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Legal Loopholes & Japanese Knotweed

Any homeowners who have not heard about Japanese Knotweed yet are likely to have been living under a rock.

This invasive plant from Japan has been the scourge of property sellers, land surveyors and construction workers for years now and it’s now making life incredibly difficult for homeowners who are looking to sell their properties. Although it’s caused numerous headaches for people all over the UK, the plant and its history is fascinating nonetheless and is a valuable lesson in what can happen when you take an organism away from its natural habitat.

Where did it come from?

Victorian horticulturists from Britain discovered Japanese knotweed in its native land and admired its resilience. The plant seemed to be able to grow in the most adverse conditions, including amongst the ashes of a recent volcanic eruption. These travelling gardeners were impressed with the structural capabilities of this bamboo-like plant and thought that it would be useful to Britain’s burgeoning Industrial Revolution. After bringing a handful of specimens back from Japan, cuttings of the plant were distributed throughout the country and the plant was soon put to work shoring up the sides of canal banks and railways lines across the UK. Nearly a century later and the plant has multiplied exponentially, becoming a problem for homeowners in the process.

How do you recognise it?

The plant is very similar in appearance to bamboo during the summer when it’s most visible, however early on in its life cycle it looks more like asparagus. Your best chance of correctly identifying Japanese knotweed is by taking a look at its leaves during the summer season.

These green, shield-shaped leaves are a distinctive shape and also feature alternating stems. During the winter, the large bamboo shoots die back, leaving light brown canes. The plant may look dead at this time of the year, but its root system is very much alive and kicking underground.

What can you do about it?

Finding a Japanese knotweed infestation on your land is never a good thing, but the worst thing that you can do is ignore it. The most important thing to ascertain is how bad your problem is and where it has come from. Japanese knotweed does not simply spring out of the ground for no reason and it’s likely that the plant has entered your land from a neighbouring property. If this is the case then you may able to claim for compensation from whoever has allowed the plant to grow onto your land. However, if the infestation is not someone else’s fault then you will have to foot the bill for removing the plant.

How does the law treat Japanese knotweed?

There are a handful of laws that set out how the government treats Japanese knotweed which has lead to the complex legal implications that now exist for homeowners unfortunate enough to discover the plant on their land. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal for anyone to plant or cause to grow Japanese knotweed. This offence can include those who unwittingly transport soil which has fragments of the plant in, or those who negligently disperse it on another’s land.

There are also legal protections in place for landowners who want to protect their property from a neighbouring invasion. Police and local council authorities can issue Community Protection Notices to landowners negligently harbouring the plant. If this all sounds a bit complicated, then don’t worry as there are plenty of legal firms who are stepping up to offer aid to those seeking legal help with Japanese knotweed.

Can I sell my home with Japanese knotweed?

The question that many homeowners will want answering, unfortunately there is no simple answer to this. Unless you want to be hit with a compensation claim down the line, it’s in your best interest to be honest. Japanese knotweed can cut the value of a home down by up to 10%, so it’s important to get a good survey of any property before you make a purchase in order to ensure that you don’t walk right into an infestation.

Biology News Round-Up 14/11/17

This week, Jason has been scouring the world’s biology news in order to find the wildest, weirdest plant news.

Whilst Nastiya and Pam have been away for the last few months, the team has been meeting together online in order to keep the various projects moving along. Pam’s work in China has come to a head with some real progress made in the realms of power converters and Nastiya has likewise been aiding her own countrymen by finding new ways to cultivate hardier potatoes, so that they can find a way of pushing through Winter without the usual famines.

In the news this week, super-charged tomatoes have been harvested in far-flung Hong Kong, truffles are successfully bred in Wales and Uganda takes an important step towards GM foods.

