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Plants That Can Damage Your Property

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by

8th Sep 2021 (Last updated on 15th Aug 2022) 8 minute read

The main invasive plants that can damage your property are:

  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Horsetail
  • Bamboo
  • Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees
  • Lime and Pine trees
  • English and Common Ivy

The main goal of any property survey is to highlight issues that will affect a property and its overall value. If you’re concerned about any plants that could damage your property, it would be wise to compare surveyors and have a property survey conducted.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Japanese Knotweed
  2. Horsetail
  3. Bamboo
  4. Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees
  5. Lime and Pine Trees
  6. English and Common Ivy
  7. Why Do You Need a Property Survey?
  8. Learn More About Surveying

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed or Reynoutria japonica can grow as fast as 10cm a day. It’s capable of exploiting cracks in concrete, foundations, walls and drains. You must legally disclose whether your property is “affected” by knotweed when you come to sell.

Whilst you’re under no legal obligation to remove Japanese knotweed, you could face fines of up to £5,000. You could also face up to 2 years in prison if you allow contaminated soil or plant material to spread into the wild.

If you allow knotweed to spread across your property’s boundary, neighbours can also file a civil lawsuit. That is if the weed can be sourced back to your garden.

Identifying and Removing Japanese Knotweed

The plant can be identified by its white flowers and bamboo-like stems which grow as high as 3m in the summer. It also has zigzag-shaped and purple speckled stems.

How to Remove Japanese Knotweed

As it can survive from any root size, a complete removal is necessary. A specialist contractor is required as Japanese knotweed is controlled by the UK government. All parts of the plant and any contaminated soil are classified as controlled waste and must be removed in the correct manner.

If you’re looking to prevent any initial signs of Japanese knotweed, Environet recommends the following:

  • Physical Removal - Excavation and removal of the underground root and rhizome system. This is a permanent solution.
  • Herbicide Treatment - This treatment will help control the knotweed and is less effective on mature rhizomes.
  • Combination Methods - The recommended solution is to combine a physical removal and herbicide treatment.

Japanese Knotweed Detection Dogs

If you're buying a house with Japanese knotweed, you should get an assessment carried out by a specialist. It’s not always easy to tell if knotweed is present, especially during the winter months.

To tackle that problem, Environet UK has trained a team of Japanese knotweed detection dogs to identify the unique scent of Japanese knotweed rhizomes, even in small quantities hidden beneath the ground. The dogs can cover a garden in a matter of minutes and will freeze when knotweed is detected. This is the most accurate method available and can be carried out at any time of year.

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Horsetail

Horsetail or Equisetum Arvense is a native perennial weed with an underground stem structure. This structure is called a rhizome system which can travel as deep as 2m below the surface, affecting a property’s foundations.

Not only can this invasive plant spread by spore dispersal, but it can spread through its rhizome growth as well. It often appears in driveways and footpaths.

Identifying Horsetail

Horsetails can reach up to 60cm in height. In summer and autumn, it is light green whilst in spring it turns brown. It has fir tree-like shoots with folded needle-like leaves that are rough to the touch due to its natural hard casing.

In spring, the plant has a cone-like structure at the end of the stems, which can produce over 100,000 spores. It will die off completely in the winter.

How to Remove Horsetails

You will need a professional to remove the Horsetail as the plant must be dug out entirely. Its underground structure makes it very difficult to remove, which is why an expert is advised.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a species that can be invasive if left unchecked. Certain varieties can extend up to 30ft below ground and can cross boundaries, potentially causing disputes with neighbours.

Identifying and Removing Bamboo

The 2 main types of bamboo are "clumping" and "running", with running bamboo being the most problematic. The main way to identify bamboo is by its thick stems, officially known as culms, and the plant's multiple joining nodes.

How to Remove Bamboo

Bamboo is difficult to contain and impossible to kill with herbicide. The recommended method of removal is the energy depletion method.

You'll have to cut the canes down to ground level prior to the arrival of new leaves and repeat this process for many years. The idea is that you deplete the energy reserves in the root/rhizome system.

