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Polygonum perfoliatum L.

Asiatic tearthumb, devil’s tail, mile-a-minute vine, mile-a-minute weed, mile-a-minute knotweed

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassCaryophyllidaeCacti, many other succulents, carnivorous plants, and leadworts
OrderCaryophyllalesIncludes cacti, carnations, amaranths, ice plants, and many carnivorous plants
FamilyPolygonaceaeKnotweed or smartweed family
GenusPolygonumGreek poly, “many,” and gonu, “knee,” for the swollen jointed stems
Speciesperfoliatum“Perforated,” because the stem “perforates” the leaves

About plant names...

This Asian vine, introduced to North America in the 1930s, is spreading rapidly, and considered a serious invasive threat. I first encountered this vine on a rainy afternoon at my sister’s home in Phoenix, Maryland. It had engulfed nearly everything else, except for towering black walnut trees, in the wooded area behind her yard. It grows up to six inches per day, and is as effective as oriental bittersweet or kudzu at overwhelming and killing native plants. It occurs almost anywhere there are warm moist or wet open areas: woods, wetlands, roadsides, fields, stream banks, forest edges.

Plants: Vines have reddish stems with backward-pointing hooks that allow it to clamber over other plants.

Leaves: Mile-a-minute vine has leaves that are almost perfect triangles, small curved barbs along its stems, and saucer-shaped leaves (ocreas) at its stem nodes. Although ocreas are present in all Polygonums, they usually take the form of a fibrous sheath wrapped tightly around the plant stem.

Flowers: Flowers and fruits emerge from the ocreas. Flowers are white, but inconspicuous.

Fruits: Tightly packed clusters of 10-30 lobed metallic blue fruits, each about ⅛-¼" (3.2-6.3 mm) around. Each lobe or segment contains a single glossy, black or reddish black seed.

Edibility: Fruits are edible, eaten fresh. Young leaves and shoots are edible either raw, as salad greens, or cooked.

 

Polygonum perfoliatum (Asiatic tearthumb, devil’s tail, mile-a-minute vine, mile-a-minute weed, mile-a-minute knotweed)

10/4/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, Mary­land
≈ 5 × 8" (13 × 19 cm)

Polygonum perfoliatum (Asiatic tearthumb, devil’s tail, mile-a-minute vine, mile-a-minute weed, mile-a-minute knotweed)

10/4/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, Mary­land
≈ 5 × 8" (13 × 19 cm)

Polygonum perfoliatum (Asiatic tearthumb, devil’s tail, mile-a-minute vine, mile-a-minute weed, mile-a-minute knotweed)

10/4/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, Mary­land
≈ 4½ × 4½" (11 × 11 cm)

These similar species are most easily distinguished by leaf shape:

 
Polygonum arifolium

Polygonum sagittatum
You are here
Polygonum perfoliatum
Common Name

halberd-leaved tearthumb

arrow tearthumb

Asiatic tearthumb
Plant Vine has weak stems that are green, pink or red, with many tiny backward-pointing barbs, 24-48" (60-121 cm) long Stems 3-6' (91-182 cm) long, green, pink, or red, hollow, vinelike, with squared edges and tiny, backward-pointing prickles. Vines have reddish stems with backward-pointing hooks that allow it to clamber over other plants.
Flowers Flowerheads are less than ⅜" (1 cm) in diameter, white to light pink, with 5-20 individual flowers at the end of a long stem Flowerheads are less than ⅜" (1 cm) in diameter, white to pink in color. Each rounded flowerhead consists of 5-20 individual flowers at the end of a long stem. Flowers and fruits emerge from the ocreas. Flowers are white, but inconspicuous.
Leaves Leaves are shaped like arrowheads, except that the backward-pointing barbs point outward (technically, “hastate”). Leaves are hairy, 4-4½" (10-11 cm) long Shaped like narrow arrowheads, attached via short ⅜" (1 cm) stems. The base of each leaf tends to wrap around the stem. Leaf edges also have tiny prickles. Mile-a-minute vine has leaves that are almost perfect triangles, small curved barbs along its stems, and saucer-shaped leaves (ocreas) at its stem nodes. Although ocreas are present in all Polygonums, they usually take the form of a fibrous sheath wrapped tightly around the plant stem.
Fruit Seeds are rounded reddish-brown nutlets about ⅛" (3.2 mm) around Small nutlets, brown to black. Tightly packed clusters of 10-30 lobed metallic blue fruits, each about ⅛-¼" (3.2-6.3 mm) around. Each lobe or segment contains a single glossy, black or reddish black seed.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Marshes, swamps, wet meadows Wet, marshy ground Almost anywhere there are warm moist or wet open areas: woods, wetlands, roadsides, fields, stream banks, forest edges.
Type Wild Wild Wild
Occurrence Common Common Invasive

 

Online References:

Polygonum perfoliatum on Wikipedia

Polygonum perfoliatum at the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project (or download this PDF)

Polygonum perfoliatum on the Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group Least Wanted List

Polygonum perfoliatum at the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (PDF)

Polygonum perfoliatum on Wikimedia Commons

Polygonum perfoliatum on Forestry Images

Polygonum perfoliatum on eFloras

Polygonum perfoliatum (Asiatic tearthumb, devil’s tail, mile-a-minute vine, mile-a-minute weed, mile-a-minute knotweed)

10/4/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, Mary­land
≈ 7 × 4½" (17 × 11 cm)

Polygonum perfoliatum (Asiatic tearthumb, devil’s tail, mile-a-minute vine, mile-a-minute weed, mile-a-minute knotweed)

10/4/2010 · Susan and Raimond’s, Phoenix, Mary­land
≈ 9 × 6" (22 × 14 cm)

Persicaria perfoliata

Ampelygonum perfoliatum (L.) Roberty & Vautier

Persicaria perfoliata (L.) H. Gross

 

Polygonum perfoliatum description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 6 Sep 2021.

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Polygonum perfoliatum (Asiatic tearthumb, devil’s tail, mile-a-minute vine, mile-a-minute weed, mile-a-minute knotweed)

6/19/2009 · By Jacquelyn Boyt

Range:

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