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Month: November 2021

The Saga of the Japanese Knotweed

The Saga of the Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

“Fleeceflower” or “September Mist,” are names that will certainly evoke warmth and beauty or the gentle and charming, mild, shadowy days of September. However, given the sheer tenacity and unstoppable nature of this plant it is often known by other more descriptive names like Mile-a-Minute. Meet the Japanese Knotweed.

Having arrived in Canada in the nineteenth century, it has gradually made its appearance in every province except Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It’s likely only been in Newfoundland since some time in the twentieth century, probably the latter half of it. While at one time, this persistent plant was welcomed. Now, a century and a half later, as far as some are concerned, the knotweed is virtually taking over. The mood has dramatically changed. Now most just want to be rid of it. Still, some say, well, just hang on a minute.

Origins of the Knotweed

If you’re looking for its origins, you need to cast your eye to, as you might expect, the slopes of a volcano in Japan as well as in other countries in the southeast of our great planet. Beginning in the nineteenth century, individuals with an eye to the so-called exotic encountered these plants and thought they would make a beautiful addition to the gardens in their home countries of Britain and the United States. One Philipp Franz von Siebold, a European adventurer discovered this plant carpeting the exterior of a Japanese volcano and proceeded to transport it first to Leiden in the Netherlands. He then gave a good-hearted gift to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Britain. Soon, anyone who was anyone gathered the Japanese knotweed into their arms throughout Britain as a popular ornamental plant and the rest is history. Likewise, by the late nineteenth century, this plant completed its journey to North America.

Here to Stay

The problem is that the Japanese knotweed has done exceptionally well in the numerous countries where it has now made a home for itself. The purple to green stems of this plant are hollow with raised nodes, giving it the appearance of bamboo (to which it is actually not related). These stems die back each autumn and in the spring, they go on to re-grow to a maximum height of around 3-4 m (10-13 ft) in a single growing season. They apparently accomplish this at up to 8 cm per day. That’s not bad. If they are continually cut back, of course, this will impede their growth expectations. But left alone, they’ll reach 1 metre in three weeks. The leaves are generally quite broad (5-12 cm/2-4 ½ in) and long (7-14 cm/ 3-5 ½ in). By Autumn, delicate and small cream or white coloured flowers begin to appear.

Regardless of their beauty, many focus on the difficulties of being rid of the Japanese Knotweed. Apparently, they’re gifted with a root system that is intended to withstand the worst.

To make matters worse for the individual trying to eradicate them, they are equally gifted with a tolerance for a wide range of soil types, pH, as well as salinity. And just in case someone thought a good reduction in temperature would do the trick. Their rhizomes, sort of a creeping root stock, can survive temperatures of -35 °C (−31 °F) while extending 7 metres (23 ft) horizontally and 3 metres (10 ft) deep. The roots are strong, too, with asphalt and concrete posing no great obstacle for them. So, not only are they a hazard to a gardener guarding their plot, buildings and roadways also must beware. And while some may utter a poetic remark regarding their beauty or at the very least their obvious hardiness, others have one word for them—invasive.

Get the Invaders

In fact, they’re considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be one of the world’s 100 worst invading species. One can understand the frustration. It’s a plant we haven’t been able to control and that’s often a sticking point for humans. However, it depends on how one views the world. Despite all the variations in the qualities of climate, soil or water that covers our beautiful world, if we think of the planet as a whole, there can be no invasion. Much as humans did in our early years, moving out of Africa, at the time, there were no designated boundaries to brand us as an invasive species. If there had been, that’s what we would’ve been. So, from this perspective, Japanese Knotweed have merely moved on (with our help) and the goal is to find a way to live with that reality.

What About in Japan?

Some may say they’re obviously from Japan, what do they do? Well, in Japan, nature herself takes care of it, for where the knotweed resides keeps it in check. First of all, growing as they do on the scree of a volcano naturally impedes their growth. So, while they may be lush and rich in places such as Newfoundland and Labrador, they tend to be much smaller in their native land. Japan also presents a slightly more hostile environment and so the Japanese knotweed must contend with large herbs such as Bamboo, in addition to various natural pest, soil fungi and plant diseases. They’re kept in control.

In certain parts of Britain, efforts have been underway to adopt some of these natural checks. The insect known as Aphalara itadori is one of about 186 species of insects that feeds on the Japanese knotweed in Japan. In Britain as well as the United States, they have tested a range of insects known to control the knotweed in Japan. Unfortunately, the findings discovered the insects may well become a danger to their own native plants. So, thus far, everything but the A. itadori have been rejected. However, while many pinned their hopes on A. itadori, Scotland, for one. has passed a law stating now it is illegal to introduce a non-native species. Obviously, we’re going to have get a little more creative in our solution to the Japanese knotweed.

