Help needed to stem alien invasion at Angle Fly on Sunday August 12

Photo copyright Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

This is an article I never wanted to write.

I have covered many plants in the Nature Corner column, both native and alien. Aliens from Europe, Asia or elsewhere were imported for food, gardens, or highway medians. Some hitchhiked in shipments of other plants or even as packing material.

Some non-native plants are reasonably well behaved. But there are many that grow and spread aggressively, depriving native plants and animals of their homes, and generally causing havoc. Plants such as kudzu, purple loosestrife, barberry, and Asian bittersweet are ones you may know. A newcomer has gotten much press recently and, unfortunately, it has finally arrived in Angle Fly Preserve.

Mile-a-minute vine. Persicaria perfoliata.

The name alone sends chills through anyone who manages a nature preserve or garden, implying how quickly the vine grows and spreads. It is also called Asiatic tear thumb, devil’s tail and devil’s shield.

And, yes, it is as bad as it sounds.

In Angle Fly it has been found covering a roughly 120 square foot area along the Green Trail. It must be cut and pulled out by hand and stuffed into plastic bags to wither and die. This must be done before it goes to seed.

Mile-a-minute vine has a branching stem with nasty barbs; its main leaves are equilateral triangles and it also has circular cup-shaped leaves that surround the stem where flowers and fruits arise. Small white flowers grow into metallic blue berries. It prefers damp sunny areas where it rapidly climbs over everything in its path, killing it by outcompeting for sun and water.

It is believed to have arrived as seed on shipment of rhododendron to Pennsylvania nursery in the 1930’s. Unfortunately, the curious nursery owner allowed it to grow. In 2008 it moved into New York.

It is self-pollinating, a prolific seeder with a long season from June or July through October. Birds disperse seed over long areas, ants over shorter distances. Seeds can survive a week floating in water.

We need a lot of help from volunteers to stop this invader before it gets out of control. I hope you will come out to help us at 10 AM on Sunday, August 12 at the main entrance to the Angle Fly Preserve, on Rt. 139 between Plumbrook Rd. and Rt. 100. Bring leather gloves, loppers, clippers, and dress appropriately to protect yourself against the vines and ticks.

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