Invasive species – an alternate view… April 24, 2015

There’s a battle being fought on our very doorsteps for the countryside that we take for granted…. but is it a war that we cannot ever win? Should we even be bothering to fight this onslaught of non-native invaders?….or should we just give up…rollover bury our heads in the duvet and pretend nothing is happening???

At a recent meeting at the Royal Society of Edinburgh Professor Chris Thomas stated that we are living in ‘an alien present’, suggesting that biodiversity isnot static. He stated that species move – bear in mind that ALL humans are from Africa. Obviously human population has increased exponentially over the last few decades – with the associated massive increase in use of available resources which has led to a loss in global diversity. His argument was that there is ‘nothing on the planet unaffected by humans and so there is little which can be truly be regarded as natural’.

The distribution of species has always been subject to change across the planet – many of the species that we regard as ‘native’ in Britain are not actually natural – but are there due to introduction by man. I myself was until recently under the impression that rabbits were a native of the British Isles – wrong – Romans introduced rabbits as a food source. Thus much of what we try and preserve is actually a remnant of a past agricultural practice that is no longer economic.

According to Professor Thomas there is nowhere left in a ‘pre-human’ state; we are in the Anthropocene.

Really as plants and animals move around the globe we shouldn’t really be thinking of ‘native’ or ‘non-native’ – we should just think of them as ‘species’. Perhaps we are a little too particular about these issues because we have named where we live – Britain/France/Germany/Africa – if we didn’t have these names and just ‘lived’ rather than living somewhere specific (with a title) then perhaps we wouldn’t have ‘invasive non-native’ species?

I am probably a ‘conservationist’ in my attitudes toward plant and animal invasions. I like to see what I consider ‘natural’ to remain unchanged and undamaged. Huge swathes of Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan balsam have taken over areas where I used to walk and fish as a child and it causes me great upset when I see native woodland lost under sycamore and invasive rhododendron – however – on a countrywide level Professor Thomas states that ‘no plant species have gone extinct due to new arrivals; indeed there has been a net gain in regional biodiversity, both at home and across much of the planet’.

I suppose that trying to decide what ‘belongs’ where on the basis of historical distribution doesn’t make any sense – climate change continues to transform habitats and change a particular species ability to survive within the region.

Professor Thomas summarised his thoughts by saying … ‘we cannot in the modern world, police the distribution of species – it makes no biological senses and it would be a waste of money’ he went on to say ‘from a conservation perspective it is essential to decide which are the really important fights and put the priority there’.

On a local level Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan balsam infestations can be managed and eventually eradicated. With regards some of the newer invasive species perhaps a more tolerant attitude could be adopted…?

My problem with this approach is that it often takes years for an invasive species to be recognised as problematic – and by this time they are almost impossible to eradicate. There can be a huge time lag between the arrival of a species and the recognition of the problem – for example Himalayan balsam first arrived in 1855 and yet it took till 2006 for the first paper to come out highlighting a negative impact.

Perhaps Horizon scanning is something we should be looking at? Let’s be alert to potential threats and respond more rapidly to them bearing in mind that once a species is established it is usually too late or too costly to remove it.


Mike C

With recognition of The Royal Society of Edinburgh/Professor Chris D Thomas of the University of York and  Dr Niall Moore Head of the Non-native Species Secretaria

Nice pair April 24, 2015

I’m always interested in invasive species stories – where did they came from?…. how did they get to where they are?…. were they planted on purpose or was it an accidental introduction? ….I love it….

This I think stems back to walking around the UK with my dad and him telling me tales of Rosebay willow herb (Chamerion angustifolium) being spread by the steam trains (he was a railway enthusiast) – the trains set fire to track side vegetation and the willow herb thrived in the bare ground.  The seeds were blown along by the passing trains and an invasion began that spread throughout the UK. The bombing during the war also created patches of burnt ground and again the Rosebay thrived – it had a nickname of ‘fireweed’ due to its propensity for growing in these fire damaged areas.

