Despite its alarming name, dog-strangling vine (DSV), it’s is not actually harmful to dogs, say local residents who are gaining an increasing amount of experience with the invasive plant.
The vine is becoming more prolific in the Kawarthas, and it is dangerous to Monarch butterflies — already considered a species at risk in Canada. It essentially tricks Monarchs into laying their eggs on it, instead of the customary milkweed plant. Then, when the caterpillar hatches, it cannot find the food it needs on the vine.
“Dog strangling vine is an invasive plant that was brought over [from Eastern Europe] about 120 years ago, actually,” said landscape programs co-ordinator with Sustainable Peterborough, Vern Bastable.
Like many invasives, he added, DSV boasts colourful flowers that can be deceiving.
According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, dog-strangling vine is a member of the milkweed family. Its official name is European swallow-wort and it is native to Eastern Europe. The Conservancy says it poses a threat to other plants, as well as butterflies.
Making things worse, the seeds of DSV are small and feathery; they travel easily in the wind.
Lesley Parnell lives in the south end of Peterborough; she is also a city councillor for Otonabee Ward. She says, in her experience, the dog-strangling vine is difficult to get rid of unless you capture it early.
“It’s very important that you remove all the pods very carefully and dispose of them in the garbage, then rip out the vine, all the way. And dig out the root the best you can,” she said.
The Nature Conservancy advises several ways to deal with dog-strangling vine, from hand-pulling to herbicides. They also ask that residents report sightings of invasive plants to the Invasive Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711.