Cute Plant From Hell (but hey: devils can be useful too)

Do you recognize this plant?
  • It has wide, light-green, heart-shaped leaves with a truncated base, 7–14 cm long and 5–12 cm broad, with an entire margin. 
  • While hollow, reddish stems may reach a maximum height of 3–4 m each growing season without any problem, it is typical to see much smaller plants in places where they sprout through cracks in the pavement or are repeatedly cut down. 
  • You see, cutting down makes it only STRONGER. 
  • Flowers which are small, cream or white, are produced in erect racemes (so arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis, as in the lily of the valley) 6–15 cm long in late summer and early autumn.

 So, do you recognize it? If your answer is still no, you are lucky. However it is very possible that you have seen that murderous beauty  and you haven’t known that you actually met one of these superplants which can survive no matter what.. 

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, syn. Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica) is a large, herbaceous perennial plant, native to eastern Asia – Japan, China and Korea.The species has been so very successful elsewhere that it has been classified as invasive  in several countries. In fact it is listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species. Why?

Ponder over this. It grows everywhere. More specifically, it grows through everywhere.The invasive root system and strong growth of this plant can damage concrete foundations, buildings, flood defences, tarmac roads, paving, retaining walls and architectural sites. It can also reduce the capacity of channels in flood defences to carry water.It forms thick, dense colonies that completely crowd out any other herbaceous species. Its resistance is really amazing. Rhizomes of Japanese knotweed can survive temperatures of −35 °C and can extend 7 metres (23 ft) horizontally and 3 metres (9.8 ft) deep, making removal by excavation extremely difficult.
English: Japanese knotweed ; (Species: Fallopi...
Flowers of Japanese knotweed   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The plant is also resilient to cutting, unless it is done repeatetively and combined with herbicide treatments. Otherwise it is vigorously resprouting from the roots in no time. Studies have shown that a 1cm section of rhizome can produce a new plant in 10 days – a true record. Rhizome segments can remain dormant in soil for twenty years before producing new plants.The most effective method of control is by herbicide application close to the flowering stage in late summer or autumn. Still who would want herbicide-soaked soil in their backyard or anywhere else? The herbicide treatment may have to be used for at least three years before Japanese knotweed stops growing back. Even when the plant seems to be completely eradicated any soil removed from the area is likely to have dormant rhizome and must be disposed of as described within the knotweed code of practice. Which means you’ll spend a lot of time and money to get rid of this.

How has it found its way to our backyards? Japanese Knotweed was introduced as an ornamental plant by the freaking Victorians in 1825. Allegedly it was shipped from Japan. It looked cute, its flowers smelled cute, it must have been cute. right? The great garden-writer William Robinson recommended it warmly in The Wild Garden of 1870 for its “large and noble tufts of lively green, which increase in beauty from year to year”. Yeah, I’ve always known that the aliens would conquer our planet in one week if only they presented themselves in a form of sweet, fluffy bunnies.Already by the 1880s, gardeners had become alarmed by the plant’s invasive tendencies. As you might guess it was already too late.

Several invasive species of knotweed form larg...
Several invasive species of knotweed form large thickets like this (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Funnily enough this monster has a second, also very interesting face. Scientists are reporting that Japanese knotweed could hold the answer to the oil crisis and provide a sustainable, clean source of energy. The plant’s ability to generate massive amounts of energy is simply uncanny – by pyrolysing knotweed rhizomes in low temperature ovens, the gas and hydrocarbon fuels generated are only slightly lower in yield than some brown coals.

That horrible plant might also restore your health. Yes, you read it right. The leaves and shoots are edible and the roots contain resveratrol which has been identified as a potent flavonoid. How can it be helpful?

Extracts from Japanese knotweed rhizomes have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Resveratrol decreases the viscosity of the blood and acts as anticoagulant to thin blood, effective in treating cardiovascular disease by reducing thrombosis and embolisms that can block arteries and lead to myocardial and cerebral infarctions (Wang et. al, 2002). Resveratrol has been found to reduce tumor volume, tumor weight, and lung metastasis; it  inhibits cancer cells without harming the liver. Studies indicate the most beneficial use to be in pancreatic, breast, and ovarian cancers.