Japanese knotweed was originally introduced through the Royal Horticultural Society in Kew – where due to its ease of growth and its tolerance of a variety of conditions it was given a Gold Medal and made plant of the year! How things have changed… even the mention of having this plant in your garden can send shivers of fear through the property owner!

Giant hogweed was loved by the Victorians for its grand foliage and wonderful flowers – yet every year it causes injury to hundreds of unknowing children and adults who get burned by its toxic sap. People still buy and plant Giant hogweed and still just don’t understand the dangers that it presents

I’ve just been reading about an invasive ‘pair’ – OK an invasive pear – actually the pear I’m talking about isn’t that ‘nice’ a pear and is actually very prickly…’Opuntia monocatha’ to be exact – or the ‘common prickly pear’. This must be one of the earliest plant invasions (I could be wrong) it was present in India in 1795 then introduced to Sri-Lanka in 1850 (Beeson 1934) – then introduced to Australia and South Africa in the 1800’s and was probably present in many other countries by 1900. In Australia as an example, it was estimated that by 1920 almost 10 million hectares in eastern Australia were infested with various Opuntia species – equivalent to one third more than the total cultivated area of the whole country at that time!

With the ‘prickly pear’ there will always be a risk of it being introduced as an ornamental or hedging plant, perhaps via the international nursery trade in succulents? Japanese knotweed has been used to stabilise embankments and as an animal fodder. Giant hogweed is still valued as an ornamental and often used as a focal point in gardens by people ignorant of its dangers and oblivious to its multiple seed production and ease of spread.

The key to answering the issues associated with invasive species management must lie in education. Whilst legislative powers will raise the profile of these problem plants – I’m sure that if gardeners understood the dangers of planting these species – they would be more open to using alternate varieties.

With the correct education maybe the initial impact of a ‘nice pair’ could be put to one side… and a more suitable ‘pear’ would be preferred.
Mike C

Consultants April 24, 2015

It has been said that ‘…consultants know a little about many different things, but don’t know a lot about anything ‘….Over the last few years I have been asked to give presentations at several consultants who have been interested to learn about the problems associated with Japanese Knotweed. They have listened and learned – and on more than one occasion asked for a site based follow up to ensure that their powers on identification are ‘up to speed’.

What then amazes me is that within a fairly short period of time after just being introduced to Japanese Knotweed – these companies then set up as…. ‘Consultants name JK’… and call themselves the UK experts in Japanese Knotweed….

I don’t get paid for these presentations and I’ve often been asked to pay for lunch for all the attendees. It takes some gall to ask somebody to help you, expect them to do it FOC, and pay for lunch…then you basically screw them over and nick their ideas.

I’ve even had somebody film my presentation – then repeat it… word for word, joke for joke…then appear on the BBC as the UK expert on a plant…. when six weeks previously… he had no idea even what it even looked like. I would have loved to know he was on the radio and been able to ask him a few questions about other invasive species or even other varieties of Japanese Knotweed …he would have been clueless (…and he still is)

One of our surveyors has just returned from a site in London where he met a lady consultant from A****s who was carrying out some ground investigation works. Our surveyor pointed out the areas of Japanese Knotweed on site….and was told… ‘that’s NOT Japanese Knotweed it’s Himalayan balsam’ …errr duuuh this is what we do for a living…what sort of person would:

1. Make such a schoolboy error

2. Not be savvy enough to check their facts before making such an error

3. Not be big enough to admit they were wrong

4. Not realise the potential cost implication of such a cock up
A piece of advice that my Dad once gave me … ‘if you don’t know what you’re talking about – keep your mouth shut’….pity this lady consultant didn’t follow this simple procedure.