For an easier fix, hire a professional to remove the bamboo. Professional services can be costly, with quotes up to £1,750.

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Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees

Oak, willow and poplar trees can cause subsidence, structural damage and blocked drains. Much like Japanese knotweed, tree roots can exploit cracks in concrete and can even affect amenity use. Buildings up to 4 storeys, built before the 1950s, are most at risk of subsidence caused by tree roots due to their shallow foundations.

Trees can dry the soil out in the surrounding area in both spring and summer, potentially causing ground shrinkage and subsidence. If the subsidence becomes too dangerous, the only likely solution is underpinning which is expensive.

Oak trees further than 30m from your property are more than likely within a safe distance and won't affect your home. However, it's important to check with a professional.

Identifying and Removing Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees

Oak tree leaves are often lobed and symmetrical with acorns. Oak trees will also have a thick trunk, scaly bark and will be up to 21m in height.

Willow trees often grow near water and have distinctive narrow leaves that are usually between 5-15cm long.

There are more than 25 species of poplar, which grow in a variety of different ways. The most common poplar tree is cottonwood, which grows tall and thin and can often be used to create hedgerows. Cottonwood trees can reach a height of 100 feet with a thick trunk but uneven and weak branches.

How to Remove Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees

To remove the tree, you’ll most likely have to hire a tree surgeon who will safely kill the roots using a specialist fluid. If you are unsure about whether your tree might be an issue, a property surveyor will usually pick up on any cause for concern.

Lime and Pine Trees

Lime and pine trees are notorious for secreting sap. If this residue falls on your property, it can damage the paintwork and become a safety risk on patios.

The roots can also cause subsidence. However, if a lime tree is further than 20m from your property, it may be within a safe distance.

Identifying and Removing Lime and Pine Trees

Lime trees can be identified by their small, downward-facing, yellow-white flowers that grow in spring and summer underneath long and narrow leaves. The Common Lime species has red leaf buds that grow into heart-shaped, dark green leaves that grow to about 6-10cm in length.

Pine trees are thin, tall trees that often grow pine cones that fall to the ground in autumn. Pine trees are easily identifiable from their branches which are covered in small pine needles that grow up to 16 inches long.

How to Remove Lime and Pine Trees

Although it’s possible to remove these trees yourself, we recommend hiring a tree surgeon who will kill the roots with specialist fluid. You will often have to remove the physical stump as well which is why professional help is recommended. Most types of property survey will highlight if the tree and tree roots are a danger to your home.

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English and Common Ivy

English ivy is known to lift roof tiles and pull away guttering. These climbing plants support themselves with aerial roots that penetrate cracks or joints in your masonry. Ivy can climb as high as 50 ft, blanketing bricks, blocks and wood.

All forms of climbing plants can be used by small wildlife such as spiders and rodents as access to your home.

Other self-clinging plants such as Boston ivy and Virginia creeper do not cause damage to your property. But it’s still recommended to contact a surveyor if you have any concerns.

Identifying and Removing English and Common Ivy

While English or Common ivy look similar to Virginia Creepers from a distance, it can be identified by the dark berries growing alongside it in both spring and summer.

English ivy is usually green or light grey. Virginia Creepers and Boston ivy can be green, red and even purple. English ivy leaves are often heart-shaped, waxy and with pointed lobes. It can reach a thickness of 10 inches and can be rather bumpy in texture.

Removing English and Common Ivy

When undertaking work or removing ivy from your home, make sure there are no birds nesting beforehand. It’s an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it’s in use.

Ivy can be removed from your building by hand, but remember to kill the roots in your brickwork and any that are grounded. A simple weed-killing spray should be enough to kill the roots of the ivy.

Why Do You Need a Property Survey?

Your surveyor will highlight any signs of these invasive plants during the property survey. They will also provide expert advice on the next steps you should take to remove them.

A property survey can also provide estimated repair costs. This will help you negotiate the asking price should issues such as dangerous plants arise.

Learn More About Surveying

This has been part of our surveying guide. In our next article, we look at ceiling and wall cracks and when they're structural. To learn more, read Ceiling Cracks, When to Worry.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

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