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Giant knotweed

Giant knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis or Polygonum sachalinense)

Herbaceous perennial that can reach up to 20’ tall with erect, hollow stems that resemble bamboo. Plants die back each year; the dried stalks remain standing into winter. Stems are smooth and arching with swollen nodes and twigs that zigzag from node to node.


Regulated areas of giant knotweed
Giant knotweed is Prohibited (Red counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: Sakhalin knotweed, Japanese bamboo
  • Scientific names: Fallopia sachalinensis; Reynoutria sachalinensis

Ecological threat:

  • Invades riparian areas where it prevents streamside tree regeneration.
  • Increases soils erosion along streambanks
  • Often found in floodplain forests, disturbed areas, roadsides, and vacant lots.
  • Plants forms dense stands that crowd and shade out native vegetation.
  • Plants alter soil chemistry and may be allelopathic (exude chemical compounds toxic to native vegetation)
  • Plant fragments as small as one inch have the potential to resprout
  • Japanese and giant knotweed are known to hybridize.

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for giant knotweed was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


Leaves: Alternate, simple, dark green. Leaves are 6-14” long and have a heart-shaped base coming narrow to a point. Immature rosette leaves often not lobed, resembling large violet leaves.

Flowers: Numerous small, greenish-white flowers appear in the leaf axils of the upper stems. Blooms are up to 4” long and occur during August-October. Giant knotweed blooms have both male and female parts in the same flower.

Fruits & seeds: Fruits are papery and broadly winged. Each fruit contains a 3-sided achene that is small, shiny and brown. Small amounts of seed are viable and have no dormancy requirement.

Roots: Rhizomes that extend deeply into the soil creating a dense impenetrable mat.

Similar species: Japanese knotweed (P. cuspidatum) and Bohemian (hybrid) knotweed (P. cuspidatum x P. sachalinense) look very similar but can be distinguished by the type of hair on the veins on the undersides. Each species are equally as invasive. Japanese knotweed leaves are abruptly squared at base and the flowers are dioecious. It has hollow stems with distinct raised nodes that give it the appearance of bamboo, though it is not related. Young plants are most commonly mistaken for rhubarb, and referred to as donkey rhubarb.


Known county distribution of giant knotweed
Counties in WI where giant knotweed has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have giant knotweed in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.


Mechanical: Hand pull, mow, or cut plants. Repeated cutting is needed to stimulate regrowth and exhaust root reserves. Digging up plants is difficult because roots can extend so deep into the soil. Discard plant debris cautiously as this plant aggressively reproduces vegetatively.

Chemical: Treat plants in the summer when there is a large amount of leaf surface to absorb and translocate systemic herbicides. Plants are more susceptible to herbicides if they are cut when 4-5’ tall and the regrowth treated is around 3’ tall. Foliar spray with 0.15% a.i. aminopyralid, 0.3 % a.i. Imazapyr, or either 2% a.i. glyphosate or triclopyr. Cut-stump treatment with 25% a.i. glyphosate or triclopyr.


View giant knotweed pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:

  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 73-75
  • Stone, Katharine R. 2010. Polygonum sachalinense, P. cuspidatum, P. × bohemicum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [2013, September 23].
  • Invasive Plant Atlas of New England
  • University of Wisconsin Extension - Weed Science

Links for More Information

Last revised: Friday May 31 2019