Middle Class Problems: When you complain about invasive species like Japanese knotweed, you start to sound a bit racist

Fallopia japonica has taken up residence on the canal towpath alongside Laura Whelan's house

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The Independent Online

The problems with invasive species, broadly speaking, are twofold. First, they come over here, all unruly and without any respect for our native ways. They use up resources, contribute nothing and lower property prices. The other problem is that when you complain about them, you can start to sound a bit racist.

A patch of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), bushy, purple-stemmed and cocky, has taken up residence on the canal towpath alongside my house. No one knows where it came from and no one wants to take responsibility for moving it on.

It's illegal just to chop it down and throw it in the recycling bin, because apparently it will only come back stronger, like some kind of bamboo Obi-Wan Kenobi. Its rhizomes are a controlled substance; you'd have to dress up in a hazmat suit just to do some gardening.

On the other hand, failing to control its spread is an Asbo-worthy offence. And it can grow 20cm a day in summer. That's Kylie's height in a week.

The government's advice is to attack the blighter with herbicide, which sounds fine until you realise that such a course of action means leaping into a black hole of Kafkaesque regulations, with tentacles that burrow deeper than the knotweed itself. You'll need a "certificate of competence for herbicide use", for starters. And don't forget to carry out a Control of Substances Hazardous to Health assessment.

Surely, I tell myself, there is a lesson here about acceptance. And about moving house with as little fanfare as possible.

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