Dog Strangling Vine- it’s alive and well in OOE

By Kristin Kendall

Be on the lookout for this invasive plant, also known as Swallowwort or Pale Swallowwort, the Botanical name is Vincetoxicum rossicum. It may not strangle your dog or cat but left to its own devices it wipes out native plants and destroys wildlife habitat. It’s a significant and ongoing problem in Gatineau Park, at the Experimental Farm, at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and along riverbanks in this city.

How can you identify Dog Strangling Vine?
It grows on a single stalk with shiny, dark green, oval pointed leaves in opposite pairs along the stalk. There is a characteristic root system with a node just below ground level. As the plant matures it latches on to other vegetation for support or doubles back on itself. There are small light or dark maroon flowers, followed by attractive light green pointed seed pods. The seed pods eventually burst open and the seeds disperse in great quantity and over wide areas.
There are no natural predators here. The root systems alter the ecology of the soil thus inhibiting the growth of other plants.

If it’s in your garden-
Dig it out.
If it grows between pavers or out from under gravel or rocks, try to cut it off as far down as possible.
Do NOT pull the mature plant out- that stimulates the root system and just encourages more growth. But, with young plants, you can sometimes pull out the plant with the intact root.
Cut it off below the level of the soil, trying to get below the node in the root, the point where the roots spread out.
If you can’t dig or cut it below ground, cut off flowers, seed pods and seed heads.
You can compost all of the plant EXCEPT the seed pods and seeds.
Put the seeds or seed pods into a heavy plastic bag, close it up, keep it for 2 years, at which time the seeds are no longer viable.

Whatever you do, do NOT ignore this weed- it may seem harmless if it’s a few examples in your garden from time to time, and easily controlled, but it poses a threat to the landscapes in our neighbourhood, in city parks and public places, and in the larger environment.

Two good sources for more information- the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and the Toronto Botanical Garden.

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