For Immediate Release - July 30, 2010

Agricultural, conservation and wildlife officials partner to eradicate invasive Mile-a-Minute vine, a threat to native species

State agencies plan pulling sessions and biocontrol efforts this summer

Photo of the Mile-a-Minute vine (close up)

Photo of the Mile-a-Minute vine (wide shot)

 

BOSTON - July 29, 2010 - Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares today announced that agricultural department officials are teaming with federal and state agencies and environmental organizations to cooperatively manage sites infested with the invasive plant known as Mile-a-Minute vine.

Members of the Mile-a-Minute Working Group are joined in a multi-pronged effort to eradicate the vine. Partnering agencies and organizations include DAR, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the Department of Transportation, the University of Massachusetts Boston, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Trustees of the Reservations and the New England Wildflower Society.

"Controlling invasive species is vitally important to maintaining a balanced ecosystem and ensuring that our indigenous vegetation remains intact," said Commissioner Soares. "I applaud the outreach and eradication efforts of DAR in partnership with other state agencies to ensure we control this threat."

Mile-a-Minute vine ( Polygonum perfoliatum, also known as Devil's Tail) is an invasive plant that smothers other plants and threatens native species. It was first discovered in Massachusetts in 2006 in the town of Falmouth and in Fowl Meadow, a part of the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton and Milton. In 2009, it was found in the towns of Erving, Greenfield, Littleton and Middleborough. The vine is distinguished by its perfectly triangular leaves, barbed stems, and clusters of metallic-blue berries. As its name suggests, it can quickly cover large areas, scrambling over other plants as well as fences and other structures. It grows 6 inches per day. Volunteers and property owners of affected sites have been assisting state workers with site surveys and hand-pulling, furthering efforts to eradicate the vine from Massachusetts.

DFG's division MassWidlife is also involved with ongoing control efforts via pulling and spot treating with herbicide. MassWildlife ecologists and the New England Wildflower Society volunteers joined efforts to eradicate the vine in Falmouth.

"Behind habitat loss, invasive species present the second greatest threat to native wildlife and plants," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. "Control of invasive plants is critical to maintain the biodiversity of our habitats."

Pulling sessions have been organized to remove the smaller populations of Mile-a-Minute, while DCR and the USDA are using weevils as a biological control at larger infestations Canton and Falmouth. The tiny beetles, approved for release as biocontrol in 1996, have been used to successfully control Mile-a-Minute vine in other states including Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. "Given the presence of rare and endangered plants and animals at some of the infested areas, we hope that the weevils will provide us with a viable alternative to herbicides and mechanical removal techniques that can negatively impact sensitive habitat," said Alexandra Echandi, Forestry Assistant for the South Region of DCR's Division of Urban Parks and Recreation and coordinator of the Mile-a-Minute biocontrol project.

DCR released 2,000 weevils at an infested site within the Francis Crane Wildlife Management Area, a property managed by DFG, and another 2,000 weevils in the Fowl Meadow section of the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton.

An additional 2,000 weevils were released at the Canton location during the week of July 5 th. Prior to releasing the weevils, DCR completed a survey determined a total of 40 acres of Mile-a-Minute vine in that section of the Blue Hills Reservation. Post-release surveys will take place every other month to measure the effectiveness of the weevils on managing the infestation.

"Mile-a-Minute has the potential to substantially increase our maintenance demands on state highways across the Commonwealth," said Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Administrator Luisa Paiewonsky. "It is especially important that we keep it off guardrails and other essential safety infrastructure. We also have to make sure it does not compromise the integrity of our roads and bridges. MassDOT continues to work with DAR and other agencies to protect our roadways as well as natural systems and habitat."

To encourage the public to report sightings of this vine, DAR has established a reporting website where people can submit the locations of potential sightings and upload photos of the suspect plants. Reports are automatically forwarded to members of the Mile-a-Minute Working Group for follow up. The website also includes a gallery of species with similar-looking leaves, such as bindweed, which are often confused with Mile-a-Minute vine.

Visit DAR's invasive species website at http://mass.gov/agr/mam or call the DAR Pest Report Hotline at 617-626-1779 to report a sighting.

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr , and/or follow us at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish. For your gateway to locally grown products, specialty foods, and fun ag-tivities go to www.mass.gov/massgrown.