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Concept: Japanese knotweed


Japanese knotweed s.l. are some of the most invasive plants in the world. Some genotypes are known to be tolerant to the saline concentrations found in salt marshes. Here we focus on tolerance to higher concentrations in order to assess whether the species are able to colonize and establish in highly stressful environments, or whether salt is an efficient management tool. In a first experiment, adult plants of Fallopia japonica, Fallopia × bohemica and Fallopia sachalinensis were grown under salt stress conditions by watering with saline concentrations of 6, 30, 120, or 300 g L(-1) for three weeks to assess the response of the plants to a spill of salt. At the two highest concentrations, their leaves withered and fell. There were no effects on the aboveground parts at the lowest concentrations. Belowground dry weight and number of buds were reduced from 30 and 120 g L(-1) of salt, respectively. In a second experiment, a single spraying of 120 g L(-1) of salt was applied to individuals of F. × bohemica and their stems were clipped to assess the response to a potential control method. 60 % of the plants regenerated. Regeneration was delayed by the salt treatment and shoot growth slowed down. This study establishes the tolerance of three Fallopia taxa to strong salt stress, with no obvious differences between taxa. Their salt tolerance could be an advantage in their ability to colonize polluted environments and to survive to spills of salt.

Concepts: Water, Chemistry, Plant stem, Extinction, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Stem vegetables


Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica is an extremely abundant invasive plant in Belgium and surrounding countries. To date, no eradication method is available for land managers facing the invasion of this rhizomatous plant. We tested different chemical herbicides with two application methods (spraying and stem injection), as well as mechanical treatments, on knotweed clones throughout southern Belgium. The tested control methods were selected to be potentially usable by managers, e.g., using legally accepted rates for herbicides. Stem volume, height and density reduction were assessed after one or two years, depending on the control method. Labor estimations were made for each control method. No tested control method completely eradicated the clones. Stem injection with glyphosate-based herbicide (3.6 kg ha(-1) of acid equivalent glyphosate) caused the most damage, i.e., no sprouting shoots were observed the year following the injection. The following year, though, stunted shoots appeared. Among the mechanical control methods, repeated cuts combined with native tree transplanting most appreciably reduced knotweed development. The most efficient methods we tested could curb knotweed invasion, but are not likely to be effective in eradicating the species. As such, they should be included in a more integrated restoration strategy, together with prevention and public awareness campaigns.

Concepts: English-language films, Plant stem, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Weed, Herbicide, Roundup


Using bioengineering techniques to restore areas invaded by Fallopia japonica shows promising results. Planting tree cuttings could allow both rapidly re-establishing a competitive native plant community and reducing F. japonica performance. However, F. japonica has been shown to affect native plant species through different mechanisms such as allelopathy. This article investigates the phytotoxic effect of F. japonica on the resprouting capacity and the growth of three Salicaceae species with potential value for restoration. An experimental design which physically separates donor pots containing either an individual from F. japonica or bare soil from target pots containing cuttings of Populus nigra, Salix atrocinerea or Salix viminali was used. Leachates from donor pots were used to water target pots. The effects of leachates were evaluated by measuring the final biomass of the cuttings. F. japonica leachates inhibited the growth of cuttings, and this effect is linked to the emission of polyphenol compounds by F. japonica. Leachates also induced changes in soil nitrogen composition. These results suggest the existence of allelopathic effects, direct and/or indirect, of F. japonica on the growth of Salicaceae species cuttings. However, the three species were not equally affected, suggesting that the choice of resistant species could be crucial for restoration success.

Concepts: Effect, Affect, Resveratrol, Willow, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Salicaceae


We propose a mathematical model for biocontrol of the invasive weed Fallopia japonica using one of its co-evolved natural enemies, the Japanese sap-sucking psyllid Aphalara itadori. This insect sucks the sap from the stems of the plant thereby weakening it. Its diet is highly specific to F. japonica. We consider a single isolated knotweed stand, the plant’s size being described by time-dependent variables for total stem and rhizome biomass. It is the larvae of A. itadori that damage the plant most, so the insect population is described in terms of variables for the numbers of larvae and adults, using a stage-structured modelling approach. The dynamics of the model depends mainly on a parameter h, which measures how long it takes for an insect to handle (digest) one unit of F. japonica stem biomass. If h is too large, then the model does not have a positive equilibrium and the plant biomass and insect numbers both grow together without bound, though at a lower rate than if the insects were absent. If h is sufficiently small, then the model possesses a positive equilibrium which appears to be locally stable. The results based on our model imply that satisfactory long-term control of the knotweed F. japonica using the insect A. itadori is only possible if the insect is able to consume and digest knotweed biomass sufficiently quickly; if it cannot, then the insect can only slow down the growth which is still unbounded.