The Super-Tomato has been found and it’s from Hong Kong

Plant scientists at the University of Hong Kong have successfully bred what can only be described as a super-tomato. A research group working within the School of Biological Sciences has found a new method of simultaneously boosting the levels of several health-promoting properties of an otherwise tomato. By manipulating certain isoprenoid pathways within the transgenic tomatoes, these canny scientists discovered that inserting a certain strand of DNA (originally found in Indian Mustard – a plant used to make vegetable oil) led to a drastic increase in Vitamin E (494%) and provitamin A (169%).

Professor Chye Mee-len, leader of the team, said: ‘The accumulation of the healthy components in food crops would provide added-value to fruits and vegetables in the human diet, as well as enrich feed for livestock and aquaculture.’

Rare truffle species cultivated in chilly Wales

The demand for truffle has been growing exponentially over the last few years, with the current worth of the ingredient estimated at being around £1,700 per kilogram. The plant usually grows in warm climates and is notoriously tricky to cultivate even when in its natural habitat – that hasn’t stopped Dr Paul Thomas of the University of Stirling spending nearly 10 years to cultivate a Perigord black truffle in Wales, the furthest North that this species has been discovered.

The truffle was harvested from the root system of a Mediterranean oak planted in 2008 that was treated to encourage truffle production. By reducing the level of acidity in the surrounding soil, these scientists were able to mimic the growing conditions of the truffle’s natural Mediterranean clime.

Uganda takes important step towards ending food drought

Uganda has been taking the first tentative steps towards growing and developing their own GM crops that could see the food problems in the country being eradicated for good. This week, bills have been passed in the Ugandan government allowing companies to undertake large-scale tests which should pave the way for the commercial release of genetically modified foods.

Progress in this field has been blocked in recent years by critics who have suggested that the country’s food security could be compromised if foreign companies are allowed to experiment on home soil, however these fears have been counteracted by Science minister Elioda Tumwesigye who has stated that a seed bank can be opened to protect the nation’s indigenous species.

5 Post-Truth ‘Life-Hacks’

[And a real solution to the problem…]

It’s official, the international Word of the Year is: ‘post-truth’.

Arguably grimmer than last year’s ‘smiling with tears of joy’ emoji, ‘post-truth’ nonetheless neatly summarises a year in which thousands have been willingly misled by lies in the media, represented as fact.


Although most commentators have jumped on the recent election race in America for context for this particular (Britain’s exit from the EU was another good example of ‘post-truths’ skewing public opinion), this kind of things has been going on for much longer on the internet. 

This week, we’re going to be debunking some less harmful forms of ‘post-truths’. Life-hacks, in the form of memes, have been proliferate for the past 10 years. They are the 21st century ‘urban myth’;  baseless classroom rumours which serve little purpose, other than to waste the user’s time.

Here are 4 Post-Truth ‘Life-Hacks’ along with a better solution to the problem:

Use a Dishwasher Tablet To Clean Your Oven

A contributor known as ‘Wittery Twittery’ reported this hack on Mumsnet in September this year:


Although she denies coming up with the idea herself, commentators were quick to assert that this did not work. Cleaning your oven is something that should be done at least once a year. High temperatures and food with high-contents of fat will often cause a thick crust of grease to form all over the sides, requiring some serious elbow grease or some caustic cleaning chemicals to cut through.

In case your curious as to whether this will work – stop. Wetting a dishwasher tablet will lead to tablet breaking up in your hand. Attempting to scrub a dirty oven with a dishwasher tablet will result in the aforementioned tablet crumbling into nothing as it’s too small to grip and has zero-structural integrity.

You may feel like attempting a cheap, quick solution is the best option – but it’s not. Just call an oven cleaning professional, they can come out once a year – charge a small fee – and get the job done better than you ever could have hoped to.

Urinate on jellyfish stings to reduce the pain

Other than this being kind of disgusting (where exactly are you meant to be doing this, anyway, just on the beach?), it will also not work.

The cells that cause pain from jellyfish stings, called nematocysts, are more likely to release more poison if you and you’ll also smell of urine. Swimming in the seas around Australia, South East Asia and Americas comes with the problems of rising jelly fish populations. They can vary greatly in the amount of physical pain they cause (certain species can even kill), but this much used wives’ tale will not help you.

