Monday, August 1, 2011

Persistently Pernicious & Naughty Knotweed

I was reading in a back issue of Science today, about Europe's most invasive species, Japanese Knotweed.  "Another East Asian plant?" I thought, "How bad could it be?"  It's pretty bad.  Knotweed punches through solid concrete foundations, rupturing reactor vessels, cracking foundations, destroying structures.  In Japan, there's a host of insects and fungi that prey upon it, but in Europe (where botanical enthusiasts transplanted it 150 years ago) no such predators exist, and it costs the UK alone, some $288 million a year in damage.  Yikes!  I even found a story here where it will cost the Olympics $70 million to redo foundations of two venues where the weed is already punching through.  This stuff appears to be bamboo on steroids - massive, Bruce Banner-ish, you-wouldn't-like-knotweed-when-it's-angry steroids.  (yes, I know Bruce Banner was gamma rays, and not steroids, but I am taking some license with the analogy).  UK scientists are introducing a plant louse, or psyllid, called Aphalara itadori to try to slow down the spread.  "Even if the psyllids reduce the damage by just 1% it will be a success" the principal investigators have stated.  Wow.  Silly humans and their attempts to modify their environments.

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