If you Can’t Beat it, Eat it”

Some in Newfoundland are adopting the approach of many in Pennsylvania and have ceded defeat in eradicating Japanese Knotweed. Instead, they have decided it is better to wield knife and fork to at least come to terms with the unstoppable plant. If they are to a part of our diets, the general rule is to treat knotweed much as one would when using rhubarb or asparagus. The younger shoots are the easiest to use as they can be harvested by easily snapping or cutting them off at ground level when they are a mere few inches in height. They tend to send up multiple shoots during the spring and early summer, so tjat makes things a little easier for the knotweed aficionado. One word of warning. They are fairly high in emodin, a known laxative, so take care. Plus, they contain oxalic acids and anyone with or predisposed to kidney stones should probably give them a wide berth. Otherwise, they are a healthy option for food, not to mention for their medicinal attributes.

Japanese knotweed contain resveratol which is also found in grape skins and wine and they’re noted for herbal actions such as being antibacterial, antiviral, anti-spirochetal, immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, central nervous system relaxant, brain and spinal cord protectant, anti-carcinogenic, vasodilator, cardioprotective, antithrombotic, hemostatic and astringent (see Stephen Buhner’s book Healing Lyme: Natural Prevention and Treatment of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections, published in 2005. An updated version is now available.). According to Buhner, Japanese Knotweed is useful against Lyme Disease given its ability to strengthen the body’s immune function.

It is also hoped to be able to play a role as an angiogenesis stimulant, being able to form new blood vessels (angiogenesis). As a result, it can play a role in the healing of damaged blood vessels, for instance with burns, chronic inflammations such as rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, and brain disorders like strokes and other forms of heart disease.

Leaving aside its value as a foodstuff or for its medicinal properties, Japanese knotweed also functions well geographically. With its substantial root system, it works wonders at preventing erosion. When the knotweed has grown, people have also discovered they function as a useful hedgerow.

So, it seems the knotweed does have some uses if we employ a little creativity and understanding. We had little to do with how it got to Newfoundland, but it’s here now. Like the multitude of plants and animals, ourselves included, who have moved around endlessly on this planet, they really have every right to be here. There’s nothing to lose, so you might as well fasten on your bib and enjoy what the knotweed has to offer.


C’mon … Why not?

C’mon … Why not?

No better time than the present: learn something new that you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t.

Whether it’s rock climbing, knitting, playing an instrument or anything in between, there are countless opportunities to better yourself. You never know what could become your new favorite hobby. Even if you don’t end up enjoying it in the end, trying new things can help you overcome your fears, stimulate creativity, and get to know yourself better. It’s never too late. Why not give it a shot?

All For the Love Nature

All For the Love Nature

Tuckamore tree (

The tuckamore – strong, tenacious, and resilient. We grace our various organisations with the name “tuckamore,” knowing that somehow doing so will confer even just an element of these qualities on them.

It is another example of the often quiet, unspoken, and compelling bond we have with nature. After all, we too are a part of nature. Although, it is to that fragment of nature less touched by humans that we direct our attention. So, even while we often exist on the outskirts of a natural world, it keenly calls us back from our steel-embraced, paved and neon-glittered towns and cities. Come home, it bespeaks. We can never forget it must be out of respect and too often a deep-seated concern, that we do so.

At times, we look at trees such as the tuckamore and see an entity seemingly casual as it endures the harshest conditions. After all, gale-force winds regularly assault the rugged and unyielding cliffs of Newfoundland and Labrador. The tuckamore’s response is subtle, yet unquestioningly superlative. Closely hugging the ground, the tree’s gnarled boughs are crouched and bent away from that unforgiving wind. The result is often a tightly interwoven matte of branches caressing the ground. Still, it resists and stands strong.

So, we take its name and conjure up that same resistance and strength. This is something we often do with the various elements of nature that signify a quality or trait we feel is worthy of following. Think of the names we give our sports teams. We have eagles, falcons, hawks and seahawks, timber wolves, grizzlies and raptors galore. Again, we look to another part of nature to find something to pattern ourselves. It is the dexterity, strength and stamina of these creatures we value and hope to replicate.

There are many other examples to which we can look. The images of mountains grant their strength and longevity to companies such as Coors and Patagonia. Then of course, we have the Amazon, that is, the longest river in the world, which as we all know also grants its name to one of the largest technology companies in the world.

So, one thing is certain. We’re clearly impressed and overwhelmed by the behaviour and sheer determination of nature of which, remember, we are a part. And much like a role model, an older sibling or parent for instance, out of our high regard and unconditional love, we opt to take after them. With love in our hearts and seek to invoke an element of their spirit.

