Updated June 10
Persicaria perfoliata, a highly invasive vine commonly known as mile-a-minute, devil’s tale, and asiatic tearthumb, was discovered by two botanists Monday near Ben Tom’s Preserve in Edgartown.
Native to Asia, mile-a-minute grows rapidly and forms dense mats, crowding out and smothering native species. A single vine can grow up to six inches per day, according to Mass Audubon. The vine can be identified by its triangular leaves, small curved barbs along its stems, saucer-shaped leaves at stem nodes, and in summer fruits that ripen from green to metallic blue.
Mile-a-minute has a longer history on the island than previously thought. Suzan Bellincampi, a director at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, reported a single plant found in the sanctuary’s butterfly garden in 2011 after a compost delivery, according to Greg Palermo, one of the botanists who found the vine. That finding was reported to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank ecologist Julie Russell said mile-a-minute can be spread easily from seeds by birds. “It would take over the understory. It would just keep growing and growing and growing like a kudzu-type thing,” Russell said.
On Wednesday, Land Bank staff and volunteers pulled out the vine, which was in a 20-foot by 6-foot patch at the preserve.
The patch was discovered by Palermo and fellow botanist Margaret Curtin while looking for plants for the Martha’s Vineyard Floristic Study Group. Palermo and Curtin helped pull up the vines, along with Land Bank commissioner Nancy Weaver, Land Bank superintendent Ian Peach, Sheriff’s Meadow director of stewardship Kristen Geagan, and Russell.
Russell said the Land Bank plans to burn the vines once they are removed, and will check back at the location in a few weeks to make sure the vine does not keep growing.
Martha’s Vineyard has had issue with invasive vines before. In September, West Tisbury selectmen dealt with kudzu, another invasive, rapidly growing vine. The kudzu in West Tisbury was found both on the property of Marsha and Donald Macgillivray and on town property at the corner of Old County Road and Pin Oak Circle. Reached by telephone Thursday morning, Donald Macgillivray said West Tisbury has offered him and his wife no assistance in tackling the kudzu infestation.
Asked on May 8 at their weekly meeting what the town was doing to address the kudzu, selectman Kent Healy said, “We don’t know.”
Town administrator Jennifer Rand said tree warden Jeremiah Brown was in charge of the issue.
Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said the board should seek an update.
“Hasn’t reached my house yet,” chairman Skipper Manter joked.
Brown could not be immediately reached for comment.
Rich Saltzberg contributed to this report.
Updated to include history of mile-a-minute on Island. — Ed.