My back ground is that I trained as a Landscape Architect – I say ‘trained’- it was more of a drug fuelled alcohol fest with the occasional life study class thrown in…but three years later I walked away with a degree. I managed to go all the way through the Leeds course with a very limited knowledge of plants and some very basic drawing skills – yet I came away with a degree. Being a little disappointed in the Leeds course I then decided to do a Post Grad at Birmingham on a course famed for its detailed approach to Landscape studies, Birmingham was very similar but required more plant knowledge and some serious studying.

Both of the courses that I did- seemed to relish bullshit. If you could talk a load of twaddle about design principles and had a bit of plant knowledge – then you could be a Landscape Architect.

Nearly every Landscape Architect I have come across falls into the category ‘knows a little’ …yet each and every one of them seems to think they are God’s gift to knowledge…and are the font of all wisdom. I was on site a couple of weeks ago and had the pleasure of a  ‘Landscape Architect’ trying to tell ME about Japanese Knotweed…FFS

We recently saw a copy of an ecologists report submitted for a client of ours – this had several pages on bats, two pages on badgers, three pages on Greater Crested Newts….then in the final paragraph a note that … ‘ we have also noted Japanese Knotweed on site’.

The potential cost implication of the ‘noted Japanese Knotweed’ was £2.4 million pounds

And don’t even start me on Planners….

We currently have a site which has a planning condition relating to Japanese Knotweed – the client wants the work done, the planners have indicated they want the work done, we have an instruction from the client to do the work….yet nobody within the planning department seems able to actually go into print to say … ‘yes please proceed’…so we all just sit around with our thumbs up our arses whilst the Japanese Knotweed on site just laughs at us….. and carries on growing….

Neighbour walls, TPO conditions, access roads, rights of way, public access, newts, water voles, lizards …the list is endless and they all stop us carrying out herbicidal spraying and excavation works to remove invasive species…

Whilst the consultants are arguing these invasive non-native species are setting seed and boosting their underground storage organs for over winter…

So maybe in 2015 the stance should be – ‘less talk more action’ – or maybe… ‘shoot first, ask questions later’…?

These invasive plants rely on our inactivity and our inability to act quickly and decisively – maybe it’s time for a change?


Mike C

Gardeners… check first, plant later….? April 24, 2015

I’ve read a few articles over the last few weeks highlighting interesting gardens around the United Kingdom. I’ve seen, herbaceous borders, gardens by Chelsea Garden show winners all with weird and wonderful plants…and every time I’ve thought hmmm I wonder whether this could be the next ‘invasive non-native species’…?

I’m sure I’m probably the only person that does this – whilst others simply go on line and buy whatever the magazines or TV shows advertise.

If someone said Thunbergia alata  (or even… Black Eyed Susan) would you immediately think ‘..NO…BAD…INVASIVE …’…..or would you think ‘hmmm nice herbaceous vine might be nice on my shed?’

Indigo hirsute, Urochloa mutica, Allamanda cathartica, Emilia fosbergii …not really names that would send up warning signals yet these have all been introduced either as fodder plants, crops or ornamentals…and now pose a huge problem in the areas that they have been introduced.

They are capable of smothering native vegetation, killing host trees, out competing with understory plants and negatively affecting the germination of native plants.

These plants also have amazing abilities to spread and reproduce as well as having allelopathic* tendencies – (*they produce chemicals within the soil which precludes the growth of other species). These plants will grow in a wide variety of soil conditions and in most cases will reproduce and grow far quicker than native species.

So when I see a feature in the Sunday Times about a gardener who loves ‘tropical plants’ and has covered his back garden with a variety of unusual trees and shrubs which he has imported from God knows where….I always end up wondering?

Have these plants been vetted for disease?

Where exactly have they come from?

Has someone given a license for their import?

Have they been smuggled in from holiday – wrapped up in a suitcase?

How does the ‘gardener’ prevent seed from leaving his garden?

What happens if he moves?

What about root spread?

