posted May 2013
Combat Invasive Species by
Naturalizing Your Property: A Focus on Dog-Strangling Vine
Gardening season is upon us and
few realize how important the vegetation we select can be for the
environment in our community. Sometimes, by planting species that don’t
naturally grow in the area, we are hurting the chances for species of
native plants and animals to succeed.
What is “Dog-Strangling Vine”?
Dog-Strangling Vine, known to scientists as
Vincetoxicum rossicum, is a non-native invasive species of concern
in Ontario that has been growing in our community, particularly along
fences that line the lakeshore trails. There are two species of the vine
found in Ontario known by the same name.
Dog-Strangling Vine is a
successful strategist as it has two methods of reproduction. Not only can
it reproduce by seed but it can essentially “clone” itself by sprouting
new plants from the rhizomes on its extensive root system. It is
tremendously aggressive with a dense root system that makes it very
difficult to remove due to its ability to grow from root fragments. In
fact, if a rhizome section is cut, two new plants can grow as a result.
What are the negative impacts
of Dog-Strangling Vine? While it may not be
as violent as its name conveys, this species does pose a serious threat to
the natural environment as it can out compete plants that have valuable
roles in local ecosystems. It aggressively grows to form thick stands,
which crowd out native vegetation. One of the most serious impacts of
Dog-Strangling Vine in Ontario is its threat to the Monarch Butterfly, a
provincially designated species-at-risk. Monarchs will lay their eggs on
this species of milkweed, but once hatched, the caterpillars cannot
survive on Dog-Strangling Vine and their life cycles are cut short.
What can you do to help?
First and foremost, make sure you can identify Dog-Strangling Vine. Look
for a vine that grows 1-2 metres high by spiraling around other vegetation
or supporting structures (fences, gates, etc.). This plant has leaves that
are oval shaped with a pointed tip. These leaves can grow from 7 to 12 cm
in length and grow in pairs on opposite sides of the stem. In early summer
its small purple, star-shaped flowers will begin to bloom and in late
summer its bean-shaped pods develop. Each seed has a feathery white
appendage that help its travel by wind and these can be seen as the pods
2) If you find this species on
your property remove it immediately. Ensure you dig up the entire root
structure and do not leave any fragments behind. Dispose of the entire
plant in yard waste bags to ensure that they do not spread further.
3) The most important thing you
can do to combat non-native invasive species is to naturalize your
property with native vegetation.
Exclusively native nurseries are
the best place to obtain garden supplies that will enhance the natural
environment. We are lucky to be situated near “Native Plants in
Claremont”, a nursery in North Pickering who are part of the reputable
Society for Ecological Restoration. They have a variety of native species
of grasses, sedges, flowers, shrubs and vines available for purchase. They
even supply Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, which will attract
and support Monarch Butterfly populations if planted.