Council at war with Japanese invaders

Maria Pepper

Published 02/08/2014 | 00:00

Wexford is facing its own Day of the Triffids as the District Council fights to combat an invasion of Japanese Knotweed.

A number of sites around Wexford have been targeted, including Rocklands and Bishopswater roundabout as well as old town cemeteries such as St. Magdalene's and St. Patrick's where the invasive weed has taken hold.

Japanese Knotweed is a rapidly growing, voracious plant which thrives on mortar and has the potential to cause damage to buildings and roads.

The weed has reached epidemic proportions in the U.K., where banks are refusing to give mortgages for houses close to outcrops of the plant.

The problem is not as critical here but the weed which originated on the slopes of volcanoes in Japan is 'fairly widespread' in Wexford, according to Borough Engineer Sinead Casey.

'That said, it may become an issue here soon - if an applicant applies for planning in a field full of Japanese Knotweed, the planning/environment/roads sections may comment and consider it a restraint,' she said.

An overgrown council-owned half acre site at the bottom of Rocklands Lane and a plot of land at Bishopswater roundabout have been sprayed twice in the past six months.

The remaining stalks are to be injected and the sites sprayed again with Round-up Flex in September.

'The treatment administered has been effective,' said Ms. Casey.

'Without spraying, the Rocklands site would have a half acre of seven or eight foot high stalks,' she said.

It will take several years to eradicate Japanese Knotweed from the site completely as new plants can grow from a small section of leaf.

Smaller outcrops in local cemeteries are also being treated in the same way.

It is important that weeds are not cut and removed from sites to be dumped elsewhere as it will then spread in the new location.

'The difficulty arises when people innocently dump grass or hedge cuttings infused with the weed,' said the engineer.

'Hopefully, through education, the public will recognise the weed, realise its destructive potential and treat it accordingly.'

'There is no danger to human health from the weed. It isn't poisonous or noxious. It just thrives on itself and mortar and mortar-based products,' she added.

But it is recommended that people wear disposable protection over shoes when walking on the weed so as not to carry spores that could germinate elsewhere.

The Council is working with the owners of private sites and schools in the town to help them deal with invasions of the weed and prevent it growing out of control.

Ms. Casey said credit is due to Wexford's town foreman John Ross who is overseeing the treatment work.

'As a result of our success so far, other local authorities have asked for our guidance and advice,' she said.

Wexford People

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