Who is Philipp von Siebold?
Well, his birthday was in February (1796) and he was a famous Bavarian physician, botanist and traveller...
Well, his birthday was in February (1796) and he was a famous Bavarian physician, botanist and traveller with a passion for flora Japonica, or Japanese flora and fauna.
If you haven’t yet guessed, it was Siebold who first discovered Japanese knotweed growing on the sides of volcanoes near Nagasaki in the mid-nineteenth century.
While living on Dejima, a small artificial island off Nagasaki, Japan and working as the resident physician and scientist, Siebold collected over 1,000 native plants in a small botanical garden behind his home. From there he sent three shipments with an unknown number of herbarium specimens to Leiden, his home in the Netherlands, Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp, with the first knotweed specimen reaching Kew Gardens in 1850 in a box of 40 Chinese and Japanese plant varieties.
At the time, horticulture was big business. European adventurers with botanical interests went in search of exotic plants to bring back home to cultivate. Hundreds of species found new homes at Kew Gardens and other nurseries and gardens throughout Europe and North America.
Oblivious to its destructive qualities, Japanese knotweed was popular with Victorian gardeners who admired its attractive heart shaped leaves, pretty creamy white flowers and the speed of its growth. From there it spread rapidly across the UK as keen gardeners enthusiastically shared cuttings and disposed of garden waste.
Interestingly, Japanese knotweed isn’t a problem in its native Japan, where it has natural enemies in the form of bugs and fungi, but here in the UK it is happily predator free! Japanese knotweed is now so rife within the UK that it will never be eradicated, but rather it will be treated on a case by case basis, often when a homeowner is prompted to tackle the problem because they wish to sell their home or there is a risk the plant will encroach on a neighbour’s land.
If you’re worried you may have Japanese knotweed on your property, we offer a free identification service. Just take a picture and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, where one of our experts will examine it for you.