The Conservation Department is asking residents to help identify and eradicate Mile-a-Minute Vine, an invasive, non-native weed that can grow up to 6 inches per day and overwhelm native plants in competition for sunlight and water.
The branches and stems of these annual weeds have triangular leaves that are 1 to 3 inches wide, with downward curving barbs. The weeds bear metallic-blue fruit in the late fall. "Sightings are common in Westport and therefore every effort to reduce further expansion is very important," Conservation Director Alicia Mozian said in a statement.
"These plants were introduced accidentally or perhaps intentionally for ornamental or conservation reasons and have escaped into natural areas that are not managed. They spread due to their aggressive growth habit and out-compete and overcome the native plant species which results in a loss of our native plants and subsequent animal diversity."
The vine thrives in sunny, moist, well-drained locations, but it can grow in shady, wooded areas, too. In Westport the plants are becoming more common, with large swaths seen on Turkey Hill Road South and Clapboard Hill Road.
The campaign to root out the plant is conducted in cooperation with the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group, a UConn-sponsored group which has been monitoring and removing Mile-a-Minute in Fairfield County since 2009.
Mozian suggested residents who see the plant report its location at http://www.mam.uconn.edu. Officials at UConn can verify the plant's presence and homeowners can then remove the vine.