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Japanese knotweed set to be sniffed out as National Highways hires dog detectives to tackle invasive species

National Highways have enlisted the help of three dog detectives to help sniff out the invasive weed growing on the M25.

The Japanese plant has been growing uncontrollably across Britain since it was first introduced 200 years ago.


Luckily, three canine companions have been to sent to tame the invasive species.

Fenix the Dutch Shepherd and Spaniels Nica and Nettle are specially trained sniffer dogs that can detect rhizomes – the underground parts of the plant such as roots, bulbs and shoots.

Trained sniffer dogs can detect rhizomes – the underground parts of the plant such as roots, bulbs and shoots

National Highways

When removed, it prevents any spread or regrowth.

Pippa Jordan, an environment lead with National Highways, said: “We decided to put our paws on the pavement and take a unique approach to tackling the Japanese knotweed.

“These sniffer dogs are not only adorable, but also incredibly skilled at detecting the presence of unwanted plants, especially those not readily visible.”

When the dogs detect the weed, they freeze to alert their handler.

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Sniffer dog

The animals have discovered several areas with rhizomes

National Highways

National Highways can then take action to eliminate the plant from the M25.

“The dogs have got the most amazing sense of smell, and they can pick up the scent that [a] Japanese knotweed rhizome gives off into the soil,” said Kat Janczur, the owner and handler at Canine Detection Solutions.

“They’re amazing animals and a great tool in efforts to prevent the spread of these invasive plants on and around the site.”

Whilst sniffing for the plant on site, the animals discovered several areas with rhizomes.

National Highways worker and sniffer dog

When the dogs detect the weed, they freeze to alert their handler

National Highways

National Highways has now removed these bulbs and roots in order to prevent Japanese knotweed from sprouting.

Japanese knotweed is a species of plant that has bamboo-like stems.

It was brought to Britain from Japan by the Victorians as a garden plant. It was also used to line railway lines to stabilise the soil.

The plant is known for its aggressive growth – it can shoot up to 2.1 meters high.

If left unattended, the invasive plant can cause huge problems to buildings and structures.

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