Albion becomes Michigan’s first sighting of the invasive mile-a-minute vine

By SYLVIA BENAVIDEZ

Contributing Writer
November 5, 2020
Finding the mile-a-minute vine in Albion in October is more of a trick than treat.
Jason Raddatz searches for the prolific and hazardous invasive Mile-a-minute vine to pull it out of the forests of the Whitehouse Nature Center before it can reach Albion gardens.

Jason Raddatz, director of the Whitehouse Nature Center, and his Albion College nature center assistants were getting training last Wednesday to recognize the murderous vine.


Doug White, director of Albion College’s Center for Sustainability and the Environment, and David Mindell of Plantwise, a company that helps restore and interpret native ecosystems, showed students how to recognize the prickly vine out in the field for eradication.

Left unchecked, the vine has dangerous effects on native habitats, even commercial ventures such as Christmas tree farms, nurseries, and backyards.
White said it’s an annual plant. “You can pull it up when it immerges.” The idea is to get it out of the ground before it bears its purplish blue small fruit. Investigating the origin of the new fruit is how White discovered the first known vine in Michigan and raised the alarm.

“My dissertation was on bird dispersal of fruits, so that drew my curiosity.”


White and his wife, Dale Kennedy, have been studying house wrens for 25 years and frequently take walks in the nature center to study them. White said they nest in boxes there in May through October. “This fall, I was following the fledglings to see where they have gone. I saw this new fruit that I didn’t know. My dissertation was on bird dispersal of fruits, so that drew my curiosity.”
He sent a picture to Albion College’s botanist Professor Dan Skean. “He didn’t recognize it immediately. I figured out what it was, this mile-a-minute vine, and discovered what it was,” said White.
Fallon Januska, cooperative Management Invasive Species Management and Doug White, director of Albion College Sustainability Center and Environment show what fruit of Mile-a-minute invasive vine looks like when dry.

The threat to the Whitehouse Nature Center, and eventually the rest of Albion, is genuine. The plant survives by smothering other plants, bushes, and even trees.


Closeup of the Mile-a-minute dried fruit. “It’s a superstar in dispersing. It can be dispersed by birds. The seeds have little structures on them that are attractive to ants, and so when they end up on the ground, the ants can plant the seeds.”

The threat to the Whitehouse Nature Center, and eventually the rest of Albion, is genuine. The plant survives by smothering other plants, bushes, and even trees. If not eradicated, it can become a threat to native vegetation and eventually destroys habitats and the ecosystem that animals depend on to survive all within a year.


The leaves are light green, shaped like an equilateral triangle, about 4 to 7 cm in size, and alternate on the vine.

“It’s covered with prickers and is native to Asia.”


“It’s covered with prickers and is native to Asia. It has invaded the U.S. three times. The first two times, it was eradicated. The third time it came in nursery stock back East,” said White.

It’s important that people can recognize the Mile-a-MInute plant now that it is a threat to the Albion community.

The plant is a challenge to control because it grows four to six inches a day. Also, the vines don’t need pollinators. It self-fertilizes and grows to be very dense.

“It’s a superstar in dispersing. It can be dispersed by birds. The seeds have little structures on them that are attractive to ants, and so when they end up on the ground, the ants can plant the seeds,” said White. Deer are also suspect spreaders after eating them, digesting them, and releasing the seeds through their digestive system.


Other aggressive strategies include the possible use of chemicals, but for now, Raddatz’s team pulls the vines, bags them, and stores them in the nature center barn until the seeds are dead. Then they are buried in the bag.


The White House Nature Center assistants will begin to pull out the vines regularly now that they have the necessary training. “We are marking the sites of the vine with flags that will be checked throughout the summer. If the vines return or emerge in other areas of the nature center, then we will move to a more aggressive management strategy. We should have enough data to make a decision by the end of next summer.” Other aggressive strategies include the possible use of chemicals, but for now, Raddatz’s team pulls the vines, bags them, and stores them in the nature center barn until the seeds are dead. Then they are buried in the bag.
.

Albion College Whitehouse Nature Center Assistants work hard to pull out mile-a-minute vines now they can identify them to save habitats and to keep it from spreading into other parts of Albion. Jackie Best Lucy Neverly, Tristan Ellis, Colton Wiskur display their prickly prize in the barrel. Contributed photo from Jason Raddatz

Having to deal with a deadly vine that grows voraciously requires quick action, and this week Raddatz’s nature center assistants have pulled out barrels of the invasive species.


Having to deal with a deadly vine that grows voraciously requires quick action, and this week Raddatz’s nature center assistants have pulled out barrels of the invasive species. The removal provides hands-on experience for the students and saves plants, bushes, and trees.
During the training, Donna Avina said, “This is my first time working with an invasive plant. I really didn’t understand them before.” She said it was the first time she heard of the vine. “I am a very hands-on person, so I am very excited to work on this and be a part of the history of this. This is the first time it is being seen in Michigan, so I feel like this is a big thing, and I am excited.”

David Mindell from Plantwise out of Ann Arbor shows Whitehouse nature center assistants how quickly the vine grows once seeded by animals, wind, insects.

David Mindell of Plantwise and Fallon Januska of Cooperative Invasive Species Management, also at the training, agree that education for the professionals and the public is crucial to eradicating the vine.


David Mindell of Plantwise and Fallon Januska of Cooperative Invasive Species Management, also at the training, agree that education for the professionals and the public is crucial to eradicating the vine.
“I will also help spread information about it. They (Albion College) are set with taking care of this with their student population. Probably next year, I will do more surveys outside of the area to make sure it hasn’t spread to other areas around Albion and near nature parks,” Januska said.

 


Photos by Sylvia Benavidez except as noted.  Photos and story copyright, The Recorder.

This story is reprinted with permission from The Recorder.
© 2020 The Recorder Newspaper. All rights reserved (About Us).

The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of The Recorder.


Gift Ideas for the holidays, or any time!


Michigan Prints