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Weedy tough plant meets match

PUBLISHED: 00:36 24 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

A PROFESSOR is tackling a freakish weed from the Far East which has now turned up in Stowmarket.

Professor Dr Max Wade, a graduate ecologist, and a digger and workers have been called in to eradicate the Japanese Knotweed at the former Waterworks site in Stowmarket town centre.

A PROFESSOR is tackling a freakish weed from the Far East which has now turned up in Stowmarket.

Professor Dr Max Wade, a graduate ecologist, and a digger and workers have been called in to eradicate the Japanese Knotweed at the former Waterworks site in Stowmarket town centre.

The plant's root grows metres long, it grows through tarmac, is resistant to most weed killers, and has proved to be a menace since spreading from one plant at the one of the world's leading botanic gardens, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, after its arrival in the 19th century.

Japanese Knotweed is one of a number listed under Schedule 9 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and it is an offence to plant it or let it grow in the UK.

The professor, the managing director for the ecologist firm RPS Ecoscope based in Cambridgeshire, and his team have been at the Stowmarket site all this week destroying the weed for Boden Properties, who want to develop the site for commerce.

Dr Wade said: "In the Far East people eat the shoots and stir fry them and it has got intrinsic medicinal properties, they have antifungal compounds which prevent fungus attacking it, or bacteria.

"There are only female versions of the plant in this country, because the plant originally escaped from Kew Gardens, a bit broke off and it spread.

"It spreads very easily and we are digging it out, burning the roots and spraying with herbicide. The length of the root is freakish. We found one that was four metres in Stowmarket and are planning to use it in an exhibition to the railway industry in Birmingham about the weed, which is found quite a lot on the railway.''

Dennis Wilkinson, construction director with developers Boden Properties, said: "In Stowmarket there is a big patch on the site earmarked for regeneration at the old Waterworks site, but before we can do that we have got to get rid of this Japanese Knotweed.''

Japanese knotweed, or Reynoutria japonica, is also known by the names donkey or gypsy rhubarb, Mexican bamboo, Japanese bamboo and Japanese fleece flower.

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