Invasion of Japanese Knotwood is no movie, but it can be scary

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Remember the giant hogweed, which can cause serious burns just by touching it? The Japanese Knotweed can’t hurt you, but it can damage your property — gardens, sidewalks, even dig through the foundation of your house.

“So right here are the sprouts of Japanese Knotweed. As you can see, they come up really small,” said Katherine Winkler of the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

That is how the noxious Japanese Knotweed starts out and spreads quickly — taking over entire yards and flower beds. Katherine Winkler showed us a massive knotweed stand resembling a leafy hedge along the Buffalo River. And Winkler says the roots grow deep.

“We have seen them at some of our projects grow eight to12 feet down into the ground which is a major problem. You can’t just go and rip it out,” Winkler said.

Japanese Knotweed is high on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s invasive species list for eradication. DEC Invasive Coordination Chief Josh Thiel says it is a tough job.

Josh Thiel with the DEC told us, “Incredibly tenacious. So this plant is very difficult to eradicate. Simply cutting it and mowing it, which is a bad idea, doesn’t stunt it at all.”

To control the knotweed, Thiel says if you mow it, use a bag to contain it, put it in the garbage or dry it and burn it. But under no circumstance should you put it in with your yard waste or compost it.

“It has a really strong ability to re-grow from even the tiniest fragments, and repeated treatments are sometimes ineffective,” said Thiel.

Japanese Knotweed is crowding out New York’s native plants.. and even worse, it can damage your home and property.

“They will grow through cement, concrete asphalt. They will disturb the soil and the stream banks, and pretty much whatever comes into their pathway,” added Winkler.

The local Japanese Knotwood invasion has become so destructive, realtors are telling property owners to fight it. The State DEC on invasive species and a local effort at Buffalo State called PRISM has more information.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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