Likewise, we need to always have an enduring love in our hearts when we think of nature in all its grace, fortitude, and poise. Sometimes we are saddened when we look around. We see nature too often being devastated and broken, evidence of little regard for the features many of us have hallowed and sought to follow. Without question, in seeking to mimic nature, we demonstrate our deep respect and even our awe.

It is therefore important and vital for us to demonstrate our feelings by our actions and seek to protect nature and ensure its integrity. Whether its something small such as collecting garbage from the side of the road or larger, like setting aside a plot of land for conservation, it’s in our hands. We must ensure we do our part to make certan nature is always there to emulate.



Given the time of year, an act of kindness is often as simple as just remembering and being thankful. Here’s a little poem that we can think about this Remembrance Day …

To flourish near my native bower,
To blossom near my Cot
cultivate a little flower,
They call ‘Forget Me Not’

Though Oceans may betwixt us roar,
And distant be our lot,
Ah! Though we part to meet no more,
Dear Youth forget me not.

To Be at Peace

To Be at Peace

Too often our minds are occupied with sentiments of frustration, sadness, bewilderment, or anger. All churn our insides, leaving us ragged and bothered. We can’t sleep. We’re irritable. And for the most part, it feels like our inner selves are a torn muddy battleground, dark and grey. Sighing, we look in the mirror, saying “Peace. I just want peace.” To find peace is to seek some means by which to calm our spirit. It’ll be okay, we say to ourselves.

Being in Control

And one of the first things we need to remember is bound to the idea of control. Sometimes we have little to no control over what is happening to us. Maybe we’re losing our job. Maybe our marriage is coming to an end. Maybe we’ve just been diagnosed with an ailment that will promise to try our very soul. Maybe. But we always have, and will never lose, our control over how we respond. No one can control that aspect of our behaviour. How are we going to bear up to whatever is occurring to us? There’s no harm in taking a moment to cry. Breathlessly weep if we feel the need to do so. Although, afterwards, we need to dry our tears and then raise our heads high. Then, walking tall, we can say with assurance that whatever comes our way, we will never be brought down. As a result, we are at peace with ourselves.

Having Patience

All of this does not necessarily come to us immediately. Sometimes it requires we look deep within to try and understand what are the drivers for our feelings. In any case, it will demand patience. This is not having patience for anyone, but rather for ourselves, often the most difficult task for us. Sometimes, it takes time to realise something about which we’ve been troubled is out of our control and there is nothing we can do—yet. Perhaps, we need to look at things from another perspective and if we do, a solution may materialise—again, in time. In any case, what we do know is that time is our loyal ally. Again, we can find peace, having accepted what needs to be done and that we must always be patient.

Taking Time for Ourselves

Time is our ally and it is essential that we invest some of it in ourselves. There is nothing wrong with spending time doing something we truly enjoy. Whether it’s a hobby, going for a walk or bike ride, or reading a book, we owe it to ourselves to just be. Periodically, there may be a tug of war in our hearts and minds. Worries about things we should or should not have done, things we needn’t have said and so on plague our minds. To be at peace with ourselves means we are in a state of quiet and calm. So, we must focus on ourselves and, for instance, accept what has happened, whatever that may be, and seek to understand why it did happen and how to alter things in the future.

Taking Time to Look Within

And at some point in our lives, we need to also take time to reflect and look within ourselves, answering some probing and sometimes difficult questions. In what do we believe? If we have an answer to that question, then why do we believe the things we do? Do we feel ourselves to be a part of something greater than ourselves and if so, what is it? And if not, why? What is important to us? What do we value? What do we want to change in our lives and how can we go about doing so? Is there anything for which we would give our lives? We need to explore our own thoughts without making any pre-judgements, always remembering to be fair and kind with others as much as ourselves.

Being With Nature

There’s something truly grounding about being with nature. In a certain way, it’s almost like coming home. We spend the majority of our lives surrounded by everything made intentionally by a human—our computers, phones, the pleasures in our homes and so on. But every now and then, we need to be in a place that was not purposely created and just developed on its own. If we do, we can be in touch with the energy and vibrations that genuinely power our world. We can watch whales feeding in the ocean, lifting their enormous bodies as they rise below circling caplin. Perhaps, we may be able to watch gannets careering down and plummeting into the water, only to rise to the surface with their delicious prize in their mouths. They are simply being. Yet, we are still humbled by the deep authenticity of the moment. We must learn from these experiences and be in peace.


Finally, to be at peace, we need to be able to open ourselves to the world and trust. We are surrounded by people who are intent on telling us what we want to hear. At other times, people are explaining things to us with great passion in order to only achieve a particular end. What we need to do is find the people in whose words we can believe. We can be confident their comments are intended with our best interests in mind, words buoyed by a deep and profound integrity, dignity, kindness and compassion. In our various circle of friends, there may be only one. But hold them dear. For they are true and loyal and when you are most in need, they will always be willing to extend a hand.