The current consensus is currently being shared in a variety of graphics (see below) – the most important tip to remember is to avoid touching the stings with your hands – this will just lead to your hands being stung as well.


Take a used loo roll and make a cheap iPhone speaker

Nope. This is perhaps one of the dumbest ideas, perpetuated by many sources and emulated by eager beavers looking to ‘bring the party’ to their next camping trip.


Modern smart phones are designed to project music as best as they can – people are paid very well to get the job done as best as they can – to think that something as simple as a cut up loo roll will improve on their work, is foolish. And before you consider trying any different configurations, just don’t. Most smartphones project music through their bottom – planting them in a loo roll will only serve to block the sound waves from reaching your ears easier.

If you’d like to amplify your music, just buy a good speaker.

Wooden Spoon Boiling Over

There is some grounding for this much shared meme:


Essentially, the science is sound. The idea is that the bubbles of hot water, being made of hot water, will burst on impact with a colder surface (such as the wooden spoon).

This hack will work to a certain extent – if you simmer your water instead of boiling hard, the spoon will do it’s job. Turn the heat up, however, and you’ll soon find your wooden spoon being hopelessly ineffective – simply because the spoon will eventually rise to the same heat as the water.

This hack was created to stop pasta water, especially, from boiling over and covering the hob surface in starchy water. A great way to avoid this is simply simmering your pasta, instead of boiling it like an idiot.

As the amended adage goes: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Biology News Round-Up 21/11/16

This month Jason takes control of the News Round-up – reporting on all the plant-based revelations that have been occurring in the last week or so, including: Helpful lichen pointing to climate change, Marijuana breaking hearts and how a bag of salad could make you very ill…

Genetic Modification Successfully Boosts Photosynthesis

You may have thought that improving the efficiency of the photosynthesis process in plants would be the first thing on any scientist’s agenda, however, this groundbreaking step forward in plant production has only just been made by a research team at the University of Illinois. Targeting the tobacco plant’s light sheltering process, called nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ), Dr. Stephen Long and his team successfully recorded a 20% increase in yield – quite the feat!

Graphic by Julie McMahon

Graphic by Julie McMahon

Although the American team is yet to test this process on a food stuff, such as corn, it’s already been suggested that the knowledge learned here could be applied to the problem of world hunger (an issue which is predicted to worsen within the next 30 years). On the back of this success, Long and his team have now been offered funding from the Gates Foundation – allowing them to begin work on major staple foods such as soy beans, rice and cassava.

Sensitive Lichens Are Blowing Whistle On Climate Change

ScienceNews, this week, have a wonderful article well worth reading on how ecologists are studying the biological states of various species of lichens, around forests in Portland. There are hundreds of species of lichens stuck to the trees, rocks and undergrowth of the Forests in the US; biologists around the country are just starting to notice the correlation between their health and the air-quality of the environment they live in.


Photo from

Linda Geiser makes regular trips into the Forests of Portland. As manager of the Forestry Service’s air-quality program, she records the state of particular species of lichen that are known to visibly show signs of deterioration when introduced to pollution. It’s hoped that by continually studying and recording the state of these parks, the Forestry Service will be able to build up a history of the air-quality in their 193 million acres.

Smoking Marijuana Could Break Your Heart

Although cannabis has recently seen wide-spread decriminalisation in many American States, such as Massachusetts and Washington, there is still a lot we’re yet to learn about the long term effects of smoking it. In a recent study, conducted in part by scientists from St. Luke’s University in Pennsylvania, it was found that cases of stress cardiomyopathy (or ‘broken heart syndrome’ as it’s otherwise known) were much higher in cannabis users, compared to those that choose not to partake.


