Westford Conservation Trust’s Mile-a-Minute Project

Name: Ron Gemma  Organization: Westford Conservation Trust  Phone: 978-944-1942

Site location:
3 sites along tributaries or source pond of the Stony Brook: Lowell Rd, Grey Fox Lane, and Old Colony Rd in Westford, MA

Basic property description:

All of the sites are near to streams that feed the Stoney Brook or Nashoba Brook. Seeds of MAM can float for up to three days and remain viable for up to six or more years, so spread via waterways was a serious concern. Sites were a mix of Town conservation land and Homeowner Association land of cluster developments.

Management area description:

Lowell Road site: High disturbance and large compost piles left over from a defunct plant nursery along a tributary of Stony Brook.

Grey Fox Lane: Sites along the confluence of the Stony Brook and Tadmuck Brook near a new house cluster development.

Old Colony Road: Sites in a cluster development adjacent to Keyes Pond a source to a Stoney Brook tributary.

Acres in the management area: 15  Listed on EDDMaps? No

Habitat type: Field/forest edge, Fields, Roadside edge, Stream bank, Upland/wetland edge

Was this Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR)? Yes

Initial Overall Invasive Distribution Description:

Concentrated in areas of compost piles or new home construction hay bale placement and spread from there.

Initial Overall Percent Cover of Invasives: 6 - 25%

Target species:

Invasive Species
Initial Percent Cover
Mile-a-minute Vine (Persicaria perfoliata)  

Management objectives:

To control and eliminate the source and to prevent spread throughout the watershed via the Stoney Brook and its tributaries.

Approximate project start date: June 1, 2010

Years this project has been ongoing:

Project summary:

The Mile-a-minute(MAM) plant is an early detection species and even though they are an annual they are prodigious seed producers and can rapidly take over acres of land by smothering existing vegetation. At first it is hard to believe that an annual vine which initially looks fragile and pretty with interesting , equilateral triangular, bright green leaves, beautiful cobalt blue seed clusters, thin vines and shallow roots can quickly cover a large area in one growing season.

The initial goals were:

Set up a committee, research the subject, consult with experts, survey the initially known sites, survey other possible locations, create a plan, get property owner and regulatory permissions, notify the public, seek out volunteers, find a disposal site(s), seek funds, train the volunteers, purchase volunteer supplies (garden gloves, plastic bags- large and small, bug spray, sun screen, etc.) and establish a MAM plant pulling schedule.

The active MAM plant control was started in 2011. Initially many MAM pullings were scheduled starting the first of June and continuing to Oct or first hard frost when the plants die. The goal was to visit each site once per month during the growing season. It was found that the once-per-month-per-site schedule was sufficient but that the schedule could be shortened starting the first week of July and finishing by the middle of October. The later months were critical because previously overlooked or late germinating plants had ripened seeds which easily fell to the ground when disturbed and very difficult to find in the natural ground cover.

To help in our control objective each site where a plant or plants were found was marked with orange tape or colored marker flags. We also started putting the initial discovery dates on the markers to help measure our progress. GPS was also used to mark the boundaries of the sites.

The MAM seeds are known to be viable for at least six years so great precautions were taken to not let them ripen or, if they had. not to let them fall to the ground.

The program completed it sixth year of control in 2016. The number of plants being found each subsequent year has been greatly reduced from the initial and each subsequent year. In fact it became more difficult to get volunteers to come out in the last two years because of the scarcity of the plants to pull.

The program has been moved to “maintenance” status where monitoring surveys will be made on the same once per month per site schedule which will only require one or two persons per survey to complete. Of course if any new or re-emerging site are found then a regular volunteer pulling(s) will be re-instated for that site.

Control method: Manual

Disposal method: Incineration, Bagging

Detailed project timeline:

2009: Residents spot 'unusual' plants on their walks
2010: 4 residents attend SuAsCo CISMA EDRR and create an invasive plants survey, submit RDA
2011: Trust approves invasive species group and creates committee
2 more residents attend workshop; Eagle Scout volunteers to help out
Permission from Cons Comm and Developer obtained
Team Leader Training in June, First pull at two sites in June yields 40 30-gallon bags
Abutters notified, volunteers recruited, "pulling'' notices in local newspaper,
Controlling Invasives in Your Backyard training offered
Invasives table at Garden Club Plant Sale, info tables at other town functions

For five years, from July-Sept, pullings are held every other Saturday, splitting the major sites so each is covered monthly. Ripened berries when found are carefully cut into buckets, but during this time, most berries when picked are inviable. At the site on Lowell Rd, the developer reseeded with a native mix, but the other sites still had a healthy mix of native plants that have thrived MAM removal.

Funding sources: Small SuAsCo CISMA funding for supply costs.

Final acres in management: 15

Open to the public: Yes

Able to Provide Tours: Yes

Success Rate:

Current Overall Percent Cover of Invasives: 0 - 5%

Comments / Takeaways

Mile-a-minute is worth the time and effort to control, and can be easily pulled with volunteer teams. Invasive control projects always work better with neighbor cooperation to prevent respreading from private land. This grassroots effort caused increased awareness of invasive plants and mile-a-minute specifically within the community.

Last Updated: September 7, 2011