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Cruz Bay
Monday, August 15, 2022


Here in the Virgin Islands, a pale yellow or orange-yellow vine can be seen clinging to roadside bushes and trees. Locals call it "Love Vine," because of its ability to strangle the life out of its host. Having had much luck in the love department myself, I like to refer to it as "Hell Weed."
If this vine decides to take up residence in your yard, getting rid of it can be "Hell on Earth." While we like to think of all living things as God's creatures, I can only imagine the mood He was in when this plant was created.
Dodder vine starts its life as a green, thin-leafed plant, wholly self-sufficient with a rope-like stem. As it crawls along, it seeks a host plant or tree on which to climb and becomes a true parasite, giving up its green leaves and chlorophyll (mushrooms are the only other plant form not to produce chlorophyll), and receives its entire sustenance at the expense of the host it has attached itself to, eventually killing the host.
As it grows it produces small flowers with clusters of seeds. When the host shrub is disturbed, the seeds fall to the ground and germinate, beginning the life cycle of yet another dodder plant. The seeds also become airborne by way of wind and birds.
Now, how to get rid of this plant?
I do not know of a foolproof method, although through experimentation, several local nurserymen have come up with some basic measures.
First, prune back the afflicted plant, but it is very important not to scatter the seed. Carefully place branches in a plastic bag, picking up any pieces dropped, tie carefully and remove immediately from your yard.
Be sure to carefully remove the stems that have penetrated the bark. Also, study the ground for any new green plants that have germinated and remove them by their root. I have also found that a strong solution of nitrogen will cause the plant to "explode" by forcing it to produce chlorophyll.
Either a strong solution of fertilizer or Round-Up in a spray bottle with a small nozzle will allow application to small areas. If the solution happens to land on leaves, they will burn and drop off, but should not harm the roots of an afflicted shrub.
The dodder vine has proliferated throughout the local area due mostly to hurricanes that have spread seeds with high winds.
Try your best to identify dodder in adjacent vacant lots and along roadsides bordering your property and eliminate as outlined. It takes constant vigilance to identify new vines and remove as soon as possible to prevent injury to your trees and shrubs.
Perhaps "Love Vine" is an apt description, considering the amount of work and patience involved.
Editor's note: Kathie McCarthy is a local entrepreneur often called "Anti-Martha" by her friends. She owned Key Islander Nursery with her partner Jay Adair and supplied all the bougainvillea for a number of the large hotels in St. Thomas. She is also known as the "Bougi Lady."

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