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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dog-strangling vine

my garden Cynanchum
Some years back I acquired Cynanchum ascyrifolium from Ellen Hornig at Seneca Hill Perennials in Oswego NY. It is a milkweed relative that has turned out to be an interesting, well-behaved low-stature plant that produces waxy white flowers over a long period of time in the spring and summer. I then encouraged Kathy Melmoth at Recipe Gardens to try selling it at the Farmers Market -- she is always looking for the next 'oh-wow' plant to introduce to her appreciative customers.
     Being an uncommon plant, Cynanchum ascyrifolium has no common name, but this morning I was inspired by a report on NPR to look further into the world of Cynanchums. The name 'cynanchum' is from the Greek words meaning 'dog-choker.'  Some 'common' names for members of the genus include 'cruel plant' and 'mosquito-trap plant' and 'swallow-wort.'  And the genus name is sometimes given as Vincetoxicum.
a dog-strangling field in Michigan
       Well, these certainly don't sound like desirable garden plants. How about something called 'dog-strangling vine?'  This is C. rossicum, and it has the potential to become the kudzu of the north. It has become established in Michigan where it has swallowed up acres of disturbed and early successional habitat, tying up everything in impenetrable masses of ropey, twisty stems. It spreads by massive underground root systems and a multitude of seed that germinates profusely. Have I mentioned it is poisonous to cattle? And to monarch butterfly larvae, which hatch from eggs laid by butterflies which have confused the plant for milkweed. You can hear more about it at It's not new to Michigan, but it's a new one to me.

Photo of field is courtesy of John M. Randall, the Nature Conservancy,

1 comment:

  1. Just what we need, another darned invasive plant. After your post, I Googled this plant and read more about it. I don't think I have seen it here, have you?