Invasive Vines: If You See Something, Do Something

Darcy Sledge has lived in Westport for 30 years. She is active in several organizations — most importantly for this story, the Westport Garden Club and University of Connecticut invasive plant working group. Darcy writes:

This is the perfect time of year to check the health of your trees and shrubs.

Many trees are being smothered by invasive vines — often right under our noses.

I took a few photos in Greens Farms right before New Year’s, to show a few examples.

This is the entrance of a beautiful estate, with stone wall gates. In the foreground you see gorgeous pines. In the background, you see the same type of trees completely smothered in vines.

Vines weaken trees and shrubs. When weakened, they are the first to fall in a storm. The result is power outages, property damage and injuries.

When leaves are out, vines are hard to see. It’s easier to see them now.

I’ve gotten rid of my vines by cutting them at ground level, then cutting them again at head level. The dead ones hang in the branches, but eventually fall off.

Here’s what they look like:

(Photos/Darcy Sledge)

You  have to watch for new growth, and cut it every time. Eventually though, you get rid of the vines.

Even thick ones (called Asiatic bittersweet) can be cut with a lopper. I did it often in Winslow Park, and earned the nickname Cyndi Lopper.

Invasive vines are a rampant problem throughout the US — especially in Connecticut.

We will lose our beautiful trees and shrubs if we don’t work on getting rid of invasives. The town and state can do only so much. People need to walk their own properties on nice winter days. You may get an unhappy surprise. Landscapers may not even notice or identify owners about vines.

We talk about Westport’s changing streetscape, properties being torn down, and lovely trees being cut for new construction.

Yet our own trees may be slowly dying.

(For more information on invasive vines, click here. For more on the UConn invasive plant working group, click here.)

22 responses to “Invasive Vines: If You See Something, Do Something

  1. Informative article, thank you.
    With the leaves gone, I have noticed vines cascading rom my neighbors yard over a property fence onto my shrubs . Any advice on type of tool to cut thru them ? (My kanddcaper is off for the season & of course I would only cut what’s on my side ) thank you

  2. Strange, how as humans, we see one living plant as bad and another living plant as good. It all depends on the plants location based on our own needs, situations and images.
    American Bittersweet (a protected species in some areas) good, Oriental Bittersweet bad.
    Of course, if you are a bird, all bittersweet is good.
    The Norway Maple tree is considered an invasive species in Connecticut because of it’s prolific seeding, and fast growth. The same goes for winged euonymus (burning bush) that was planted on many properties.
    Norway Maple bad.
    Winged euonymus bad.
    Color of Norway Maples and Burning bush in the Fall…good.
    Bittersweet growing on Norway Maple….Bittersweet bad.
    The same goes for animals.
    Snake eats frog, snake bad.
    Snake eats rat, snake good.
    Frog eats fly, frog good.

    Nature good, Nature bad.

    • The difference being that Asian bittersweet (amur peppervine, etc.), the northern equivalent of kudzu, covers and destroys everything in its path, and rapidly. Yes, this invasive is definitely bad.

    • LOL…Love your poetry Bob! I do cut the vines but have used them for staircase banisters, bedposts, walking sticks, etc. I’ve got my eye on one by a Meritt overpass. I debark and keep the beautiful ones for future projects the rest go in my fireplace. They are naturally sculptural.

    • Jonathan L Maddock

      Individual species are neither good or bad. It is there interaction and effect on existing ecosystems that matters.
      Native species can be displaced by aggressive exotics. Think how mammals (rabbits, rats, dogs, etc) have affected Australia’s native ecosystem. I saw large tracts (think acres) of Winged Euonymus along a walking path in a park last summer. In the past native species would have filled that niche. Is this good? Is this bad?
      There is a delicate balance that exist in native ecosystems. Through man’s emigration efforts we have accelerating worldwide ecosystem change. The ultimate impact is unknown, but in general we have reduced diversity and made the world less robust.
      In the long run, once man perishes from the earth, a natural balance will return.
      Then our sun will go supernova.
      Thank God there is a Heaven.

    • no one is calling anything “bad“
      It’s just a lesson in managing growth & spread to protect surrounding trees / shrubs, etc.

      • I get it. But it is a mindset…
        So you want to get rid of things that are neither good nor bad…for who or what? Certain trees and shrubs or just non invasive trees and shrubs?
        If am remediating a wetland area and I cut down all the Norway Maple trees in that wetland, do the people driving by see that as a good thing or bad thing?

        Am I a tree hugger or a tree killer?

        • It’s a good thing. Norway’s are invasive and, I think, allelopathic. There’s a reason why they’re on the state banned list. As an aside, owing to their crazy dense habit, they’re structurally weak. It never ends well with those junk trees.

  3. The macdaddy of all invasives is Japanese Knotweed. Winsolw Park is home to a veritable forest of it. As it steadily spreads and kills off native vegetation in the park, it’s also acting as a vector; infecting abutting and downstream properties.

  4. Dennis Jackson

    Poison ivy vines grow up tree trunks similarly, especially on birches. What’s the best way to avoid them in Winter when the leaves aren’t out to identify them?

    • The vine has very fine “hairs” on it….and it will grow on all trees. You can still get a rash from touching the vine in the winter.

  5. Arthur C Schoeller

    Invasive species are a concern of the Town of Westport Conservation Commission headed by a wonderful town employee Alicia Mozian. She was the guest speaker at our last Annual Meeting of the Greens Farms Association and this is one of the topics she covered. They have information to help guide homeowners on identifying and managing the “invaders”. There is also information on the town website under the Conversation Commission department page. I have pasted the link here, hoping it works!

    Art Schoeller
    Greens Farms Association

  6. Regarding “Mile A Minute Weed” on the website – doing something is better than doing nothing, but in the end, the “eradication” of this weed is not obtainable. The weed (nature) will win.
    I see Mile a Minute weed all along I95 and the Merritt. Take a look along the south side of I95 as you are heading north between exit 18 and 19….though you wont see it this time of year as it dies back in cold weather.
    I also see it in wetland areas.
    Keep in mind:
    *You cannot treat wetland areas.
    *This weed has barbs that are used to attach itself to other plants. It can be tough to handle.
    * You can pull the weed but won’t get all the seeds.
    *It grows extremely fast…thus the name.
    *The blue seed attracts birds.
    *Birds fly and settle on wires, branches, fences etc. and do their thing…… It spreads.
    *It grows along stream beds, and the seeds can float for up to 7-9 days.
    Nature wins.
    And for the record, for all those who want to go green and organic….this weed is both.

  7. Hi Dan,
    could you give Darcy my e-mail!
    she is like me an invasive removal artist!
    We could work together. I also belong to the UConn invasive group!

    • Hi Jalna, I would love to work with you! I am focusing on trees in this post. I encourage all homeowners to at least patrol their own properties while the vines are so easy to spot. And if they feel that their trees provide benefits, make sure that the trees are not being strangled by invasive vines. Our landscape would look pretty dismal if the trees all succumbed to vines. And when our trees come down, we all suffer in different ways, from more runoff, less privacy, power outages, more noise (trees absorb noise), road closures, property damage, impact on air quality and property values, and loss of the natural beauty we enjoy all year. Many of the trees in our town are 100+ years old. Not easy to replace once they are gone.

  8. That vine is everywhere  drive on Merritt and you will be amazed  why state has not done something is amazing   connector at exit 18 is all vine