerated – chiefly by those making an extremely good living out of eradicating it.

Nevertheless, if you have Japanese Knotweed growing in your garden, get rid of it!