Mile-a-minute weed, or Asiatic tearthumb, is an herbaceous, annual, trailing vine. Stems are armed with recurved barbs which are also present on the underside of the leaf blades. The light green colored leaves are shaped like an equilateral (equal-sided) triangle and alternate along the narrow, delicate stems. Distinctive circular, cup-shaped leafy structures, called ocreae, surround the stem at nodes, thus the name ‘perfoliata.’ Flower buds, and later flowers and fruits, emerge from within the ocreae. Flowers are small, white and generally inconspicuous. The fruits are attractive, deep blue and arranged in clusters at terminals. Each berry-like fruit contains a single glossy, black or reddish-black hard seed called an achene. The scientific name was recently changed from Polygonum perfoliatum as a result of extensive taxonomic research on the genus.
Mile-a-minute weed grows rapidly, scrambling over shrubs and other vegetation, blocking the foliage of covered plants from available light, and reducing their ability to photosynthesize, which stresses and weakens them. In addition, the weight and pressure of the vine causes distortion of stems and branches of covered plants. If left unchecked, reduced photosynthesis can kill a plant. Large infestations of mile-a-minute weed eventually reduce native plant species in natural areas. Small populations of extremely rare plants may be eliminated entirely. Because it can smother tree seedlings, mile-a-minute weed has a negative effect on Christmas tree farms, forestry operations on pine plantations and reforestation of natural areas. It has the potential to be a problem to nursery and horticulture crops that are not regularly tilled as a cultivation practice.
How You Can Help:
Volunteers can provide assistance throughout the growing season as new vines pop up in our hotspot areas. Also, late/summer/early fall is a good time to target plants with maturing fruits. Bagging and disposing of plants can help reduce the spread of this NNI.
For full species information visit the Plant Conservation Alliance's LEAST WANTED page.