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Putting a speed limit on the mile-a-minute vine

Consumer Reports News: July 08, 2011 04:36 PM

Don’t look now but there’s a bully taking over your garden, entangling the forsythia and strangling the lilacs. Invasive plants with names like Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Barberry and the Mile-A-Minute Vine are encroaching on gardens and displacing native plants by out-competing them for resources. More than a thousand invasive species have been reported in the U.S.—combating them starts in your own backyard.

The Asiatic tear thumb, better known as the mile-a-minute vine, got its nickname because it grows rapidly reaching lengths of 20 feet in a season as it climbs and clambers over other plants. It’s familiar to residents of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. In fact. the vine has become so virulent in parts of Connecticut that conservation groups hold mile-a-minute vine-pulling parties to rid their parks and riverbanks of the scourge.

With a little effort, you can eradicate it from your own yard and then have a party afterwards. Here’s what the National Park Service and Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences recommend.

If you find mile-a-minute or another invasive vine on your property, you can remove it yourself. Wearing garden gloves, pull the root completely out of the ground. You’ll have to do this several times a season to get them all. Put the vines in an outdoor trash bag and let them dry until the vines are dead. That way the seeds will not be released at the dump.

You can also use herbicides to dispatch the mile-a-minute vine. However, once the vine grows into the vegetation you want to keep, getting rid of the plants this way can be difficult. Penn State has recommendations of the best herbicides for this task.

Even when the vine is gone, your work is not done. The seeds can remain viable in the ground for five years so you'll need to do some preventive management for the next few seasons.

To identify a strange vine in your yard check Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia. You can also check with your local Cooperative Extension office.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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