Is anybody checking on what this gardener is doing?
Now don’t get me wrong – an Englishmans home/garden is his castle…and I for one would not take kindly to some council ‘busybody’ telling what I can or cannot plant in my piece of land…

…yet… a part of me thinks that just maybe somebody ….should be able to do something…?

Before anybody shouts about current legislation and new laws that are coming in to manage and control Invasive Non-Native Species ….yes …I am aware….BUT …..will anybody actually DO ANYTHING?

I think it’s down to each of us to have a careful think about what we plant in our gardens.

Personally I won’t plant anything that hasn’t been grown in my local nursery, I use native plants and also try and match the age and history of the property – very much a cottage/kitchen garden. This rules out any weird and wonderful modern flowering shrubs and keeps a very herbaceous seasonal colour pattern within the borders.

All I’m asking really is for people to have a think before doing weird and exotic planting scheme’s – think about the future, think about how these plants could impact on our British Countryside….and then maybe we won’t get any unexpected invasions….


Mike C

Global resignation April 24, 2015

I’ve been reading a lot recently about global warming and climate change and wondering whether the work that I do is just a waste of time. Should we- as David Attenborough suggests, accept that … ‘climate change is happening’ and ‘embrace’ these changes?

Attenborough states that ‘British wildlife is in grave peril of disappearing, 50% of the hedgehog population has gone in 25 years, 90% of the wildlife meadows have disappeared in the last 100 years; 60% of all wildlife is diminishing – with 10% doomed to disappear in the next 10 decades….nowhere in Britain is unsullied.’

Rather than lament these changes he suggest that we accept that new animals and plants are moving North. He suggests that we give thought to wildlife corridors allowing free movement of plants and animals along chosen routes Northward. He also wants us to think that every new arrival should be looked at for their merits rather than have to be repelled.


If an invasive non-native species was gradually making its way Northward due to a changing climate and an increased ability to survive in different regions perhaps this argument could be justified. Maybe a snail or some sort of butterfly accidentally take a trip to Scotland and thinks … ‘you know what …I could live here’…

What is far more likely however is that the snail and the butterfly are taken Northward by some sort of human interaction either accidentally or on purpose – then released – again either accidentally or on purpose….and an invasion begins.

Surely if we accepted every invading species that arrived on our shores – and had an open door policy – then much of our native flora and fauna would just disappear under a deluge of imported aliens….? New species introduced in an area where they do not have inherent predators or diseases immediately have an advantage over the indigenous population…

…surely a little fighting back should be in order?

Many of our problem invasive non-native species were introduced by the Victorians who were ignorant of the problems these plants were going to cause. Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan balsam, Giant Hogweed to name but a few – were all planted as ornamental species and revered amongst the gardeners of the time as being ‘new and exotic’.

Garden centres of the time sold these species – then the new owners gave samples of these plants to friends and neighbours – these weren’t ‘natural’ invasions of species but rather a more commercial enterprise centred on making profit from a ‘new’ product line. Japanese Knotweed was described in the plant catalogues as a… ‘miraculous plant’ which would grow in ‘every possible climate type’…and was ‘good for your health’ when eaten!

So whilst I accept the points made by Mr Attenborough I think some caution needs to be exercised with how we define an ‘invading’ species. Let’s focus on what are problematic and destructive to our current ecosystems and environment and maybe allow the odd butterfly to float past our windows without shooting them out of the sky??


Mike C

Native Ninja April 24, 2015

Driving along today I kept spotting invasive non-native plants, pretty much everywhere I looked there was Himalayan balsam, Japanese Knotweed, Giant hogweed, Rosebay willow herb and new on the block Golden Rod.

Looking at these plants and thinking about how they get established set me to thinking…maybe we need a ‘superhero’ …someone who can tackle these invaders….someone bold enough and strong enough to stand up to these bullies…?


…and we don’t need just one, we need thousands all over the country.

