There’s nothing simple about invasive weeds. There are no quick answers. You need to be thinking long term, and you need to be patient, resilient and most of all dedicated to finishing the job that you started.
I’ve lost track of the number of arguments I get into with people over the pros and cons of allowing invasive plants free reign over our countryside. My stance falls firmly in the corner of preservation of our native species for reasons of bio diversity and the retention of natural landscapes that make our British countryside unique.
Invading alien species have been introduced by man, by mistake – and should be treated with a severe case of eradication. Restoration of the ‘correct’ or indigenous plants should be high on the list of any large-scale removal project and should be the aim on any waterside or open space country park eradication project.
The majority of Japanese knotweed in the UK has been spread via careless management. Lack of understanding is at the heart of most Knotweed problems – with an underestimation of the rapidity of its spread and no understanding of the difficulty in managing the plant once it is established and is out of hand.
If you combine these faults with not being able to identify the plant in the first place – then you can have a major problem on your hands.
Initial mistakes can then be compounded by a requirement for an instant fix. This is very much a problem with modern society. Companies don’t take on problems for the long term. They want quick cheap solutions …and they just want the problem to go away.
Managers are paid bonuses to save money and get quick answers. Nobody wants to hear that an eradication strategy could take ten to fifteen years. Most people will move on and change jobs within that timescale.
A typical project scenario for us would be based round the developer generated project.
Developer ‘A’ finds piece of land and gains planning permission for housing. Developer enters into agreement with Local Planning Authority to provide ‘landscape works with public open space and children’s play areas’ ….and also to… ‘deal with the invasive plant problem.’
Young, enthusiastic site agent gets prices for the works.
Landscape works are implemented, houses get built, and the initial treatment of the invasive species is carried out. Perhaps the developer has passed these obligations onto the house builder who initially is keen to get his houses sold and follows the planning advice to the letter of the agreement.
More houses are built, profits are made, the public open space is looking a bit tired …and the invasive plant programme of works has been sidelined due to budget shortages.
Slightly older site agent is weary, he wants a holiday.
No more houses can be built.
No money is being made.
The invasive plants start to regroup and recolonise.
Nobody notices…nobody cares.
Site agent sits on a beach in Magaluf.
A telephone rings unanswered in the office of the house builder until eventually the line is cut and the cabin removed.
Quietly the invasive plants begin their growth …knowing nothing will be done to prevent their onward spread.
Site agent comes back from his holiday, refreshed and ready for his next project. He starts on his new site …which has an invasive weed problem. He looks for the cheapest price.
There’s a film in here somewhere – it’s a horror movie.