The unseasonably warm start to the year could have an impact on the growing season for Japanese knotweed, according to a national trade body.

The invasive non-native weed, which originally comes from Japan where it is a rare species, was imported to Britain in the 19th century and used to strengthen river and railway embankments.

The notorious pest is said to be one of the most robust, damaging and insidious plants in the world.

It lives through winter in the soil and starts to sprout in the warmer temperatures of spring.

But the current weather conditions could push the plant’s growth pattern weeks ahead of its usual development according to experts.

Dr Peter Fitzsimons is the invasive weed control group technical manager of the Property Care Association (PCA) and is keeping a watching brief on the situation.

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He said: “Traditionally the growing season for Japanese knotweed begins in April, with some variation from north to south nationally, but in 2017 there were reports of the plant beginning to grow in March.

“The Beast from the East put the growing season last year back to a more normal timeline, but the climate so far is looking like it will provide the type of conditions for Japanese knotweed to take hold earlier again this year.

“Areas where the ground has retained moisture are likely to be particularly attractive to the plant.”

Identification is often difficult as its appearance is very similar to other plants such as common lilac, dogwood, bindweed and several variants of bamboo.

Knotweed can devalue land and property and lead to the refusal of mortgages on properties affected by it.

The PCA, therefore, is urging caution and prompt action in tackling it.

Dr Fitzsimons added: “Japanese knotweed is a nuisance plant because it grows so rapidly, but we know it can be controlled.

“However, its effective eradication is a job for the experts and the earlier that work takes place the better.”