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Swallow-wort must die!

They're likely growing right now in your garden. Go get 'em.

Walking around my neighborhood I find myself wanting to attack strangers' gardens. Growing in their gardens is a perfect storm of plant invasive, the plant equivalent of Alien.

Swallow-wort (also known as swallowwort and swallow wort) is an invasive species of climbing vines. There are two varieties in the Northeast: black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae) and pale swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum).

Swallow-wort is a perfect invasive species. It's hardy, can grow in shade/sun, has no natural predators, and it's hard to kill. (Seriously, why can't plants you actually WANT do this?!)

You can't just pull it out of the ground either because it can sprout a new plant from broken roots. It releases toxins in the ground to deter rival plant growth, smothers plants in dense mats, and may even confuse Monarch butterflies who think it's milkweed. In short, it's a perfect storm of bad for your garden.

There are excellent resources that help gardeners identify swallow-wort. Alas, because it's practically indestructible this is going to be a long war requiring on-going effort.

In general, go after the plant by pulling it up when it emerges in April and May. If you miss this window, go after the seed pods! One plant can produce 2,000 seeds per square yard! When handling, be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves. The plant puts up quite a chemical defense that can result in urticaria (hives) and red, itchy patches of skin.

Read more about swallow-wort here, here, and here.

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