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Thursday, June 06, 2019

It grows rapidly. It's nearly impossible to kill. It's terrorized England. And now it's all over my American backyard.


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It's been nearly four years since I bought hypodermic needles at a CVS, squatted in my backyard, and drew them full of glyphosate. I'd done my best to build a little garden in Brooklyn, only to see the ground begin to vanish beneath the fastest-growing plant I had ever seen. It sprouted in April with a pair of tiny, beet-red leaves between the flagstones, and poked up like asparagus through the mulch. By May the leaves were flat and green and bigger than my hands, and the stems as round as a silver dollar. My neighbor's yard provided a preview of what was coming my way: a grove as thick as a cornfield, 10 feet high, from the windows to the lot line. I had to kill the knotweed.

I tried a few different approaches: Yanking it out stalk by stalk was a sweaty, summer-long game of whack-a-mole -- a thankless full-time job. Then a friend and I spent one long night digging a 10-by-4-foot trench, lining it with black contractor bags, and refilling it with dirt. It looked like we were trying to bury something, and in a way we were: the knotweed rhizomes -- the plant's creeping rootstalks -- under our feet, searching for a ray of light.


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I had fire ants and this is just like them: a super-organism, highly evolved. Those things had mounds every five feet. I had to coordinate with my neighbors and Andro to stop it. The queen must have flown in from a few miles away,because they haven't returned.

We all high-five each other.

So if there's anything you want to know about fire ants, just ask.

#1 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2019-06-06 01:12 PM | Reply

Knotweed is tough and invasive. Knock on wood, I don't have any down here. What I do have is a native plant also spreading like wildfire and tough to kill: pokeweed. Spreads by rhysome AND seed.

#2 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2019-06-06 01:35 PM | Reply

Can't we just have marijuana?

#3 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2019-06-06 03:57 PM | Reply

Notice that both pokeweed and knotweed share similar red younger stems that transform to green - meaning these plants are possibly using both emersed and immersed morphologies simultaneously to capture multiple spectrum - no wonder they can survive years with no light. Both weed probably also have a distinct sickly aromatic.

Where are their insect predators? Don't beetle larvae live in and hunt around delicious root systems?

#4 | Posted by redlightrobot at 2019-06-06 04:46 PM | Reply

#4 Pokeweed is native, so I imagine their natural predators are as well.

#5 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2019-06-06 07:55 PM | Reply

#4 Pokeweed is native, so I imagine their natural predators are as well.
#5 | POSTED BY MUSTANG AT 2019-06-06 07:55

Yes, plants tend to kill each others roots faster than other predation. What releases phenolics that ------ pokeweed?

#6 | Posted by redlightrobot at 2019-06-06 10:34 PM | Reply

#4 | Posted by redlightrobot

"Where are their insect predators?"

I'm pretty sure they are all dead by now.

#7 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2019-06-07 01:48 AM | Reply

#7 | Posted by HeliumRat Na, we actually imported a predator from SA to deal with fire ants, There numbers have decreased a lot. Fire ants are from South America. The wasps that destroy fire ants are tiny, almost microscopic. We had a problem with salt ceder, imported a blight from France. Polk is just part of the background, it is native. Several insects can feed on it. Knot grass wouldn't survive around here, too hot and dry.

#8 | Posted by docnjo at 2019-06-08 10:45 PM | Reply

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