Crafty Cynanchum

Although it has a beautiful colloquial name, Honey Milkweed, Hummingbird Vine (Cynanchum laeve) is an invasive pest found throughout my neighborhood and the East Coast to the Mississippi River.

A member of the Asclepiadaceae family and considered a native plant attractive to Monarch butterfly caterpillars, by some, Others classify it as belonging to the family Apocynaceae (dog strangling vine). I find it an obnoxious invasive weed that climbs over and smothers desirable plants if left undetected and uprooted.

I find it everywhere in my neighborhood, and have never seen a caterpillar on a single vine in all the years I have been gardening, thus I think the more likely classification for this plant is Apocynaceae.  Furthermore, I think it is a pest because it grows only in areas where the soil has been disturbed, i.e. cultivated.

Honey milkvine pods

Cynanchum laeve I removed from my perenial beds. ADS 2012

Wiki says:  Cynanchum laeve is a vining perennial herb native to eastern and central U.S. states and Ontario (USDA says Cynanchum invaded Ontario and the area around the great Lakes in Michigan and New York). Common names include honeyvine milkweed, bluevine milkweed, climbing milkweed, and smooth swallow-wort.

Like bindweed and some other members of the Convolvulaceae family, Cynanchum laeve is a twining vine with heart-shaped leaves common in roadsides, fence rows, fields, and disturbed areas. However, C. laeve is easily recognized as a member of the Milkweed family by its opposite leave placement, milky sap and distinctive flowers and “milkweed pods.” The seeds are wind dispersed and can travel long distances.

Cynanchum laeve is considered a noxious weed in several states, and can be very difficult to eradicate from fields because of its deep, extensive root system.  Like many other milkweed species, C. laeve contains toxic cardenolide alkaloids, thought by many to be a food plant for the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies.

Below, photos around my neighborhood of Cynanchum.

Cynanchumvine Laeve and Japanese honeysuckle have almost swallowed this rose bush.

Cynanchum Laeve has almost swallowed this rose bush.ADS 12/2014

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These seeds are wet from rain, but when they dry they will blow for miles.   ADS 12/2014

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Hundreds of horrible seeds = hundreds of horrible weeds.  ADS 12/2014

Wiki also says: Cynanchum is a genus of about 300 species including some swallowworts, belonging to the family Apocynaceae. The taxon name comes from Greek kynos (meaning “dog”) and anchein (“to choke”), hence the common name for several species is dog-strangling vine. Most species are non-succulent climbers or twiners. There is some evidence of toxicity.

Monday, I will link this post to Nature Notes.  Thank you Michelle for your wonderful informative Meme.

17 thoughts on “Crafty Cynanchum

  1. I had not heard of this particular milkweed before. There are better choices for monarchs. It seems that once this plant gets a hold, it is very difficult to get rid of… You are all linked into Nature Notes… Michelle

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  2. You leave me grinning. Here bermuda grass was the weed that kept going when dandelions didn’t. Now gardeners are having to rethink what they can do with little water.

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  3. If this is the particular species of milkweed that Monarchs love (and I understand there’s only one), I’d like to have some just to help them. Otherwise, a weed is a weed is a weed.

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    • This plant reminds me of the Eucalyptus and the Koala Bear. I understand the San Diego zoo planted 100 different kinds of Eucalyptus trees to find the one tree their Koala Bears liked.

      Short story..this weed is not the beautiful Asclepia Monarch butterflies love, or else they are boycotting my neighborhood. Neither is the African Asclepia (Gomphocarpus) I mentioned in a post a week ago, although someone found Monarch larvae feasting on the AA at the local park.

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  4. There is a recurring vine in my yard that threatens to smother my pink flower tree. So at least once a month, I try to pull the vines off the branches and fence. Never ending battle.

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  5. Fascinating! I loved learning about this interesting weed. Thanks Dianne! From Denise, aka “the mole girl” who is married to “the not mole boy” otherwise known as “the ants in his pants traveling man”‘ lol. It is because of him I have all these interesting adventures and he gets me out of my mole hole, God bless his cotton socks and I shall always count my blessings 🙂

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