Concepts: Insect, Hemiptera, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Invasive species, Weed, Polygonum


Concern has been expressed over societal losses of plant species identification skills. These losses have potential implications for engagement with conservation issues, gaining human wellbeing benefits from biodiversity (such as those resulting from nature-based recreational activities), and early warning of the spread of problematic species. However, understanding of the prevailing level of species identification skills, and of its key drivers, remains poor. Here, we explore socio-demographic factors influencing plant identification knowledge and ability to classify plants as native or non-native, employing a novel method of using real physical plants, rather than photographs or illustrations. We conducted face-to-face surveys at three different sites chosen to capture respondents with a range of socio-demographic circumstances, in Cornwall, UK. We found that survey participants correctly identified c.60% of common plant species, were significantly worse at naming non-native than native plants, and that less than 20% of people recognised Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica, which is a widespread high profile invasive non-native in the study region. Success at naming plants was higher if participants were female, a member of at least one environmental, conservation or gardening organisation, in an older age group (than the base category of 18-29 years), or a resident (rather than visitor) of the study area. Understanding patterns of variation in plant identification knowledge can inform the development of education and engagement strategies, for example, by targeting sectors of society where knowledge is lowest. Furthermore, greater understanding of general levels of identification of problematic invasive non-native plants can guide awareness and education campaigns to mitigate their impacts.

Concepts: Species, Plant, Fern, Plants, Extinction, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed


The expansion of invasive Japanese knotweed s.l. is of particular concern because of its aptitudes to rapidly colonize diverse environments, especially anthropized habitats generally characterized by their pollution with heavy metals. Whether the presence of heavy metals impacts the performance traits of this plant is a central question to better understand its invasive properties, though no controlled approach to assess these effects was yet reported. In this aim, we undertook greenhouse experiments where rhizome fragments of Japanese knotweed s.l. (Fallopia japonica and Fallopia × bohemica) were grown during 1 and 3 months, in a soil pot artificially polluted or not with heavy metals added in mixture (Cd, Cr, Pb, Zn). Our results showed that (i) the presence of heavy metals delayed rhizome regeneration and induced lowered plant part weights but did not affect plant height after 3 months; (ii) the effect of metals on the metabolic profiles of belowground part extracts was only detectable after 1 month and not after 3 months of growth, though it was possible to highlight the effect of metals independently of time and genotype for root extracts, and torosachrysone seemed to be the most induced compound; and (iii) the hybrid genotype tested was able to accumulate relatively high concentrations of metals, over or close to the highest reported ones for this plant for Cr, Cd and Zn, whereas Pb was not accumulated. These findings evidence that the presence of heavy metals in soil has a low impact on Fallopia sp. overall performance traits during rhizome regeneration, and has a rather stimulating effect on plant growth depending on pollution level.

Concepts: Toxicology, Root, Heavy metal music, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Vegetative reproduction, Bamboo


A longitudinal study was performed to evaluate the effects of Polygonum cuspidatum extract (standardized at 20% resveratrol) supplementation on healthy rats. The effects were explored by monitoring urinary metabolome changes using UPLC-HRMS and (1)H NMR-based approaches. The aim of the study was to explore the effects of P. cuspidatum supplementation on a healthy animal model using metabolomics, in order to determine possible modes of action and obtain information on bioactivity.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Sociology, Japanese knotweed