Presenting his findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, Dr Sing stressed that if you are a regular marijuana smoker and are developing symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, then you should visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Salmonella enterica Loves Pre-Cut Salad

The University of Leicester has discovered that ‘small amounts of damage’ to salad leaves, such as you would find in a pre-cut bag of salad at a supermarket, offer ideal conditions for the growth of salmonella enterica. Exposure to this microbe can cause severe food poisoning to the unlucky victim – lumping them with 12-72 hours worth of vomiting and diarrhoea.


Research published in November’s edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology has shown that liquid, trapped with salad leaves in plastic bags, is an ideal home for microbes to multiply – with Salmonella bacteria multiplying from 100 to 100,000 in the space of five-days (the usual refrigeration time for salad products).

Maybe just buy and cut your own salad from now on?

October Progress Report

A busy month for us here as Pamela was back in China, lobbying for the use of new Power Converters in domestic households. Jason was getting to grips with his new Research Team and Nastiya had her hands full with a new strain of plant DNA from Africa.

Power Converters for Beijing

“China has a bad reputation throughout the Western world for being one of the largest contributors to global pollution – with it’s CO2 emissions estimated at being over twice that of the United States and three times as much as the entire European Union put together. This has been the case for some time but, instead of the Chinese authorities looking at the figures as a catalyst for change, it has simply become a fact to be stated. Despite pressure from the international community, it appears like the problem is not going to cease any time soon.


Last month, I travelled back to my home city of Beijing to speak to my family, old colleagues and research partners about trying to empower change in behavioural patterns – for the sake of the planet’s well being. The main thrust of my argument centred around the use of AC/DC Power supplies, when approaching domestic power consumption. Instead of relying on wasteful chemicals and petroleum to supply energy, I hoped to start a grass-roots movements that would ignite a passion for the environment amongst the local communities. Only time will tell if these communities will embrace change and start having a positive impact on their environment.”

New Research Fellows Cause Headaches

“We’re a relatively small team here at AVP – but we have grand ideas, so we often need to enlist help to ensure that we have half a chance of executing them. Luckily we’re based in the centre of Liverpool’s Academic Hub – just a stone’s throw away from thousands of well-trained science students, just itching to get some professional experience on their portfolios. Thanks to our connections with the local Science Departments, we were able to stick up a few flyers, so pretty soon our phone was off the hook with excitable students looking for work.


This is my first year in charge of students – I mistakenly thought it was going to be a cake-walk. I know now that it is immeasurably easier looking out for ‘number one’ compared to watching out for a handful of other underlings. The new team are wonderfully enthusiastic, but equally chaotic to have around. The equipment we use here is expensive and I’ve already lost count of the amount of test tubes that have been shattered. It’s going to be an interesting few months, bring on Christmas!

Tree Tumbo DNA Is Bizarre

“I’ve recently had a massive batch of welwitschia DNA sent through from our partner trust in Angola. Although it’s the only species in it’s genus, it’s a relatively safe species as the large majority of it’s population is confined to the Namib desert, which is spotted with land mines that keeps collectors at bay. Unfortunately, it also makes for a tricky specimen for scientists to study. Luckily, we have local knowledge in the area that gives us the edge over the dangerous terrain and allows us to study this fascinating plant.


The Tree Tumbo is a bizarre plant, with some specimens being recorded as being over 1’000 years old. The leaves that it grows are permanent, conserving the scarce water that can be found in the desert and converting it into giant receivers for the plentiful sunshine that beam down for nearly 13 hours a day.

We’ll try and keep you guys updated with as much as possible, but November’s looking to be one of our busiest yet!

Biology News Round-Up 17/11/16

Nastiya brings together all the interesting Plant-related news items from the last few weeks, give us a shout if you’ve found out anything and we’ll feature it in next week’s post!

Brand New Worm Discovered!

Stop the press! It turns out that there’s still hope for those budding scientists looking to mark their place in history by discovering a new species of the natural world – and it turns out you don’t have to travel half the world away to do it either. Elaine Roll, a science technician working at Cornwall College Newquay, discovered this adorable new species of flatworm in her very own backgarden whilst hunting for slugs for a practical lesson.


