September Weed - Honeyvine Milkweed
Mary Anna Anderson of University of Nebraska Extension, supplies us with information on weeds to watch for each month. Here is a weed that may compete with Jack's beanstalk in terms of how fast it grows!
Weed - Cynanchum leave (formerly Ampelaus albidus) in the Asclepiadaceae -Milkweed family
Common Names: Some of the many names include honeyvine milkweed, sandvine, climbing milkweed, bluevine, swallow wort, dog's wort, peavine, and smooth anglepod.
Description: Honeyvine milkweed is a perennial vine that can grow 12 feet or more in a season, and as much as 3 feet in a week. Starting as a long single vine, but will branch, the honeyvine milkweed can trail along the ground or climb. The elongated heart-shaped leaves are simple and opposite with a smooth surface. Leaves have white veins and like other milkweeds, it has milky sap.
The flowers form in clusters, with each flower having 5 white petals that are about 1/4-inch long. They are vase-shaped, found at the leaf axils on short stalks. The flowers produce characteristically milkweed type of seed pods that are 3 to 6 inches long.
Honeyvine milkweed has a deep perennial taproot reaching 6 feet in fertile soils, with many lateral roots. Its roots break off easily when pulled, which can then generate multiple vines coming from the same section of root.
Where: It is found in disturbed areas, cultivated fields, gardens woodland edges, and fence rows. Like most plants, it prefers moist fertile soil, but is tolerant of almost any type of soil.
Propagation: By seed and rhizomes. The seeds are oval and flat with white, silky hairs that are about an inch long. These hairs help it travel in the wind. There can be up to 50 seed pods on a vine.
Poisoning: Honeyvine milkweed is not known to be poisonous like other milkweeds. It was thought to be poisonous to livestock, but no evidence has shown this to be true.
Historical: It is native to the United States.
What: Honeyvine milkweed is often confused with field bindweed, morning glory, and wild buckwheat. Its opposite leaves, white veins, and clusters of flowers distinguish it from these other weeds. Often stems are covered with the golden oleander aphids, Aphis nerii. It is a fast grower and seems to grow a foot if you look away!
Pros: As a milkweed, it is a source of food for monarch butterflies although not considered as good as the Asclepias species. Native bees also use it as a source of pollen.
Cons: The honeyvine milkweed is a difficult weed to control. Once it is mature, few chemicals work well. It often climbs in shrubs where the green pods can be hard to spot. Usually pods are noticed in winter after they have turned brown and popped open to spread their seeds far and wide.
To the right is a photo of honeyvine milkeweed pods, from the Ohio Extension Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide.