Invasive Watch: Winter creeper
WHAT TO LOOK FOR.
Winter creeper is a winter evergreen that can be a small shrub — growing in mats along the forest floor to 3 feet in height — or a vine climbing trees to heights of 40 to 70 feet. Its opposite leaves are dark green, oval, slightly toothed, glossy and thick and often have a silvery-white venation. Flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green and five-petaled and develop in midsummer. Plants typically flower only when climbing and almost never when trailing along the ground.
Winter creeper is a perennial and is able to tolerate and spread quite rapidly in a wide variety of growing conditions. The invasive plant colonizes both vegetatively through its vine growth and through distribution of its pink-capsulated seeds, which are spread by birds, small animals and water. If allowed to establish and grow unchecked, the vine will spread over anything in its way, even overtopping trees and prohibiting foraging by wildlife and livestock.
WHERE IT’S FOUND.
This vigorous vine aggressively invades forest openings, edges and rights-of-way, growing across the ground and climbing high into the tree canopy by clinging to the bark. On the ground, the plant forms dense mats that can displace native species and deter seedling establishment by blocking sunlight. The vines will smother and kill shrubs and small trees, as well as deplete soil nutrients and moisture from other nearby plants, making growth and regeneration more difficult for native species.
The plant is native to Asia and was introduced to the United States in the early 1900s as an ornamental plant. It’s now considered a major noxious weed, having been reported to be invasive in natural areas in most of the states in the eastern half of the United States.
HOW TO TREAT IT.
Apply 7 fluid ounces of Milestone® specialty herbicide per acre in a foliar application. Ideal timing is late fall, when plants are dormant. Be careful to treat only the vine when it is growing on trees that may be susceptible to control from Milestone. Follow-up treatments may be needed to achieve complete control as winter creeper is difficult to eradicate.