Posted 5th July by Peter Byrne
Research that has been released this week has revealed less than one in five Brits could identify Japanese knotweed, despite it being described by the Environment Agency as 'indisputably the UK's most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant'
An overwhelming 81 per cent of Brits were unable to identify the invasive weed from a selection of five plants, with 14 per cent thinking it was Bindweed, eight per cent thinking Houttuynia, five per cent thought it was Russian Vine and six per cent thinking it was common Ivy.
Commissioned by Japanese knotweed removal firm Environet and undertaken by YouGov, the survey highlighted a widespread lack of knowledge about the weed, which is leaving homeowners at a severe risk of litigation from neighbours, if it spreads.
DIY attempts at treating Japanese knotweed will hasten its spread, making it harder to eradicate in the long term. As it stands, at least 37 per cent of respondents would try to tackle knotweed, with the most popular method being to try digging the knotweed out of the ground including the roots (27 per cent). This is despite the plant being able to regrow from a piece of rhizome as small as a fingernail, making it highly unlikely to succeed.
People also attempted burning (four per cent), household chemicals or diesel (four per cent), or covering it up to deny sunlight (two per cent).
When it comes to selling a property that Japanese knotweed has affected, three quarters would do the right thing and have the weed professionally treated. However, of more concern is the four per cent who admitted they would try to cover it up or conceal, in the hope potential buyers will not notice.
However, this strategy could see them potentially facing action, as it is a legal requirement to disclose its presence on the Law Society's TA6 form. It is estimated that two per cent of UK properties are directly affected by knotweed, resulting in approximately 1,000 cases each year of knotweed concealment during property transactions.
Even though people are struggling to recognise the plant by sight, the general awareness of the invasive weed is high and growing - 76 per cent have heard of the plant, in comparison to 75 per cent last year.
Just over a third of those who are aware of the weed (36 per cent), however, are aware that it can be sued if Japanese knotweed encroaches from their property onto a neighbouring building, with only 18 per cent knowing they can face prosecution under ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) legislation as it happens.
Nic Seal, Founder and MD of Environet, said: "Most people have heard of Japanese knotweed but the fact that only 19% of people in the UK can identify it from other common plants such as Bindweed and Ivy, is very concerning."
"If left untreated Japanese knotweed will grow rapidly, by up to 10cm a day during the summer months, pushing up through cracks in concrete, cavity walls and drains and causing damage to property. The longer it is left, the further its underground root system will spread and the more costly it will be to tackle. But it’s not just about protecting one’s property from damage and decreased value, it is also about protecting oneself from the risk of being sued if the knotweed is allowed to spread."
"The good news is that Japanese knotweed can be treated, either over two to three years using herbicide methods, or immediately by excavating it from the ground. With an insurance-backed guarantee secured for the work, most high street mortgage lenders will be happy to lend against an affected property, meaning it can still be bought and sold."
Chartered Surveyor Philip Santo FRICS Director at Philip Santo & Co., added: "Professional treatment is the most effective way to manage and control Japanese knotweed and the key to selling is an approved Japanese Knotweed Management Plan from a reputable specialist. DIY treatments can make matters worse and the financial consequences of concealing or not declaring the presence of Japanese knotweed during a sale can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds, so it is just not worth taking the risk."