A killer may be lurking in your garden!

BDN - Black Swallow Wort 2This is no mole, vole, fungus, mold, beetle or bug. Its skinny vines can strangle your flowers, and when its pods burst open and shower your flower bed with its seeds, seize control of your garden.

It’s an invasion of a plant killer brought from Europe for a botanical garden in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the same town that claims to have given us the fried clam.

But Black Swallow Wort is no clam lover’s delicacy. Its vines invade gardens and fields strangling native plants; its become a terrorist of the garden world.

Their slender vines are sneaky, shifty, and underhanded, winding around the stems of flowers and shrubs, and can be almost invisible, hidden amongst garden flowers, beach roses, and honeysuckle.

Sometimes you can spot its dark purplish flowers, sometimes its winding vines, and sometimes about this time of year, its inch to two inch pods, looking everything like a pea pod you’d like to crack open and snack on.

And that’s not all. Black Swallow Wort is in the milkweed family.  Monarch butterflies, sensing they are laying eggs on milkweed, lay their eggs on the Black Swallow Wort, but when the Monarch eggs hatch, their white and yellow striped caterpillars starve since Monarchs never had the years to adapt to this latecomer of an invasive.

I am told this menace has spread to the mid-west and even the West Coast, its seeds born on milkweed like parachutes floating on the wind or carried by birds and animals.

How do you get rid of it?

Let’s talk about that next time. It’s not as easy as you might think.