Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday

Today's plant is Dog Strangle Vine, also known as Black Swallow-wort..  It is in the Milkweed family that I talked about last Wednesday, sharing a similar milk-like substance in the stems.  It is very invasive and grows into large tangled colonies.  Because of the common name, some people think that it could strangle a dog if they got tangled up in it, but this is actually not a danger.  This plant is in the Genus Cynanchum.  This sounds like the Greek word for 'dog' and 'to choke' and that is how it got its common name.  It is native to Europe and was brought to North America in the early 1800s.  It has very few natural controls on our side of the Atlantic.

Dog Strangle Vine is very invasive and is a threat to biodiversity, crowding out native plants.   It is reaching epic numbers in our area, growing along highways, waste areas, hillsides, fields, parks as well as gardens.  I even had a few come up in my garden this spring.  This is what it looked like.

When they are small, they can be dug up and destroyed.  But as they grow into large colonies, they are almost impossible to get rid of.

These plants are not only problematic for all plants growing nearby, they also have a negative effect on Monarch butterflies.  Because this plant is in the Milkweed family, it is often confused by the adult Monarch for Milkweed.  When she lays her eggs on the Dog Strangle Vine by mistake, the larva cannot mature since this plant is highly toxic.

In summer the plants flower.  These flowers are very small and some think they are insignificant, but I think they are very pretty.  Above is a shot of the dark purple flowers.  You can see how similar each floret appears to the milkweed flowers in the foreground.

As the seed pods mature, they start to look like very skinny milkweed pods.  The seeds are similar also, floating through the air attached to their parachutes.  I have mixed feelings about this plant.  I have to keep digging up small plants in my garden, which is difficult for me to do.  If we let this plant keep growing out of control it will kill off many native plants and insects, so I can easily hate it.  But I also admire its tenacity, its 'doggedness', so to speak. LOL   It can grow anywhere and everywhere and does very well where ever it plants its roots.  This plant is currently the most hated weed in our area.  As I travel around on my scooter I can see why this is so.  It seems to have taken over large areas of our ravine.  I am fearful for the damage it can do.


Anonymous said...

I looked for it in my garden.
I have lots if other weeds.
But luckily did not see that one.

Wacky Woman said...

Nature is so interesting.