Mile-a-Minute: The NY-NJ Invasive Taking Over Your Yard

 

Photo by Melissa McMasters

Persicaria perfoliata, or more commonly known by its catchier name, “Mile-a-Minute”, is an aggressively invasive annual vine that has recently been dominating the New York-New Jersey area, specifically in the Hudson Valley.

The Basics

Originally native to eastern Asia, Mile-a-Minute was accidentally introduced to the United States in the early 20th century via contaminated soil (these seeds can live in soil for up to 7 years).

As implied by its name, these vines grow and spread incredibly rapidly – up to 6 inches per day and 30 feet per year, according to the Mile-a-Minute Project of the Hudson Valley.

Since these quick-growing vines are easily spread by animals, plants, and humans, they appear in new geographical locations every year. So, the faster Mile-a-Minute is identified, the more actively we, as a community, can maintain this aggressive species in the long run.

Where You’ll Find Mile-a-Minute

According to the Catskill Center, Mile-a-Minute tends to thrive in great sun exposure and high soil moisture, so picture areas along the edges of forests, wetlands, water banks, and roadsides. With flowing water nearby, seeds easily float along, exponentially increasing the speed at which it spreads. Its primary mode of transportation, however, is from birds that eat the seeds and dispose of them in their travels.

Environmental Impact

Because of its aggressive nature, Mile-a-Minute dominates and eventually kills all of the unprotected plants in its path. The prickly vines enable the plant to crawl and grow over obstacles and choke out other herbaceous species, taking over everything in its wake. The bulk of the vines block sun from other species, causing plants beneath it to wither and die.

How to Detect Mile-a-Minute

Here’s a quick checklist to help you identify Mile-a-Minute in your backyard:

  • Heart- or arrow-shaped leaves
  • Prickly stem
  • White or pink clusters of flowers
  • Berries which are green when young and blue when mature

What to Do If You Find Mile-a-Minute

Photo by Matt Reinbold

First, inform the Poison Ivy Patrol. Many times, a client will contact us when they see it on their property while we are traveling, and as we go, we will see it along the side of the road. That is how quickly this plant is spreading, and we need to control it as quickly as possible.

Our team consists of experts at eradicating this invasive visitor with all natural methods. If you think you’ve found Mile-a-Minute in your backyard, give us a call, and our professionals will easily determine the best course of action for its removal. Since every property is comprised of different terrains and moisture levels, each scenario requires a different strategy to eliminate this invasive while preserving your land and budget. We ensure all of your desired plants are protected, and we heal your soil, not medicate it.

Second, contact local organizations, like the Mile-a-Minute Project of the Hudson Valley. These are groups dedicated to preserving the peaceful nature of our beautiful area, and will assist in identifying harmful species like Mile-a-Minute. Organizations like these are always looking for volunteers to help with early detection of invasive plants.

If we work together, eradication of this aggressive invasive is possible. The best way to do this is to be aware of the plants in your area, and contact pros like our team at the Poison Ivy Patrol as soon as possible.

A Brief History of Invasives

For 10,000 years, plants insects and animals here in the Hudson Valley region evolved together. They had an intricate interdependence. A few hundred years ago the first invaders, (Europeans) introduced new plants from other areas of the world, either purposely or as stowaway’s on ships.

Indigenous insects, caterpillars and other wildlife did not evolve with these newly introduced plants, and stayed away from many of them. Without any predators, the alien plants gained a competitive advantage and became prolific.

Photo by www.thinglink.com
The new Americans making themselves at home

Many types of insects and pollinators eat or lay eggs only on specific native plants. When the quantity of those plants are reduced, the insect population is reduced. This causes a reduction in the number of birds, which in turn deprives animals that count on eggs and birds for their food supply.

Photo by Simon De Trey-White

As larger mammals are over-hunted, deer become dominant and over-browse on native flora, leaving the invasives still more room to multiply. Eventually, wildlife is starved out of the area and the forest becomes barren of diversity and vibrancy.

Invasives
A secondary successional forest that has lost the battle.

Let’s back up. All was in balance until the 1700’s, when European immigrants claimed the New World for themselves and put down roots. Through extensive forest clearing, hunting, and trapping, the forest wilderness rapidly diminished, and was transformed into a domesticated rural landscape.

By the late 1800’s, as much as 80 percent of New England forests had been cleared for pasture, farms, orchards and buildings. The small areas of woodland that remained were harvested for lumber and firewood.

Invasives 2
These dying woodlands can be found along roadsides, yards and utility rights of way.

In the early 1900’s farming declined drastically all across the Northeast and abandoned pastures and farms returned to forest. These forests are known as successional, meaning they succeeded the previous disruption or disturbance. White pines dominated these new forests. Once they reached middle age and became marketable, they too were cut down to support the rapidly increasing populations of 20th century Americans.

This secondary or late succession brought about a new forest of mixed hardwoods across the northeast. These are the woodlands we have today. You will find some patches of old growth forest, but for the most part the trees you see will be under 100 years old.

These woodlands, raised from disturbed, depleted soil are more susceptible to newly introduced plants and insects from other parts of the world. In the late 1900’s, these alien plants got a foothold in the New World like the people before them had done 300 years before, and now in the 21st century, they have won the war.

Looking at the last 5 or 10 years, the invasives now far outnumber the native species. And people around here are now seeing how severe the impact of this invasion is. What will happen in the next 10 to 20 years?

This was a brief history of the northeast region from a regional, ecological viewpoint. In a future post, we will overlap this same time frame with more emphasis on how our progressing civilization has compounded the prevalence of invasives.