Yesterday at dusk I was near downtown Wilton, at the site of a future apartment building. I was trying to get out of an approximately 2-acre thicket of invasive shrubs and vines, after characterizing them. It was raining hard, so I was clutching my glasses, trying to protect my notebook. (Had not put on the uncomfortable rain jacket, as it wasn’t raining yet when I started my field work.)
Five times I painfully pushed towards the outside, only to reach either a chain link fence, a truly impenetrable mound of multiflora rose, or a pile of logging debris – so I retraced my steps. I prayed on and off, felt like Tom Sawyer trying passage after passage in the cave. Or Sleeping Beauty, having woken up on her own, trying to escape through the thicket of roses that had grown up around her palace. I remembered another consulting job site: a tall, impenetrable multiflora thicket surrounding a small farmhouse occupied by an elderly widow. Mowing had ceased when her husband had died.
Eventually, a patch of stately, thorn-free Japanese knotweed (like bamboo) was my gateway to the road and safety, my “prince”. I am so grateful to this grove of invasives, although Jap. knotweed is one of the most villified.
Growing up, I always thought of this plant as a privacy hedge, because the womens’ outdoor shower at the Nissequogue Point Beach Club was shielded from the prying eyes of outsiders by a knotweed thicket. Half a century later, I returned to find the same cold shower and the same dense thicket with large heart-shaped leaves. What a persistent monoculture! Overtime the knotweed at the Wilton site might well replace the multiflora rose (that is if the apartments weren’t built). At least it’s handsome, with bountiful nectar, welcomed by insects in late summer, when pickings are slim elsewhere (before all the goldenrods are in bloom.)
This is the king of the clonal perennial species, and the hardest of all the invasives to eradicate. Even after aggressive herbicide application, sprouts will come up the next year … and the next. The latest control technique is to drill a hole into every tough, hollow stem in the knotweed patch and then inject herbicide into the hole; repeat for three successive years.