Fallopia japonica is a fast spreading weed that reduces the value of properties, drives businesses out of the area and wrecks lives. With bamboo like stems and small white flowers – known more commonly as Japanese knotweed – it is not wholly unattractive. Like most rogues, it’s not without its redeeming features. Despite its destructive capabilities, it’s not poisonous.
Tug on the roots of a Japanese knotweed and you’ll be shocked by the various arms and tentacles that get revealed. You’ll be amazed at the odd directions it takes and how predatorial it can be. What starts as a tiny, unassuming plant becomes an all-encompassing web of aggression – sucking on nutrients belonging to other trees and plants; sapping the life chances out of them; subsuming the very light they need to breathe.
One can be sure that, as the years pass, Japanese knotweed disremembers its most destructive actions. As it comes to dominate its space, it starts to believe in its power. As other plants and trees fall by the wayside, it trusts its skillset and interweaves with other weeds and offshoots that may be useful to it, as long as they too can be compromised. But it’s still just a weed.
There comes a time when Japanese knotweed can look down from its herbal penthouse and light a proverbial cigar at its achievements. It has become an empire builder and can sleep well at night recognising the extent of its dominion, managed by other outlets; secure in knowing there’s plenty of elsewhere which can be accessed should today’s empire be lopped in some way. Even ghosts are silent now. But it’s still just a weed.
Then along comes the day the knotweed always feared.
Others tugged on roots before and walked away. But this time it’s different. This time the tugging force understands the foe, down to the last tiny, gruesome detail. As roots unfold, so other roots uncover themselves and inform the chief puller, who has enlisted an army of other pullers and professional finishers. At first the knotweed’s core scents a Hitler’s bunker scenario but that thought is dismissed by the core out of arrogance. The weed is deceived – it thinks it’s a plant.
Next the other roots whisper and turn in on the core. One root extends itself so far afield it can survive long enough away from the core to put the core in check by revealing key secrets and weaknesses about the core. And soon it will be checkmate for the core and the rest of the knotweed.
Before the weed empire completely falls in on itself – cut canes dried out and burned – the vanquisher’s army waits. The network of knotweed is laid bare. The vanquished rush to surrender. The game is done. Even though Japanese knotweed is volcano-resistant, growing happily in still-smoking volcanic ash, removing itself to volcanic locations after growing for so long in the UK can never end well, as Old Goldfinger discovered all those years ago.
All empires fall. Best fall gracefully, Twist.
And let there be light.
Fortuna vitrea est: tum cum splendet frangitu.