So …to get your ‘NATIVE NINJA’ pack – please write a short description of why you should be considered for the ‘free – Native Ninja’ kit*.

NB * Kit consists of:

• One pair black tights

• One black balaclava

• One pair black wrap-around sunglasses

• One black ‘Native Ninja’ T Shirt (sizes XXL upward)

• One samurai sword (v. sharp)

• One pair ‘crocs’ (black)
On spotting an Invasive Non-Native Species – the ‘Native Ninja’ will be expected to change quickly into one’s outfit (…a phone box or similar will do) then one should leap out whilst striking quickly with the Samurai sword at the base of the offending plant whilst shouting ….’BANZAI’….once the main stem has been severed the ‘Native Ninja’ should then carry on chopping and chopping until any remaining vegetation has been reduced to a fine mulch…

At this point (if you haven’t been arrested) one should run quickly from the scene shouting loudly REDRUM,REDRUM,REDRUM….

When questioned (…as you will be) please never mention my name or where you got your ‘Native Ninja’ kit from…

First rule.

You do not talk about Fight Club…..sorry I mean …You do not talk about Native Ninjas…


Mike C *

*Note from Suzanne : the hot weather and the current abundance of non-native plants has pushed Mike over the edge – he has been asked to have a holiday.

It’s been having SEX! April 24, 2015

Having been faithful to its self for years (ie reproducing asexually through fragments and propagules) Japanese Knotweed has been out on the town and fooling around without any form of protection – resulting in… fertile seeds!

CABI ( hypothesised that climate change and global warming could result in plant species shifting their distribution northward? They expected that phenological changes could be the first signs of populations located near their distribution limit – (meaning that the earlier flowering of a species would indicate its adaptation to the climate and its ability to then progress Northwards).

Testing has been carried out by CABI in Canada of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and its hybrid Bohemian knotweed (F x bohemica) of the theory that climate warming could allow the production of viable seeds in the most northerly of its populations. Seeds were collected along a 550km transect in Quebec and tested for germination.

The results showed that Japanese Knotweed has a large number of seeds with a very high germination rate (93%).

The geographical limit for viable seed production in North America has thus been extended to Quebec City some 500km North of the formerly reported limit! The Bohemican Knotweeds are genetically diverse whereas the true Japanese Knotweeds all share the same genotype – this suggests that the Bohemian knotweeds mostly arose from seed while the ‘true’ knotweeds result only from propagation of rhizome or stem fragments.

The conclusion was that the effects of climate change are already palpable on the phenology of invasive plant species at their Northern distribution limit. Bohemian knotweed – which was until recently rare in Quebec, could rapidly spread in the near future with the help of viable seeds being regularly produced.

With the impact of invasive species now being recognised more in the UK one is left wondering whether the next major change will be the production of viable seed within the UK populations of Fallopia bohemica?

This would be a major game changer within the management and control industry and require a complete overhaul of standard eradication techniques and warranty packages.
Mike C

with thanks to CABI

What a shallow world we live in… April 24, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me how shallow people are, they take a quick at what you’re wearing and make a quick decision about what sort of person you are… based on whether you have on jeans or a suit and a tie.

30 odd years ago I said to myself, when I own my own business… I’m never going to be forced to wear a suit just because somebody else thinks I should. I should be able to wear what I’m comfortable in and just be ‘myself’. I’m intelligent and articulate and professional, I just don’t ‘conform’ to the dress standards set by ‘society’….and if I want to have a pink Mohican hair cut – then that’s exactly what I’m going to have …

Fast forward 30 years and I’ve achieved pretty much everything I’ve set out to do (even a pink Mohican) – I have a series of reasonably successful businesses, I employ 30 odd staff over a variety of companies – yet I still get people calling me a scruffy bastard….!

