Just English Magazine Articles

Knotweed – The Modern Triffid


 

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is an iconic sci-fi book and film. You may know the story in which a species of aggressive plants takes over the planet. The Triffids are armed with deadly venom which they deliver in a whip-like motion before feeding on the rotting corpse. They move by walking on their roots and seem unstoppable. The Triffids have no brains as such but possess collective intelligence, like bees or termites.

Perhaps the true genius of great science fiction is the ability to take the impossible or ludicrous and make it seem totally convincing and feasible. To some extent, The Day of the Triffids does just that. So readers with vivid imaginations will buy into the story more easily than others.

Now, suppose I told you that a real, living plant exists that is intent on world domination, you might, with good reason, think I was barking mad. The good news is that this plant does not possess any lethal toxins and does not feed on humans or other animals. The bad news is: although it cannot walk, the rate at which it spreads is frightening.

The plant I am referring to is Japanese knotweed, which has become the bane of many gardeners in the UK.  The plant, which is sometimes referred to as the silent assassin, can affect the value of a property. I am not joking. It may look innocuous, with its pretty white flowers in autumn but Japanese knotweed has an aggressive growth rate – its underground stems grow about a metre a month and can increase at the rate of 10 cm a day!  The stems have a knack of working their way into every nook and cranny. This can cause havoc, moving foundations or pushing up the ground from below.

When cracks appear in the tarmac or path surrounding your property, the plant takes root there to work its way under the house and into the foundations, causing a host of problems including structural damage and blocked drains.

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ludicrous (adj) – completely unreasonable, stupid, or wrong.
feasible (adj) – possible and likely to work.
buy into (v) – to believe something that a lot of other people believe
barking mad (idiom) – completely crazy or acting very strangely.
bane (n) – something that causes trouble or makes people unhappy.
innocuous (adj) – not offensive, dangerous, or harmful.
every nook and cranny (idiom) – every part of a place.

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