Japanese knotweed? What IS that? And how could the bamboo-like plant with the nice white flowers be so bad?
There it was, looking all innocent and lovely, growing profusely around the Brightwood Park parking lot. It looked blameless to me, and kind of pretty, besides.
Then I learned about its somewhat alarming habits.
Phil Round, one of Friends of Brightwood Park's resident experts, summed it up to our group of volunteers, gathered for the cleanup at the park on this bright sunshiny morning. I also looked it up on Google:
- Japenese knotweed is native to East Asia
- Some lenders will decline all mortgage applications for properties where knotweed is present
- It is classified as an aggressive, destructive and invasive pest
- It spreads rapidly, forming dense thickets, crowding out and shading out native vegetation, reducing species diversity
- There is very little other growth underneath it, so the bare soil is susceptible to erosion
OK, OK, I was convinced. A thoroughly bad actor. But it was, maybe, 10 or 15 feet tall! And besides, there was so incredibly much of it! What exactly were we going to do about this thing?
It turns out that cutting knotweed is not difficult. Your lopper or shears cut right through the hollow stem. Problem is there are so many stems. So MANY millions of stems! And then you HAVE to drag the long stems into a pile in the parking lot for the Dept. of Public Works to cart away.
Actually, well, you DON'T really have to do any of this... No cutting. No dragging.
But for some reason, our band of volunteers was committed to doing it.
As we were hacking and slicing, cutting, whacking and dragging, I pondered this: here is a group of people who presumably have other things to do on a beautiful Saturday morning. And yet, here we are, young and old, in our old jeans and garden gloves, slick with sweat and bug spray, working like our lives depend on it.
Did our lives depend on it? Assuredly, no. But our way of life does.
It's a way of life that values something precious: a nature preserve that belongs to us all. A place like no other in Westfield. A place that our children can enjoy because we worked hard on it.
A place that needs us now.
John Linderman, Tom Mann, Nicole Chartrain, Denise Ricci