What amuses me more is that the people that often call me ‘scruffy’ are wearing Marks and Spencer suits with a crappy shirt, cheap shoes and an unreliable watch. They turn up in their Vauxhall Astra or their cheap Mercedes thinking they are the dog’s bollocks when truth be known they have so little imagination about anything worthwhile that it’s amazing they manage to get dressed in the morning.

Anyway, putting all this to one side, having done exactly what I want for the bulk of my business owning career, I now find myself as chairman of the Invasive Non Native Species Association (INNSA – and as such I find myself having to ….conform….

I was due to give a presentation to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (the CML) last week and asked my fellow steering group members as to whether they would prefer me to wear a suit?

They responded with a loud ..YES…(…you scruffy bastard)

On arriving in London at my Hotel I noticed a new Bentley parked in front of the main doors – on enquiring what the car was for, the hotel advised that it was for guests to use instead of black cabs….

So it was that last Friday I found myself wearing a suit and tie, being chauffeur driven in a brand new stretch Bentley* to a meeting at one of the smarter London boutique hotels….and boy can I tell you does it make a difference to how people treat you!

I had gone from suspected criminal …to Royalty…nothing was enough trouble for the obsequious staff who treated me as if I was god’s gift to business… and…bear in mind this was the same hotel that wouldn’t let me in when I was wearing jeans and a shirt…I’m the same person goddamit…

So what do we conclude from this little episode…hmmmm…not sure really?

Maybe I need to learn a lesson and wear a suit if I want to make the right impression?

…but… do I really want to make this much effort?

To be honest I’d rather just be myself and lose a few arsey clients…

Mike C
*NB all paid for my me personally not by INNSA!

Hybrids aren’t just funny looking cars… April 24, 2015

Have you seen the film ‘Blade’ with Wesley Snipes?

Wesley has all the strengths of a vampire whilst keeping the ability to be a ‘day-walker’ and isn’t killed by sunlight. So he has all the positive vampire traits and doesn’t have any of the weaknesses (apart from a hunger for human blood which he counteracts with a specially devised serum that he injects) …so he is a hybrid…that thrives to the determent of all of his enemies.

Hybridization is the fundamental mechanism by which rapid evolution can occur in invasive species. If a hybrid shows increased vigour this would significantly contribute to invasion success.

CABI ( have carried out a comparison of Fallopia japonica and Fallopia sachalinensis and the hybrid Fallopia x bohemica in competing against experimental communities of native plants. It was found that the knotweed hybrids performed significantly better in competition with a native community and that they strongly reduced the growth of native plants.

Of the parental species F. sachalinensis regenerated significantly from rhizomes suggesting allelopathic* inhibition by native plants.

The study found great variation between the various taxa but the hybrid proved to have the greatest success – thus proving that invasive knotweed hybrids are indeed more competitive than their parents.

We already know that Japanese knotweed has no natural enemies in the UK – (apart of course from the Psyllid aphid released by CABI as part of the Government bio-control strategy) – so with a mutational hybrid being even more efficient at spreading than the all-ready prolific plants that we struggle to manage – we could be in an even worse position…
Mike C

With thanks to CABI
NB: *allelopathy is the secretion of chemicals by plants to inhibit growth of other species

Integrity April 23, 2015

There is a line from one of my favourite films which goes … ‘just walk away,  turn around…just walk away’ ….and its one I often think of in business. Quite often at Japanese Knotweed Solutions we get involved with projects at a very early stage when clients are just beginning to look at feasibility of a certain type of build. We sometimes get paid for surveys but often we are asked to do works ‘at risk’. With most clients this is not a problem, they understand that time is money and they understand that our time and efforts aren’t ‘free’ – of the project goes ahead, we get the work or we get paid for our services.

