How do you track a plant that grows a mile a minute?
Mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata) is a particularly aggressive invasive plant, with Asian origins. Its name is very apt, as it can grow incredibly quickly - up to 6 inches a day in optimal conditions.
On its stem, it has small recurved barbs that allow it to climb over any nearby plants. Unmanaged, this vine can shade out anything it climbs. It can be identified by its noticeably triangular leaves, bright blue berries, and round modified leaves called ocreae that grow around nodes on the stem.
Mile-a-minute vine isn’t widespread in the Catskill region.
This fact, and its highly invasive tendencies, are why it is so important for hikers, anglers, and other citizen scientists to report it when they see it.
In neighboring areas, mile-a-minute is more widespread, but populations in the Catskills watershed are still low enough that together we can keep this plant from establishing a foothold.
Many of the known mile-a-minute populations in the Catskill region have been reported by knowledgeable landowners.
On August 5th, Catskill Center staff held an educational workshop on invasive species identification and management at the Phoenicia Library.
During the Q&A, someone brought up a list of questions their friend, Jane Simmons, had given them – along with the assertion that their friend had been dealing with mile-a-minute at her house!
Through follow-up conversations, Catskill Center staff confirmed what were unmistakable pictures of mile-a-minute crowding its way into planted gardens and fields of milkweed. We spoke with Jane and secured permission to survey her property and treat any mile-a-minute vine we could find.
This citizen scientist didn’t stop with reporting her own property though. Here is where she launches into true superstar status: she went above and beyond, spreading the mile-a-minute word to her friends throughout the area.
It wasn’t long before someone mentioned, "That sounds like something I’ve been pulling in my garden!" These landowners contacted us, and also agreed to a survey of their property. Staff at the Catskill Center’s invasive species program — The Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP) — found and pulled all of the mile-a-minute on this property too.
We have since reached out to surrounding landowners, seeking permission for surveys on the nearby properties as well. So far, we have found limited movement of mile-a-minute from that site.
We have controlled these infestations and are committed to continuing control until the plant is eradicated at these sites.
But this superstar still wasn’t done! Jane kept spreading the word, and an eagle-eyed friend of hers reported an errant vine only a few miles down the road, near a local highway. We again surveyed this property and found the single reported vine – just 10 inches long, behind a shed. CRISP staff pulled the plant and will return in 2018 to monitor the area.
This goes to show the power of citizen scientists in reporting invasive species, particularly species that are currently uncommon in the region. Without this superstar citizen scientist, these infestations of mile-a-minute might have gone unnoticed or unreported for several more years, growing entrenched and spreading with each growing season. With landowner help, we have been able to locate these populations while they are small enough to be easily managed and start control early.
The CRISP program also mass-mailed a mile-a-minute information card to homeowners in the town of Woodstock, with contact info on how to report the plant via iMapInvasives and to CRISP staff at the Catskill Center.
The response to the mailing has been overwhelming and encouraging! So many landowners have become keen citizen scientists, watching for invasive vines and eager to report any that they see in their neighborhood. Sometimes the reports end up being other invasive vines like Eurasian bittersweet, but those landowners still receive best management advice for whatever species they report.
Our next steps for the management of mile-a-minute in the Catskills are to continue education through workshops, and to continue surveying and controlling it where CRISP staff find it. But citizen scientist superstars are just as vital to this effort as is CRISP staff!
Without Jane in Woodstock and others like her, CRISP wouldn’t be able to track and control these newly-arrived species. Partnerships like these multiply the number of eyes watching for mile-a-minute and other invasive species and the earlier these newcomers are found, the easier they are to deal with.