A recent essay, Japanese Knotweed on the Causeway Coast, County Antrim, by Linda Stewart on the ever-excellent NALIL site drew attention to a real problem with the local environment. An earlier piece, also by Stewart in the BelTel, had somehow slipped past Malcolm’s notice.
Anyone who has encountered Japanese knotweed knows it is a right bastard, and can be a very expensive enemy. Take the Royal Horticultural Society’s word on that:
Although rather attractive, Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is a real thug as it spreads rapidly. In winter the plant dies back beneath ground but by early summer the bamboo-like stems shoot to over 2.1m (7ft), suppressing all other growth. Eradication requires steely determination as it is very hard to remove by hand or with chemicals.
The Great White Hope, announced just before the last General Election, was going to be Aphalara itadori, a plant louse which — literally — saps the strength of the plant. The “itadori” (Japanese, apparently, for “pain-remover”) is the native name of the plant, so this louse might seem to be species specific — though, knowing the luck of the average agronomist, once imported and having seen off the knotweed, our creepy-crawly former friends are as likely to turn to proper crops.
Whether the ConDem government has a knotweed policy is not clear from the ever-elastic Coalition Agreement.
Anyway, good luck to the folk of North Antrim. As we go into the ever-exciting “marching season”, it must be nice to have something really important for them to be worried about.
In the shrubbery of Staten Island (that’s the fifth borough of New York City that gets largely forgotten, and known to tourists only from the free sight-seeing trip on the ferry) something is stirring.
There the problem is phragmites. Malcolm reckons that means the common reed, and wonders what is the difficulty. It seems that an alien variant (Phragmites australis) has displaced the native species across much of North America.
However, the brave souls of the New York parks department are introducing a secret weapon: a score of Nubian goats.
The Staten Island site, the developing Freshkills Park (actually a series of interconnecting open spaces), is interesting for a couple of reasons. It is the biggest reclamation and land-improvement undertaken by the City for decades. Much of the site historically was New York City’s trash-heap, and — almost immediately after it was formally closed — part became the dumping ground for a couple of million tons of debris and waste from the World Trade Centre.
A Malcolmian aside
Fresh Kills is nothing murderous in itself. There are quite a few “kills” in and around what used to be Nieuw-Amsterdam, and the word derives from the Middle Dutch “kille”, meaning water-course or creek.
Fresh Kills, though, provided huge reserves of New Yorker wit, mainly because of the quantity of garbage that was carried there. Towards the end of its life, the tip was many metres taller than the Statue of Liberty, and was cited as the only rubbish heap visible from space.
For several years Kim and Scott Myles up in Astoria, Queens, ran a cottage industry, making “5 Boroughs Ice-Cream”. The gimmick was the naming: “rich white vanilla” was Upper East Side, chocolate was South Bronx Cha-Cha, and so on. The crunch came with Staten Island Landfill (brownie, fudge and cherry dumped together). This offended so much that a sticker had to be added to the packaging. Irony doesn’t work in the States.
The brand died, and the Myles menage debunked to the West Coast.
If all that’s anyway”interesting”, what is amazing is one sentence from that New York Times piece:
The cost of renting the goats from Larry Cihanek of Rhinebeck, N.Y., is $20,625 for the six weeks.
That $172, a bit over £100, per goat, per week.
Put that costing to the Northern Irish Department of the Environment and they’d be all fouled up like Hogan’s goat.