Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed: reality, history, potentiality

THE JAPANESE KNOTWEED (Fallopia japonica) is one of the most hated invasive plants in Europe and North America. Many are the local and national campaigns and attempts to get rid of it. Municipalities and city councils perform numerous ways of controlling and eradicating the plant (varying from using chemical herbicides like glyphosate to mowing, soil covering, digging, and bizarrely enough, electrocuting); but to no avail. The plant regrows anew, and in some cases it comes back stronger than before. Like many other life forms, the plant has been used as a scapegoat for environmental problems mainly caused by climate change and (human activities) pollution. The media often depicts the Japanese knotweed as a “horror plant”, invasive, water thief, anti-nature, poison, hitchhiker, migrant, and uneconomic. This would only give a misleading image of the plant and highly influences the way people see and treat it: a monster which should be kept away by any means. It would also make one wonder about the behavioural nature of the plant and its physiology. Is Japanese knotweed really that bad? A question worth asking.

Artist Alaa Abu Asad does ongoing research on unwanted species, mainly known as invasive species. The research traces the violent, xenophobic speech used to describe the Japanese knotweed and its parallel plants in the language often used to describe human migrants—a language that reveals the current human condition. It also imagines alternative ways of living with these species via raising questions about (mass) production ethics and (exploitative) forms of economy.

The plant is edible and used in homemade remedies for lyme and other diseases. Its leaves, after being dried, are tea-drinkable. Its stems can grow up to 3 metres high fully covered with big green leaves, and in late summer / early autumn they turn into clusters of white flowers. The JK blossom attracts a lot of bees and other insects right before their winter dormant sleep. In winter, the plant dries out and dies, and its green stems transform into reddish hollow light bamboo-like sticks.


Alaa Abu Asad