Question: My elderly father lives in a residential area and has a rather overgrown walled garden of just over an acre. On TV the other night, I saw the news about Japanese knotweed. The plant they showed looks very similar to something in my father's garden. I do not wish to be alarmist — especially as my father's gardener is almost as old as he is — but what is Japanese knotweed, and what should he do?
© Merrily Harpur (harpur.org)
Answer: Japanese knotweed is a type of plant which is non-native to the UK and is very invasive. It can spread and grow quickly, causing damage to buildings and hard surfaces.
It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to plant or cause Japanese knotweed to spread in the wild. If convicted of an offence the penalty may be a hefty fine or imprisonment.
So you should contact a specialist gardening contractor who will know how to deal with it. There are several methods which can be used. It can be eradicated by a herbicide spray, or its stems can be injected; it can be dug up, treated and buried in your father's garden, or taken away. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has also just issued information on an insect which can be used to control it.
It is important that if it does turn out to be Japanese knotweed, the situation is managed very carefully.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email email@example.com, or write to: Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors (ttuk.com).