Occasionally however we get the type of client that will use and abuse you – then cast you to one side without even the courtesy of a ‘thank you’. They ask for a site survey, they get you to pay for Ordnance Survey drawings and they get you to attend meetings, they have drawings produced and prices prepared – then they pay you nothing and give the job to someone else. These type of people never seem to last very long in business as they quickly get a reputation for being assholes…

This week’s blog is about a far more complex situation where your morals are tested to breaking point. The client gets you involved with a large project and butters you up with lines like … ‘we really want to work with you’ … ‘we aren’t talking to anybody else’… ‘we know you are the best company out there’ ….blah blah blah

So you get involved and you prepare drawings and you come with the best strategy for dealing with the particular invasive species that you have been asked to look at….but then the pressure starts to build.

That’s more than we wanted to pay..

The problem with the eradication of invasive species is there will always be someone who will look at the plant differently. When removing JK root systems we at Japanese Knotweed Solutions allow for removing ALL of the root – there isn’t much point in going through this process unless that’s what you are going to do – other companies take a more ‘cavalier’ attitude….and remove as much of the root and rhizome as the time they have allowed within the price…allows…then they stop digging pack up and leave.

Now don’t get me wrong, we are all in business to make a profit – sorry if that offends you – but the reality of life is that without profit your business will simply cease to be. So the price that JKSL quotes for dealing with your invasive species will allow us to do the job properly and to make a profit on our activities.

What we could of course do is …take a little less off site. We could dig a little shallower….we could perhaps not look quite so hard for any remaining root or rhizome systems…and this is where your integrity either shows up….or doesn’t make an appearance.

Obviously you’ve put time and effort into a project and you don’t want to lose out to A.N.Other competitor but at what point do you just say – ‘sorry Mr Client I can’t do it for any lower price’…then stand up in the meeting, put on your Trilby and leave.

Well….ALL ….of our surveyors here at Japanese Knotweed Solutions are trained to be aware of what the costs of a project are. They understand man hours and they understand the time it takes to fully remediate an invasive species. They understand what the labour costs are and they understand what machinery costs are – and they know that the prices we give are keen and market lead – and they know what margins have been allowed.

They are also fully briefed on having integrity on every project that they work on – and providing the best most honest service they can.

We don’t employ dodgy car salesman types; we employ environmentally qualified surveyors here to give you the best most practical advice available, with integrity.

So if ever one of our surveyors gets up and leaves a meeting – you know you’ve pushed them too far….
Mike C
*Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; integrity is a personal choice to honour moral and ethical values.

Why is it growing there…? April 23, 2015

In its native Japan, Fallopia japonica is a component of communities inhabiting extreme lava and ash sheets at high altitudes. In these situations F. japonica is a pioneer species facilitating the growth of other plant species. The plant also spreads into man-made habitats, pastures and roadsides where it is one of the most troublesome weeds in Japan.

Fallopia sachalinensis  occurs in natural vegetation of coastal cliffs and mountain riversides both of which are subject to natural disturbance- and on road verges and other places where man has disturbed the ground. There are also pure stands of F sachalinensis as pioneer vegetation on bare soils in human settlements.

In Europe Fallopia plants grow strongly in man-made habitats – however the hybrid Fallopia x bohemica shows the highest proportion of growth outside of human settlements. Growth along roads and watercourses are the most frequent habitats for all of the plant group.

A comparison of all three taxa in the Czech republic showed that whilst F x bohemica was the most common along watercourses, F japonica was the most often found along roads. Compared to the other taxa F. sachalinensis was more confined to gardens and parks where it had been planted as an ornamental.

F. japonica invaded more habitat types than either F sachalinensis or F x bohemica – whilst F x bohemica out competes both parental taxa at sites where both taxa co exist.

Fallopia species create dense monoculture stands which almost entirely preclude the growth of native species. The stands expand through growth of an extensive rhizome system beneath the ground. Above ground the plants has rapid stem growth of up to 15cm a day with the dense stands and large leaves forming a compact canopy allowing little light to each the ground from early Spring until the end of the season.

The plants contain high concentrations of phenolic compounds (eg trans-resveratrol) particularly in the rhizomes which can thus influence the presence of native species by allelopathy* (*the secretion of a chemical which are harmful on other plants).

