Nature Canada

How to deal with Dog-Strangling Vine

This blog post was written by Nature Canada guest blogger Robin Wakelin.

Dog strangling vine has been taking over Southern Ontario for years. This invasive species, also known as swallowwort, poses big problems for Ontario’s wildlife and anyone who enjoys being out in nature. While the name might bring to mind ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, I don’t think there are any reports of this plant actually harming pets. Yet as I walked my medium-sized dog through a nearby conservation area, it’s near impossible for her to avoid the large patches. The vines grow several feet high and have made my normal walking paths feel like Jungle territory in a matter of weeks since the warm weather hit. I watched the vines wrap around her legs and occasionally trip her and I could see how a small dog could potentially get stuck, so it’s definitely something to be aware of.

However, the strangling nature of these vines pertains more to nearby plants and small trees, suffocating native flora and quickly taking over any available land. Not only a threat to native plants, deer and other grazing animals avoid dog-strangling vine, which means less food for them as well as more pressure on the plants they do eat. The monarch butterfly, a species already at risk in Ontario, is also further threatened as their larvae are not able to survive on these plants.[1]

What is an invasive species?

Invasive species can be plants or animals, which were brought to a location where they did not originally grow. These species “not only threaten to transform the wildlife, woodlands and waterways that Canadians depend on, they cost this country billions of dollars”.[2] Other types you may have heard of are zebra mussels (affecting our water bodies) and the Japanese beetle. Dog-strangling vine first occurred in North America in the 1800s, originating in Eurasia. Invasive species like this are usually very adaptable and easy to spread.

What can I do?

If you often go for walks through wooded areas, you may want to familiarize yourself with local invasive species and their removal efforts. By walking through dog-strangling vine or removing it incorrectly, you can spread their seeds even further.  If you have a yard or garden, keep an eye out as it is best to start removing it before it can grow into a large thicket. When removing, cut at the base near the soil to starve the plant. Do not pull as this may spread seeds and also breaking at the root may cause more shoots to grow.[3]

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