A brief history of Japanese knotweed

Japanese Knotweed – A Brief History in Time.

So you may have, or may have just discovered, Japanese knotweed on your property.

Whilst Japanese knotweed continues to grab headlines in the media, in this month’s 2nd blog we thought we would take a look at the history of Japanese knotweed to look at how we got to where we are today.

In the beginning - Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica), as the name would suggest, is native to Japan, where the plant is known as “itadori” - one interpretation of this name is that it comes from "remove pain" which alludes to its painkilling and medicinal use – it is used to treat a variety of ailments ranging from fungal infections, various skin inflammations and cardiovascular diseases.

Young leaves and shoots (once peeled) are also edible and are consumed in many ways.

In the UK Japanese knotweed is being used ever more frequently in food supplements due to its reservatrol content (reservatrol is also found in red wine too...).

In Japan the plant grows freely on mountainsides, volcanoes and open spaces. What’s the main difference between there and the UK? In Japan the knotweed has natural predators in the form of invertebrates (insects) and funghi. Currently there are no natural predators in the UK, however CABI are working on it...

How did it get here? – Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold (17 February 1796 – 18 October 1866) was a German physician, botanist, and traveller. He achieved prominence with his studies of Japanese flora and fauna and the introduction of Western medicine in Japan. He was also the father of the first female Japanese doctor, Kusumoto Ine.

In the late 1840’s Philipp brought the plant to the UK. Here he found a steady clientele of customers from both botanical gardens and the high society who thought this plant with its lovely bloom and odd shaped leaves was the height of fashion.

It is noted that all Japanese knotweed in the UK derive from a single female plant collected by Philipp.

By 1869 it was widely available for sale to the public in the UK and was even used by farmers as animal feed.

As we know, fashions come and fashions go, and by the time the fashion went there was no stopping the invasive species spreading throughout the UK.

The rest, as they say, is history…

As always our team of experts are on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Call us today on 01932 868700 and we’ll be happy to help.

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