Have you seen the pea-like pods of the black-swallow-wort (below) climbing up fences and plants all over Newton? We’re asking for your help to remove them.  This is what the pods look like now – often they are hiding behind leaves or under shrubs.  In another few weeks they will be starting to burst open to spread their seeds in the wind.

Why do we care so much about removing these plants?

Photo by Ken Mallory

As you probably know, the population of monarch butterflies in Massachusetts has declined significantly in the past decade.  They, like bees, are important pollinators in our environment. Common milkweed is the only plant that monarch larvae can eat, and loss of meadow habitat in the state has led to a loss of available milkweed to feed the caterpillars.

To make their situation worse, to the female monarch butterflies, black swallow-wort appears to be a fine plant on which to lay their eggs. It is in the same family as common milkweed. However, when the monarch larvae hatch, they do not recognize the plants as food, and they starve to death.

Please look for the black swallow-wort vines, and remove them, or at least their pods.

Look in your yards and the edges of fields, parks and parking lots for this vine with glossy “opposite” leaves (i.e. in pairs) and small purple flowers that turn to pea-like pods hanging down. Then, dig up, pull up, cut down, or as a last resort just pull off the pods – and get the plants and pods into trash bags and dispose as trash – before the pods burst!

 If you aren’t familiar with the plant, read the Black Swallow-wort flyer

More information is also at the Newton Conservators website