WITH ITS ability to grow through tarmac and brickwork it's classed as one of the world's most invasive species with 13 reported occurrences in Bournemouth alone.

Now homeowners and house hunters can discover if they are moving into a Japanese knotweed hot-spot, thanks to a new interactive map.

Exposed, The Japanese knotweed Heatmap allows people to search by postcode to discover the number of reported sightings nearby or note any new sightings.The map collates all recorded knotweed reports and shows how many occurrences there are near to a postcode.

The plant was brought to the UK during the Victorian era as an ornamental species and it was also found to be useful as stabilising the ground at railway cuttings. However, it soon became a horticultural pest.

The bamboo-like plant is feared by gardeners, horticulturalists and builders alike because of its phenomenal strength and ability to infest land and disrupt structures, forcing its way through concrete and brickwork. It is unlawful to cause it to grow in the wild or to allow knotweed from your own property to invade neighbouring land.

The heatmap shows that Dorset is considered a relatively safe place from the species, with just 11 occurrences within a 4km radius of Poole, 11 in the Wimborne area, and eight occurrences reported in the Swanage area. By contrast there are 82 occurrences in the Ventnor area of the Isle of Wight.

The heatmap tool was created by Nic Seal of Environet UK, who said: "This heatmap will enable us to build a nationwide picture of the Japanese knotweed problem and give the general public the information they need to assess the risk locally, particularly when buying a property.

"It will also be a useful tool for homeowners who want to be aware of infestations near their property which could spread, putting their home at risk," he said.

"The site is already well populated, but this is an ongoing project. The more people who report sightings, the more effective it will become."