Ridding the park of Japanese knotweed

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BRATTLEBORO — Volunteers battled the invasive Japanese knotweed along the West River during a work session in the beating sun last week.

"The idea is to stress the plant by constantly cutting it during the drying season," said Town Planning Director Sue Fillion.

Fillion advised volunteers to cut at the stalk, not the root.

She said the project began last year. Pieces of Japanese knotweed were cut down in work sessions until around August, dried during the winter and burned about two weeks ago. The Brattleboro Conservation Commission plans to use pallets to build an enclosure so the plants do not spread before they go up in flames. Pallets will provide ventilation and help dry out the plants.

Commission member Drew Adam said Japanese knotweed would bury itself and resprout if pieces were just left on the ground after being cut.

"It is easy to cut — just a couple of hits and it's gone," he said. "Mechanical is the best but it certainly takes a long time."

Japanese knotweed is "an upright, shrublike, herbaceous perennial that can grow to over 10 feet in height," according to vtinvasives.org.

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"Stems of Japanese knotweed are smooth, stout and swollen at joints where the leaf meets the stem. Although leaf size may vary, they are normally about 6 inches long by 3 to 4 inches wide, broadly oval to somewhat triangular and pointed at the tip ... The minute greenish-white flowers occur in attractive, branched sprays in summer and are followed soon after by small winged fruits. Seeds are triangular, shiny, and very small, about 1/10 inch long."

Adam noted that the plant is not toxic to touch.

"When it's younger and tender, people can use it for baking," he said. "It's like asparagus."

Volunteers are being sought to help with removing the plant at the West River Park.

"As you can see, it's a lot," Fillion said. "And this is a popular swimming hole."

Families and teenagers were in the water and sitting along the banks.

Brattleboro Community Television won a Hometown Media Award in the Instructional and Training category from the national organization Alliance for Community Media this year for a series on Japanese knotweed hosted by commission member Jen Latham. The videos can be found at brattleborotv.org/brattleboro-conservation-commission.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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