COMMON NAME

Mile-a-Minute Vine
Mile-a-Minute Knotweed
Asiatic tearthumb


FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME

Polygonum perfoliatum L.


FAMILY NAME COMMON

Knotweed family


FAMILY SCIENTIFIC NAME

Polygonum perfoliatum


IMAGES


Habit

Leaves

Armed Stems

Inflorescence Close-up

Incursion

Fruit Close-up

Close-up of Fruits and Ocreate

Seedlings

NOMENCLATURE/SYNONYMS

Synonyms: None


DESCRIPTION

Polygonum perfoliatum is a rapidly growing herbaceous annual vine. Its stems can grow up to 7 m (23 ft.) in length and as much as 15 cm (6 in.) per day. Its dense foliage can quickly cover surrounding vegetation. A characteristic cup-shaped ocrea (or bract) surrounds the stem at the base of the petiole; those of the upper leaves are conspicuously expanded. Stems, petioles and veins on the underside of the foliage are armed with curved, retrorse barbs. The petioles are long and perfoliate. The thin, jointed, highly branched stems are green to reddish-green in color. The alternate leaves are pale green, thin and glabrous. They are 2-8 cm (0.75-3.0 in.) wide and deltoid in shape, being as long as they are wide (this leaf shape gives it one of its common names, devil's tail). The flowers are borne on racemes 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in.) in length that emerge from the ocrea. These inconspicuous white flowers measure 3-5 mm (0.12-0.2 in.), bear three stigmas and often remain closed. Green, berry-like fruits, 5 mm (0.2 in.) in diameter, are produced in June and become a pale, metallic blue color as they ripen. Each fruit contains a shiny, black or reddish-black, nearly round achene 2 mm (0.08 in.) in diameter. Polygonum perfoliatum produces fruit continuously until the first frost, when the plant begins to die back. Dead plants in winter are reddish-brown to tan in color, often forming brittle mats. Page References Fernald 588, Gleason & Cronquist 138, Holmgren 123. See reference section below for full citations.


SIMILAR SPECIES

Polygonum arifolium L. (halberdleaf tearthub) Picture of P. arifolium
Polygonum sagittatum L. (arrowleaf tearthumb) Picture of P. sagittatum
Polygonum scandens var. cristatum (Engelm. & Gray) Gleason (false buckwheat) Picture of P. scandens
Calystegia sepium (L.) R. Br. (wild morning glory) Picture of C. sepium Other species not listed in table:
Polygonum cilinode Michx. (fringed black bindweed) Picture of P. cilinode
Polygonum convolvulus L. (black bindweed) Picture of P. convolvulus


REPRODUCTIVE/DISPERSAL MECHANISMS

The fruits of Polygonum perfoliatum are most often dispersed by birds and small mammals.


DISTRIBUTION

Polygonum perfoliatum is native to east Asia. It has invaded British Columbia, Canada, and was introduced to Oregon with ship ballast in 1890. Polygonum perfoliatum has also been found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Washington D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Mississippi. In New England it was recently found in Connecticut (2000) and Rhode Island (2001).


HISTORY OF INTRODUCTION IN NEW ENGLAND

In 1946, Polygonum perfoliatum was discovered in Pennsylvania in a shipment of rhododendrons, and has since spread to nearby states. It was found in Connecticut in 2000, and although its means of introduction is unclear, it apparently had been extant for a few years before it was reported. Within a year it was reported from Rhode Island, where it was found growing in a rhododendron/azalea nursery.


HABITATS IN NEW ENGLAND

Abandoned Field, Early Successional Forest, Edge, Pasture, Railroad Right-of-Way, Roadside, Utility Right-of-Way, Vacant Lot, Wet Meadow, Yard or Garden

Currently known from a small number of sites in Connecticut and Rhode Island, Polygonum perfoliatum is usually found in open disturbed areas and abandoned agricultural fields. In Fairfield County, Connecticut it is growing in a planted butterfly garden while in Washington County, Rhode Island it is in a nursery. Interestingly, at the Connecticut site it is spreading into the adjacent early successional forest and has been observed climbing the trunks of trees up to 4 m (13 ft.) high. In other states it has been described along roadsides, stream edges and wet meadows.


THREATS

Polygonum perfoliatum has the potential to overgrow and outcompete native vegetation. Trees and other plants could suffer mechanical damage due to the weight of this vine. The fact that it is being transported around in nursery stock is also a problem, because it may be planted inadvertently with other plants.


MANAGEMENT LINKS

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Mile-a-minute Weed in the Northeast
An Excerpt from a talk by Larry McCormick

Plant Conservation Alliance
Fact sheet with managment information


DOCUMENTATION NEEDS

Documentation required: Herbarium specimen or mounted snippet of the stems with the leaves.
Best time for documentation: Summer, fall.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Taxonomic information

The PLANTS database
General information and a map

invasives.org
Comprehensive information

Ohio State University Extension
Images and short description

Plant Conservation Alliance
Fact sheet

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
General information including control

Mile-a-minute Weed in the Northeast
An excerpt from a talk by Larry McCormick


REFERENCES

Cusick, A.W. and M. Ortt. 1987. Polygonum-perfoliatum l. Polygonaceae a significant new weed in the mississippi drainage. SIDA Contributions to Botany 12 (1): 246-248.

Cusick, A.W. 1986. Polygonum-perfoliatum new-record polygonaceae a dangerous new weed in the Ohio River Valley USA. Ohio Journal of Science 86 (2): 3-4.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany 8th ed. American Book Co., Boston.

Gleason, H.A. and A.C. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Gruber, A.  1995. Polygonums - Mile-a-minute weed and Mile-a-minute vine.    Mile-a-minute (Polygonum perfoliatum) Conference. York, Pennsylvania.

Hickman, J.C. and C.S. Hickman. 1978. Polygonum-perfoliatum a recent asiatic adventive. Bartonia (45): 18-23.

Hill, R.J., G. Springer and L.B. Forer.  1981.  Mile-a-minute, Polygonum perfoliatum L.(Polygonaceae), a New Potential Orchard and Nursery Weed.  Regulatory Horticulture 7(1).  Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture.

Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual.  New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

McCormick, L.H. 1995.  Mile-a-minute Control in Reforestation.  Mile-a-minute (Polygonum perfoliatum) Conference. York, Pennsylvania.

Moul, E.T.  1948. A dangerous weedy Polygonum in Pennsylvania.  Rhodora 50:64-66.

Mountain, W.L.  1995. Mile-a-minute - History Distribution and Habitat.  Mile-a-minute (Polygonum perfoliatum) Conference.  York, Pennsylvania.

Okay, J.A.G. 1997.  Polygonum perfoliatum:  A Study of  Biological and Ecological Features Leading to the Formation of a  Management Policy.   Ph.D. Dissertation,  George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Oliver, J.D. 1996. Mile-a-minute weed (Polygonum perfoliatum L.), an invasive vine in natural and disturbed sites. Castanea 61(3): 244-251.

Sultan, S.E.  2001. Phenotypic plasticity for fitness components in Polygonum species of contrasting ecological breadth. Ecology 82(2): 328-343.

Swearingen, J.  1991.  Seed dispersal by ants.  The Maryland Natural Naturalist 35(1-4): 31-39.

Van Clef, M. and E.W. Stiles. 2001. Seed longevity in three pairs of native and non-native congeners: Assessing invasive potential. Northeastern Naturalist 8(3): 301-310.