The Demon that is Dog Strangling Vine

Have you ever seen the carnage that this Dog Strangling Vine, a vicious plant creates once it gets a foothold?

Devastation, on a large scale.

Once it is victorious, nothing else remains. All vegetation below shrub level suffocates and succumbs, choked out entirely.

Dog Strangling Vine spreading along a dirt path

Dog Strangling Vine along a path at Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens in 2019.

For the last several years I have been carefully removing individual plants from the garden whenever they pop up. It’s tricky business. If you don’t get all of the root nodes removed, you’re doomed; it will only come back, stronger.  With friends.

The roots are disgusting, white and thick tendrils that look like they should only grow in the unholiest of ground. The type of thing you see in horror movies, twining and reaching for the unwary from the depths of unmarked graves.  The only thing more revolting is the flowers.

But, Why?

According to Ontario’s Invasive Species Awareness Program, this treacherous beast comes to us from Eurasia. It was introduced to North America in the mid-1800’s by some apparent lunatics who thought it would be good in the garden. I can’t imagine who those people were or what they were thinking. Perhaps they were possessed by demons who opened the portal to let in this, another demon fiend. What else could be the case for anyone to invite in a plant that “produces up to 28,000 seeds per square metre”1?

Intruder Alert

Yesterday I was pulling weeds at the back of the yard and found several of the vines. One had even matured to the point that it had many seed pods hanging off of it.  Carefully I shoved the trowel down into the hard-packed earth a couple of inches around the base of the stem. Inch by inch I extricated the roots from the dirt, making sure that none of the seed pods dropped off in a last-ditch effort to propagate the species while I dealt with its parent.

Dog Strangling Vine growing in the garden
Dog Strangling Vine growing in the garden

Once I had that one and had gently placed it upon the patio table, I dealt with the others. When I had them all, I found a small plastic bag from an empty cracker box, folded the stems up into a tight ball so they couldn’t escape, and shoved the bodies into the bag to rot.

Two Dog Strangling Vines on the table - one without the root and one with

On the left you can see where I accidentally broke the stem off one without getting the root.

You can’t just throw these things into the compost, oh, no. You can’t give them the opportunity to regroup.

Dog Strangling Vine’s tendency to try to take over the world is not it’s only crime. Monarch butterflies mistake it for the good stuff and lay their eggs on it, but the larvae cannot survive on it and die.  It may also be toxic to livestock.

It’s a bad weed.

Remain vigilant, my friends, for the slightest lapse in attention can lead to hours of work to eradicate the foul beast that is Dog Strangling Vine.

1. “Dog-Strangling Vine: Cynanchum rossicum & Cynanchum louiseae”, Ontario’s Invasive Species Awareness Program, © 2020

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