I was on my morning walk the other day when I ran into my neighbor Bill Snead, the Journal-World's senior editor. He said, "As the assistant weed puller at my house, I need to know more about this annoying vine. Do you know the one I'm speaking of?"
As he described it and voiced his annoyance with his pesky plight, all I could do was shake my head in full agreement that this weed has to be called out. As the official and only weed puller at my house, I know about this vine, and I have the calloused hands to prove it. Honeyvine milkweed or climbing milkweed are the two names by which this invasive, bothersome plant goes.
By either name, it's a noxious weed. The maddening little plant with its elongated, heart-shaped leaves seems to be on a never-ending quest to poke up its head and grasp on to anything it can. It pulls at perfectly happy perennials who are just minding their own business. If you don't diligently wrench these little buggers out of the ground, you might eventually witness how large they become as well as the fruits/pods they bear. These pods hold a gazillion more seeds adorned with white hairs, making them a perfect candidate for floating through the breeze and settling in your pride-and-joy perennial beds.
Gardens from Nebraska to Florida, Texas to Pennsylvania are havens for the honeyvine milkweed, and I'm convinced that soon it may take over the world. This perennial has stems that can reach up to 10 feet in length, and while the name suggested a secretion of a milky substance, that is not the case. Mother Nature moves the seeds about with her breeze, which makes them primed for breeding and built for survival. Once they do lay claim to a spot of earth, their root system becomes extensive and widespread, and much of the moisture that is supposed to be going to your frilly, colorful flora is being diverted to the exasperating honeyvine milkweed.
Shouting at the top of Mount Oread while shaking your fists at Mother Nature and her cruel sense of humor will not help you to eradicate these nasty, clingy, sticky vines. Rather, a good dose of hand hoeing - staying on top of them in their early stages of development by vigilant snatching - is the way to go. Gardeners also can buy a bottle of a broad-spectrum vegetation killer and with any luck call them extinct in your yard for at least a couple of months.
But they'll return as they always do and bring a collective sigh to gardeners across the eastern half of the United States as we bend and pull, bend and pull.