On-line elution based TLC-MS is now a well-established technique, but the quality of the data obtained can sometimes be hampered by a severe spectral background or by strong ion suppression, especially when silica gel plates are used in combination with an acidic modifier in the developing solvent. We solved this issue simply and efficiently using two pre-developments of the plates, firstly with methanol-formic acid (10:1, v/v) and secondly with acetonitrile-methanol (2:1, v/v). This solution resulted in significant improvement in the sensitivity of HPTLC-MS methods. The applicability of this approach was proven on analysis of flavan-3-ols and proanthocyanidins in crude extracts of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica Houtt.) rhizomes. Separations on HPTLC silica gel and HPTLC silica gel MS grade plates using developing solvents toluene-acetone-formic acid (3:3:1, 6:6:1, 3:6:1, v/v) and dichloromethane-acetone-formic acid (1:1:0.1, v/v) were followed by post-chromatographic derivatization with 4-dimethylaminocinnamaldehyde (DMACA) detection reagent. Examination of the stability of the analytes on the start confirmed that the plates should be developed immediately after the application of standards and sample test solutions. In a five hours stability testing after development we discovered an unexpected phenomenon of enhanced absorption at 280nm. However, based on an experiment with post-chromatographic derivatization with DMACA detection reagent, the analytes were proven to be sufficiently stable in the time frame of an HPTLC-MS analysis. This was important for development of the first HPTLC-MS and HPTLC-MS(n) methods for identification of flavan-3-ols and B-type proanthocyanidins from monomers up to decamers. For the first time, based on this research methodology, trimers, trimer gallates, tetramer gallates, pentamers, pentamer gallates, hexamers, hexamer gallates, heptamers, octamers, nonamers and decamers were tentatively identified in Japanese knotweed rhizomes. Additionally, all developed HPTLC-MS methods have enabled simultaneous identification of stilbenes (resveratrol, piceatannol hexoside, piceid) and anthraquinones (emodin, emodin-O-hexoside, emodin-O-(acetyl)-hexoside and emodin-O-(6'-O-malonyl)-hexoside).

Concepts: Ethanol, Chromatography, Resveratrol, Proanthocyanidin, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, -mer


The ascomycete fungus Mycosphaerella polygoni-cuspidati has been undergoing evaluation as a potential classical biological control agent for the invasive weed Fallopia japonica (Japanese knotweed), which has become troublesome in Europe and North America. In advance of the potential release of a biocontrol agent into a new environment, it is crucial to develop an effective monitoring system to enable the evaluation of agent establishment and dispersal within the target host population, as well as any potential attacks on non-target species. Therefore, a primer pair was designed for direct, rapid, and specific detection of the Japanese knotweed pathogen M. polygoni-cuspidati based on the sequences of the internal transcribed spacer regions including the 5.8S rDNA. A PCR product of approximately 298 bp was obtained only when the DNA extracted from mycelial fragments of M. polygoni-cuspidati was used. The lower limit of detection of the PCR method was 100 fg of genomic DNA. Using the specific primer pair, M. polygoni-cuspidati could be detected from both naturally and artificially infected Japanese knotweed plants. No amplification was observed for other Mycosphaerella spp. or fungal endophytes isolated from F. japonica. The designed primer pair is thus effective for the specific detection of M. polygoni-cuspidati in planta.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Polymerase chain reaction, Fungus, Biological pest control, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed


Resveratrol (RSV) was first isolated in 1940 from the roots of white hellebore (Veratrum grandiflorum (Maxim. ex Miq) O. Loes) and in 1963 from the roots of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum Siebold & Zucc.). These species have been used traditionally to treat arthritis, gout or inflammation. RSV (3,5,4-trihydroxystilbene) is a polyphenolic phytoalexin compound found in various plants, such as grape vines, berries, peanuts, seeds and roots; the highest concentration is in the skin of red grapes. This component of red wine has potent anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are currently used for pain amelioration in osteoarthritis (OA). In early degeneration of articular cartilage, which may lead to OA there is a loss of the tensile properties, indicative of damage to the fibrillar network. Damage to this fibrillar meshwork, made up of primarily collagen type II (90-95%), may be a critical event in the pathology of many arthritides, due in part to the very slow rate of collagen turnover within the cartilage. Collagen type II is the pre-dominant protein of the cartilage middle zone matrix mainly responsible for tensile strength of articular cartilage. The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of RSV on the expression of collagen type II from the superficial and middle zone chondrocytes of porcine articular cartilage.

Concepts: Collagen, Cartilage, Osteoarthritis, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, Anti-inflammatory, Resveratrol, Japanese knotweed