After members of her class brought the interesting specimen to her during a lesson, Elaine struggled to find a record for it anywhere online. After sending the little fellow off to Dr. Hugh Jones of the University of Manchester, the good news was returned that this was indeed a newly discovered creature. Marionfyfea adventor was successfully identified and shows that the next discovery could be just a potter in the back garden away! The full story can be found here…

Nanobionic Spinach Is Newest Threat To Terror

Watch out ISIS, there’s a new combatant to your troublesome antics and it comes in a form that you might not expect. No longer content with being the ‘superfood’ that is the bane of every child’s dinner, Spinach has arisen to become the next step in anti-terror measures. Scientists at MIT have been working on a new kind of science that they’ve branded ‘plant nanobionics’. The melding of plant matter with microscopic engineering electronic systems has granted spinach with ability to detect explosives and relay this information wirelessly to devices similar to a smartphone.

Although the physical applications of this technology might well be a long way off, this stands as the first important step in the process of fusing plant life with electronics – watch this space.

Age old answer to question: Do Vegetarians Live Longer?

It’s something that’s been argued for a long time – with the rise of Raw foods and the fashionable nature of Veganism – the question of whether it really is healthier to avoid meat all together may have finally been answered by Dr. Brown from Aston University, Birmingham. He’s been conducting long term research into the effect that meat eating has one the longevity of the average human’s life. Although he’s spent a long time compiling data from the dozens of research studies that have been conducted over the years – his advice does still come with a proviso.


Although his findings point towards a meat-free lifestyle improving life-span, Dr. Brown is very eager to press the point that there are dozens of other factors that also effect this. Environmental as well as genetic affects can vary wildly so, although it might be a smart move to cut down on the steaks, it won’t necessarily stop you from developing another disease that seriously shortens your life. His article for is well worth a read for more information.

Bio-Mass Research For Beijing

A Brand New Project Is Underway!

Since returning from her trip to Beijing, Dr. Ming has been intensely researching different avenues of energy sources that have the potential to be shipped to her home country of China. Now, with some funding from some local investors, we have the time and resources to start doing some research!

The Idea

In the next month, alongside the work that Dr. Ming has already conducted in the realms of AC/DC Power Converters, we are hoping to present important business and political forces in China with alternatives to the wasteful energy production methods that they are currently using. After taking a wide look at the state of energy production as it stands today, we’ve narrowed our options down to three possible resources. Over the course of the next month, we are hoping to rigorously test each method of energy production, so that Dr. Ming can return to Beijing with a selection of options for local communities to embrace

These are the 3 options that we are hoping to explore:

Gas From Landfills

Waste disposal is a huge issue in Beijing, with 45,000 cubic metres of garbage accumulating in the surrounding villages over the past few years. More than a thousand unauthorised dumps have sprung up in the areas outside the capital in recent years, leading to serious health risks as a result of water and soil pollution. Although the Chinese government began combating the increasing amount of urban waste in the 90s, they have been unable to keep up with the demand that the growing city population has created.


Although standardised landfills were initially built at a quick rate, this has slowed down in recent years – leading to unofficial dumps popping up. One of our ideas is to harness the natural methane gases that are produced by the waste here and re-purpose them into energy that can help local communities, rather than hinder them. 


Although China’s CO2 emissions have been recorded as the highest produced by any other country (three times as much as the entire European Union!), in order to decrease this we may well need to look into producing more in the short term – another way of dealing with Beijing’s rising mounds of refuse could be to burn it. Many countries have found that processing their burnable waste for fuel has been an effective measure in producing energy, as well as getting rid of excess waste.


The environmental effects of simply burning waste obviously needs to be investigated. We’re hoping to collect varying kinds of rubbish from the local council authorities and burn these using different methods – to see if incineration of refuse could be the way forward for China’s pollution problem. 

