Hello Fellow Readers; Sarah of Hope, NJ, was shy about providing photos before our Landscape Review and Recommendation meeting. Primarily because she fell behind in her garden maintenance, something I share in common during the summer heat. Sarah’s Mile-a-Minute weed is especially running rampant.
“No need to be embarrassed,” I wrote back. “The purpose of my visit is to help create a strategy to attack garden projects that feels overwhelming, including the weeds.”
What a lovely property Sarah has, with a naturalized buffer surrounding a beautiful sloping backyard. Sadly Mile-a-Minute weed (Persicaria perfoliate) is smothering much of it. It’s the first time I’ve seen such an invasion of the light green vine that grows as much as six inches a day and twenty-five feet a season.
Mile-a-Minute Weed look-alikes
It’s also known as “Devil’s tail tear thumb” as it resembles the native Halberdleaf tearthumb (Polygonum arifolium) and Arrowleaf tearthumb (P. sagittatum). But the pea-sized blue fruits and the almost perfect triangular leaves are distinctive of Mile-a-minute.
It hangs like thick draperies on trees and shrubs, which can kill them quickly as it shades its host from being able to photosynthesize. Folks compare it to the Kudzu dilemma that suffocates trees in warmer climates.
Mile-a-Minute came from transport from eastern Asia in the late 1800s to the 1930s. It arrived in our neck of the woods in nursery plants delivered to York, Pennsylvania.
Each plant produces thousands of berries that can remain viable in water for nine days floating merrily down our streams. The almost perfect triangular leaves stand out, though the white flowers are insignificant and turn into green berries in mid-July. It’s when the berries ripen to a reflective blue hue when birds and other critters flock, which is how Mile-a-Minute spreads rapidly by way of their excrements.
How to Remedy a Mile-a-Minute Invasion
The weeds are shallow-rooted and easy to pull, which is better to do sooner than later. Otherwise, it’s hard to get to the origin of the plant, which is the case of Sarah’s invasion. However, I suggested she keep yanking with thick gloves to protect her from their prickly parts until she gets to the roots. The good news is it’s an annual. And, if you don’t allow the berries to ripen, you can stay ahead of the dilemma or, in Sarah’s case, begin to gain control of it.
While herbicides may have a place in the eradication, weeding, continually mowing, or allowing your goats and sheep to graze is the most effective. Biological controls are underway using a weevil (Rhinocominus latipes) that feeds on the plants. After they feed on the stems, the area above dies, lessening the amount of seeds that form. It sounds promising. Upon further research, I learned that the weevil was found in China and introduced to the United States in 2004. I hope the weevil doesn’t grow to become invasive, not being native here.
Talk about Overkill…
I had to chuckle when I googled remedies of good riddance. A fellow began his video demonstration by shooting into a tree smothered by the vine (NOT a bright idea) before pulling it out by its roots (GREAT idea). Then he splayed out the trails of vines and sprayed the heck out of it with Round-up. (Talk about OVERKILL.) Hopefully, he wasn’t serious, as obviously, once you yank it by the roots, the plant is a goner. Just wrap it up and throw it out. If it hasn’t gone to seed, to the compost is fine. Otherwise, a brown bag in the trash is best to quarantine the berries from taking over our world. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com and your favorite Podcast App.
There’s a sequel to Sarah’s Mile-a-Minute invasion…
Sarah proudly sent photos of the clear-out of her front foundation garden, poised to be a butterfly garden. She asked if there was a list of native deer-resistant butterfly plants she could consider. Yes indeed! Here is a link to the story: Deer Resistant Butterfly Plants
There’s more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:
For more information about the weevil to remediate Mile-a-Minute Weed: