John Wulfken of Warrensburg holds a branch of Japanese Knotweed, a plant that is aggressively talking over vacant plots, waterway corridors as well as back yards in the region. Wulfken has volunteered to spread the word around town about the threat of the plant and how it can be controlled.
Local resident John Wulfken grabbed a branch off a bamboo-like dense shrub that had recently grown to be about 25 feet long at the town landfill.
“This is nothing,” he said, looking at various six-foot-tall stands of Japanese Knotweed circling the landfill. “I can show you places that are really infested with this fast-growing weed.”
John Wulfken talked Aug. 12 of how Japanese Knotweed is now spreading through the hamlet of Warrensburg, taking over back yards, vacant lots, and threatening property values as its roots grow horizontally underground, sending up dense shoots that quickly crowd out other plants.
“People don’t understand what a threat this can be, and how hard it is to get rid of it,” Wulfken continued, observing that it often grows under driveways and breaks up asphalt. It’s also known to grow through cracks in concrete walls, ruining foundations.
“Some banks won’t write mortgages for properties that have Japanese Knotweed present on site,” he said.
After waging his own personal battle for three months with Japanese Knotweed in his own back yard as well as his neighbors’, Wulfken decided recently to turn his effort into a crusade that will help others identify the pernicious weed and take efforts toward controlling it.
“I’d like to let others know what a threat this weed can be, how it spreads like crazy and how much damage it can cause,” he said.
Wulfken contacted town officials and volunteered to conduct curbside inspections, inform homeowners who have the weed on their property, and distribute brochures door-to-door describing the weed’s threat — and detailing methods of controlling it.
Warrensburg Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said at the Aug. 8 town meeting he’s happy to take Wulfken up on his offer. Town officials praised Wulfken for demonstrating good citizenship in investing time to protect people’s property values and eliminate a weed that can be a burden to homeowners.
Japanese knotweed is considered one of the world’s most aggressive invasive species. Its ability to propagate from cuttings or plant parts have led to it being classified as “Controlled Waste” in Britain, where it’s illegal to plant or spread. Uprooted Japanese Knotweed in the U.K. must be burned or go to a licensed disposal facility.
The species can be identified by its oval leaves and hollow stems with distinct nodes that resemble young bamboo plants.
Stems may reach 12 feet tall each year, even after they are cut back to the ground. The flowers are compound vertical blossoms, cream or white, that appear in late summer or early fall.
Wulfken warned that getting rid of the plant is difficult, as if it’s cut down, it vigorously re-sprouts from its roots.
The most effective method of control is by killing the entire plant, including the roots by using a specific herbicide application method just prior to its flowering stage, or about now — late summer.
This method calls for injecting a small amount of herbicide into the hollow stems, so it flows down into the roots.
Kathy Bozony, Natural Resource Specialist for the environmental group Fund for Lake George, explained the process to the members several weeks ago to the Northern Lake George Rotary Club.
In her talk on Japanese Knotweed, she warned the Rotarians about how pervasive it now was in Bolton, Hague and Silver Bay, among other lakeside communities.
The hypodermic-like device she described is manufactured by JK Injection Systems, and costs about $200. She recommended using the herbicide Habitat or Aquamaster, substances that can be used near waterways, or the more common Rodeo —all of which are glyphosate preparations.
Plant has its positive aspects
In the meantime, people can make Japanese Knotweed tea or cook the leaves, which are a good a source of resveratrol, which can reduce blood sugar levels, serves as an anti-inflammatory agent, and boosts longevity in some vertebrates.
Furthermore, it is believed to combat cancer, slow tumor growth and may be an anti-aging compound. Also, some studies indicate it can dramatically reduce plaque deposits in brains, and may serve to slow or reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms.
However, Japanese Knotweed does spread like crazy and overpower native plants, Bozony warned, as she lauded the new momentum in Warrensburg to rein in the spread of the pervasive plant.
“If this campaign is conducted as a community effort over several years, it will go a long way to keep Japanese Knotweed under control,” she said.