Wood Production and Burning

Lastly, the burning of wood – although evidently archaic – might just be the step backward that could bump down China’s pollutant heavy energy production methods. The use of Short Coppice Rotation methods have been used (and subsidised) for a long time in the UK. Willow trees can be grown in a relatively short space of time and can yield a high amount of energy, once processed and burned.


There’s been plenty of research put into the growing of Willow trees in the UK – what we’re interested in is the environmental impact of burning these wood pellets (which we’ll source from as well as the species of trees that could possible be cultivated in Beijing’s surrounding villages.

We’ll be pooling resources from all over the World for this project, but it’s something that we know Dr. Ming has a big passion for – let’s hope we can give Beijing the answer to renewable energy that is so desperately needs!

5 of the World’s Scariest Plants

Plants can be just  as scary as anything else Mother Nature can throw at us…

Here are 5 of the World’s Most Monstrous Plants that you should definitely avoid this Halloween:

The Vampire Vine

This particular species of the Cuscata vine has the positively vampiric skill of sniffing out and sucking the nutrients out of nearby plants. Soy beans, coffee beans and grape vines are all at risk of these vicious vines (which are closely related to the much friendlier Morning Glory). However, there is one pant that has figured out a way to stop the Cuscata in it’s tracks. The C. reflexa Tomato plant, from Asia, has the uncanny skill of reflexively forming an impenetrable scan, preventing the cuscata from penetrating with his sharp fangs.


Find out more about the ‘Vampire Vine’ here at

The Venus Fly Trap

A long used trope in the realms of video games and science-fiction movies alike, Dionaea muscipulae may only be able to grow up to 15cm tall, but their 3cm wide mouths still have the potential to swallow up and digest all manner of insect-life. Each leaf of this killer-plant has two primary regions. The ‘leaf-base’ functions like most other plant leave, carrying out photosynthesis so that the plant can continue to grow and the ‘lamina’ that composes the trap itself. Within each trap lies between two or five ‘trigger hairs’ which, if touched, cause the trap to shut tight – trapping any unfortunate insect souls inside.


Discover more about the Venus Fly Trap here at

Carrion Flowers

The Carrion Flower is both disgusting by name and by nature. Strictly speaking, the term applies to any plant that gives off the scent of rotting flesh or death. The most horrific example of this would have to be the Amorphophallus titanum – it’s Greek name is derived from the words ‘giant misshapen phallus’ – rather on the nose, but succinct nonetheless. They can weigh up to 50kg, although there have been some specimens known to grow to almost twice that weight. Why does it smell so bad, you ask? The smell of rotting has long been something that pollinators find attractive – mistaking the carrion flower for a dead animal, carrion beetles and flesh flies do all the hard work for the plant – using them to lay eggs in their flesh.


National Geographic has the scoop on Carrion Flowers here…


The Rafflesia is a peculiar creature. Strictly parasitic by nature, it has no stems, leaves or even roots. Grabbing hold of any vine that it can find in it’s indigenous home of the Southeastern Asia rain forests, there are 28 species of these strange creatures that are often confused with aforementioned Carrion Flower, Amorphophallus titanum. The titanum is often referred to as being the largest flower – leaving the unsung hero, the Rafflesia, out in the cold. Unknown to many, the Rafflesia has largest single flower of any plant. It’s large, bulbous and grotesque – but it’s also a record-breaker.


Kew Garden’s fact sheet on the Rafflesia has all the knowledge on these guys.

Tree tumbo

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the Welwitschia is some kind of washed up piece of seaweed, if it weren’t for the fact that it only grown in the Namib desert, within Namibia and Angola. Often referred to as a ‘living fossil’ it is the only living genus within it’s family making it a uniquely sad plant. Named after it’s discoverer Friedrich Welwitsch – upon finding the plant he was said to have knelt by it in disbelief, fearing that it was a a figment of his imagination. If only that were so. The leaves that grow on this plant are permanent, giving it a dead-like look.

tree-tumbo has the scoop on this endangered plant right here.