There is a decrease in native species in previously species rich communities due to the high competitive ability of Fallopia taxa with very few other species being able to survive – mainly spring geophytes or nitrophilous ruderals such as Urtica dioica, Geranium robertianum or Aegopdium podagraria.

Field experiments have shown that no single mechanism is responsible for this depletion of native plants. Whilst shading appears to be a dramatic influence on juvenile plants – many seedlings are simply unable to establish in the dense Fallopia stands.

Mike C

Ref : Biological Invasions (2009)

What have I learnt? April 23, 2015

My dog passed away recently and I miss her like mad – yet she was incredibly low maintenance – water/food/walk was all she needed to then give back 100% love and affection. My wife on the other hand requires buffing, polishing, waxing, spraying, tanning, exfoliating, moisturising, painting, decorating and the occasional vajazzle – yet she’s never happy…

I myself have yearned for exotic cars with huge engines and vast power reserves – yet every time I get one – I’m already bored and have I’ve already decided which one I want next. For a period of over ten years I went from new Porsche 911 to newer Porsche 911 which had minor power upgrades and the occasional tweak to the body shape ….BUT WHICH WAS BASICALLY …THE SAME CAR. This finally dawned on me on the forecourt of Porsche garage in Wilmslow when parking my immaculate Porsche 911 next to a newer Porsche 911 and then not being able to tell which was which.

Have you ever noticed how we all go through fads at about the same time? How many of you are on a ‘dry january’…? How many of you have bought a ‘juicer’ over Christmas…? How many of you are eating ‘super-foods’ like Kale or cavolo nero? How many of you are an a ‘detox diet’….? How many of you are wanting to upgrade to an i-phone 6 (…and will not feel happy until you have one)….?

How many of these fads have we bought into in the past? Probably far too many to even try and remember…? Butter is bad/butter is good, Atkins diet, 5/2 diet, blueberries were a super-food and you should drink 5 litres of water a day…and everything causes cancer…

What about some of the issues that we have with transport? Diesel cars spring to mind as something that we were all advised were more economical and better for the environment – now we are told that diesel is bad and we will be charged extra for driving a diesel into the city of London.

What about music and the way we store our favourite songs? Cd’s were old hat …we should buy mini discs, then we are told that we should stream our music and use downloads …whilst secretly vinyl is making a comeback

So I’m beginning to see a pattern here in that we are all being manipulated ‘en-masse’. Subliminal messaging is what it’s all about – yet we all go along with it thinking we are being unique with our thought processes and creative in our lifestyle choices….BUT WERE NOT…we are simply exhibiting ‘herd’ behaviour following the crowd and being manipulated by the ‘establishment’.

So …where do we all stand on the issue of invasive non-native species? Which camp are you in…? ..are you happy with what you’re being told?

I come across a wide range of comments from the various seminars that I speak at and the audience seem to be split into three camps:

Those in complete panic who are convinced that the very foundation of society is being undermined (literally) by Japanese Knotweed

Those that think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion

Those that think the answer is somewhere between 1 and 2…they are mildly concerned but think it’s all a bit of a media storm in a teacup.

I recently had a gentleman stand up during a seminar and berate me Mike Clough for being the ‘SOLE’ reason that there was a Japanese Knotweed problem in the UK. Now I know I can be a bit of an arse at times but I’m pretty sure I’m not the ‘SOLE’ reason that we have knotweed issues here in the UK,..

The media do try and manipulate us (you and i) in the way our Invasive Species problems are portrayed – they don’t want stories of gradual encroachment by invasive plants – they want War of the Worlds. They don’t want … ‘possible building damage’ …they want …’foundations destroyed by alien from Planet X….

So my best advice – don’t get manipulated, don’t get scared – get a level headed approach to your invasive species problems …from the leaders in subliminal horror stories…Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd.