UConn Experts Help Stem the Spread of Invasive Vine

UConn officials are working with the state Department of Environmental Protection to limit the potentially devastating spread of an invasive plant known as Mile-A-Minute Vine.

The plant, an annual whose botanical name is Persicaria perfoliata, grows at up to six inches a day. It spreads by seed, and can smother small seedlings of other species, hinder the growth of bushes and trees, destroy local species, and disrupt normal ecosystems.

It was first found in Connecticut in 2000 in Greenwich and has since been identified in 15 towns across the state. Native to Japan, Korea, China, and India, it was brought into the United States by ocean vessel and was observed in Oregon in the late 19th century.

UConn is tracking the spread of the vine in Connecticut through a website where members of the public are encouraged to report sightings, or by calling Donna Ellis of the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group at 860-486-6448.

In addition to an online reporting form, the website has information on how to identify Mile-A-Minute Vine, including look-alike plants, and how to control it.

The plant has a distinctive triangular-shaped leaf – often almost equilateral, small curved barbs along the stems, and saucer-shaped bracts at the stem nodes. In summer, it has fruits that ripen from green to metallic blue.

Those who see the plant are urged to report it before attempting to remove it, to make sure it has been correctly identified, as it is often confused with other vines.

“We encourage property owners who have confirmed Mile-A-Minute in their yards to hand-pull the plants,” says Ellis. “The vines are annual and pull readily from the ground, although it’s best to wear gloves to avoid contact with the barbs.”

Ellis and other UConn experts also joined with scientists from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recently to launch a form of biological control to combat the vine. The stem-boring weevils, Rhinoncomimus latipes, which eat only the Mile-A-Minute Vine, were released at select sites in North Haven, Newtown and Greenwich, and will also be released in New Milford.

Mile-A-Minute Vine is on the list of plants officially recognized as invasive or potentially invasive by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2003.