Kill This Plant!!

A highly invasive smartweed, called Devil's Tearthumb and known as Mile-A-Minute, has been identified in North Madison. Think kudzu with spines. If you see it dig it up, get rid of it before it flowers. See story for how to do that without spreading it.


Editor's note: We just received this from Heather Crawford, the chair of the Madison Conservation Commission:

As chair of the Conservation Comission, I was notified by the DEEP that a highly invasive plant has just been identified in Madison. It is the first time this plant has been reported in Madison or the surrounding communities. The mile-a-minute vine, also known as Devil's Tearthumb, is an annual plant that grows extremely rapidly (up to six inches a day!), smothering surrounding vegetation and then spreading by seed.

Think kudzu with spines.

It was identified by a homeowner in North Madison who has been battling it on her property for several years without knowing what it was. When I walked the property yesterday I found multiple seedlings in the woods surrounding the yard, indicating that it may have become well-enough established to be spreading out into natural areas.

This plant was first identified in CT in 1997 when it overran an Audubon sanctuary in Greenwich, covering several acres in a couple of years and requiring extensive and expensive eradication efforts.

Attached is a fact sheet (provided with this article) put together by the CT Invasive Plant Working Group on Mile-A-Minute and two pictures I took at the Madison site.

I am hoping that you can put an alert on Patch for Madison residents to be on the lookout for this plant when doing yard work or anywhere around town.

The recommended disposal method is to double-bag the plant material in black plastic, seal it and let it cook in the sun for a couple weeks, then send it to the incinerator with your trash. Invasive plants should NEVER be taken to the bulky waste/brush dump site because that will just spread the problem to other properties.

Because it is an annual, if it is pulled before it flowers and sets seeds, it can be fairly easily eradicated, but if it sets seeds they are then spread by birds into natural areas and eradication becomes virtually impossible and long-term control is the only option.

When I was part of the Invasive Plant Working Group, Mile-A-Minute was our "poster child" for the motto "No New Invasions".

There are several similar agressive but native vine species in Madison. The key identifiers for mile-a-minute is the leaf shape (almost a perfect equilateral triangle), the soft hooked barbs the length of the stem, and the secondary leaves that wrap completely around the stem. I am including a photo that shows a mile-a-minute leaf next to one from an almost identical local vine. (Mile-a-minute is on the left.) Both are aggessive, but those with the heart-shaped leaves and smooth stems are native nuisances, sort of like poison ivy and deer. Hopefully this additional information will keep us from being flooded with false sightings ...

Editor's note: This story was udpated twice on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 with additional information.


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