If you are overweight this plant can be also your friend.To date, resveratrol is the most potent natural compound able to activate SIRT1, mimicking the positive effect of calorie restriction. (Alcaín FJ, Villalba JM April 2009). Daily consumption of 1/2 teaspoon of the tincture, first thing in the morning, provides approx 500 mg of resveratrol which may prevent aging by protecting cellular DNA from free-radical damage. That’s not all. Japanese Knotwood root is known to aid the central nervous system and kill Lyme bacteria. To inhibit the growth of staph, strep, E. coli, and salmonella the dosage is 1/2 tsp. of the tinctured root first thing in the morning, mid-day and at bedtime. To inhibit the growth of influenza type A, ECHO virus, and herpes simplex, the dosage is 1/2 tsp. of the tinctured root first thing in the morning, mid-day and at bedtime.
Just in case: I am not a doctor and I found this info on the Internet which is the source of such theories like the one about the British Royal Family who, according to some people, are a bunch of big, ugly lizards from space. Contact somebody professional if you have any health problems and you want to try this plant’s roots in your therapy.

Alternatively you can also eat this ugly invader. Yes, I am dead serious now, that monster is edible. Related to rhubarb, it’s very sour and may act as a laxative the way rhubarb does, so use it sparingly at first. Most importantly, be sure that any harvesting of Japanese knotweed does not result in its spread. Never add knotweed to your compost or send it to municipal compost center – in many countries it is against the law and you might be sued. So, what exactly can be done with it? I found you one yummy recipe.

The best time to gather young knotweed shoots, up to about 8 inches, is in early spring (the larger ones are tough and stringy). Some people peel the outer skin off the shoots, but that can be tedious, and if you’re not careful, you may peel too much off.

Makes 16 large muffins

Japanese knotweed stalks to measure 2 cups, minced
1.5 cups flour
0.5 cup dandelion flower petals, stripped from their base (do not include any green parts)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 cup softened butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
green food colouring or fresh spinach juice (if you like them organic)

Snip off the pointy tops of the knotweed stalks and mince.
Combine flour, dandelions, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.Cream 0.5 cup butter with 1 cup brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla. To this mix, alternately fold in the sour cream, dry ingredients and colouring until blended. Fold in the knotweed pieces. Divide the batter into greased muffin forms.

Bake at 350˚F for 15 to 20 minutes, until the muffins test done in the center proves they are ready.

You can decorate it with some cream at the top.

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8 Responses to Cute Plant From Hell (but hey: devils can be useful too)

  1. Knotweed muffins? Umm… :XHere the invasive species is tamarisk. It sucks up water from the ground. THE GROUND, BRIDGET!

  2. Blodeuedd says:

    Ok…did NOT know that

  3. Aurian says:

    I think I am very happy that I have not yet seen this plant somewhere around. But it does sound great as a new source of fuel. Will it even grow in the desert?

  4. I feel properly grounded, thank you!

  5. My pleasure to educate you a bit. ;p

  6. Unfortunately the desert is not a good place for this beauty. It needs more water than e.g. succulents and the moderate European climate is perfect for it.

  7. red witch says:

    I get a sinking feeling every time I read about one of these invasive exotics.The biggest danger from plants like this is the loss of biodiversity. Some Victorian idiot introduced all kinds of european birds to North America because he thought all the birds in Shakespeare should be here.from Wikipedia "The American Acclimatization Society was a group founded in New York City in 1871 dedicated to introducing European flora and fauna into North America for both economic and cultural reasons. The group's charter explained its goal was to introduce "such foreign varieties of the animal and vegetable kingdom as may be useful or interesting." The society's efforts had a powerful impact on the natural history of North America, particularly due to its unfortunate success in introducing invasive bird species……But it was Schieffelin, an avid admirer of Shakespeare, who was the society's driving force. Some accounts of his efforts claim that he had resolved that as an aesthetic goal, the organization should introduce every bird species mentioned in the Bard's works. Other accounts say this is unproven. The society's wildest success was with the European Starling. "What a jackass! At least the guy who introduced African killer bees was horrified at what he had done.

  8. Sometimes the visionaries with the best intentions are the worst kind of criminals. Their imagination is so unilateral and limited that they couldn't glimpse a larger picture even if their life depended on it. Thanks, Red Witch, for this truly chilling piece of info.

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