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Mile-A-Minute Vine Invades Fairfield Hills



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Among the many visitors enjoying idyllic Fairfield Hills trails and grounds is one unwelcome guest: mile-a-minute vine. Brian Connolly, PhD, while doing survey work on the Fairfield Hills meadow in August, first noted the invasive, said Mary Gaudet-Wilson, a Conservation Commission Study Group for the High Meadow member.

The infestation of mile-a-minute vine at Fairfield Hills was along a trail from the cul-de-sac up to the High Meadow.

"As its name implies, mile-a-minute grows very fast," according to a release from Ms Gaudet-Wilson. The vine can grow up to six inches in a day. "This nonnative vine often displaces wildlife habitat through its aggressive growth habit. It often is seen covering all other plants like a blanket, growing and spreading quickly," she stated.

Shortly after its discovery Ms Gaudet-Wilson and Holly Kocet, also a Conservation Commission Study Group member, pulled seven large bags of mile-a-minute from this site. They conducted several other pullings since then, Ms Wilson said. "However, additional monitoring and removal sessions will be necessary due to the plant's persistence."

There is an ongoing effort by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station using weevils as a biological control. While the weevils have survived and spread in the area, additional control strategies will be needed to reduce the spread of this plant, Ms Gaudet-Wilson said.

Conservation-minded residents first noticed the mile-a-minute vine in Newtown during the summer of 2007. Sightings had volunteers and officials tearing it out yard by yard, and by 2009, the state's Department of Agriculture, the then Department of Environmental Protection, now the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection, and the University of Connecticut Extension Center received approval from the Federal Department of Agriculture to release the weevils in Connecticut, including several Newtown sites, according to Newtown Bee archives.

Since the summer of 2009 the small insect from China has been thriving on - and hopefully will one day control - the invasive mile-a-minute vine found in Newtown, among other Connecticut towns.

By 2011, "the feeding damage" done by the minute insect as it sustains itself on the invasive vine in Newtown "is significant," said Donna Ellis, the senior extension educator at the University of Connecticut's Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture.

The Newtown Land Use Agency also collaborated on the project.

At that time, Ms Ellis had explained that the adult weevils chew holes in leaves and lay eggs and immature weevils eat into the plant stems. She also offered sound predictions. She had said the process would take time for the weevils to become established. "The idea? They'll build up a population; they'll slowly build up numbers."

And, they have.

More information about mile-a-minute can be found at the UConn website hort.uconn.edu/mam. UConn describes the plant as having three distinct characteristics:

Leaves shaped like triangles - equilateral triangles without lobes or indentation.

Curved barbs or prickles along the stems and on the stalks, which join the leaf to the stem.

Saucer-shaped leaves at nodes and branching points (called ocrea).

Since the plant has berries (blue in the fall) that birds will eat, thereby spreading the seeds, Newtown residents should be aware that this plant may take hold at additional sites in town. Any sightings should be reported to the Newtown Conservation Commission or Land Use, Ms Gaudet-Wilson said.

If the vine is found: infestations should be reported to the Conservation Commission or to Land Use Agency at 203-270-4276, or, 203-270-4277, and ultimately to the state.

To dispose of a few plants, Ms Gaudet-Wilson recommended pulling it and taking it to the invasive receptacle at the transfer station in plastic bags. When pulling, make sure to remove any berries, if possible. If a large infestation is found, contact the Conservation Commission or Land Use right away.

Holly Kocet, left, and Mary Gaudet-Wilson, Conservation Commission Study Group members, spent time pulling mile-a-minute vine from Fairfield Hills this summer.
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