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Black swallow-wort

Quick facts

Black swallow-wort is an invasive species on the Prohibited Eradicate List. Plant must be destroyed and transportation, propagation, or sale of these plants is prohibited.

  • Black swallow-wort grows in sunny and shady areas, such as gardens, roadsides, wooded edges, quarries, pastures and fence rows. 
  • It grows in a dense, viny mat.
  • Leaves are fatal to monarch caterpillars who mistake it for milkweed.
  • The Minnesota Department of Agriculture monitors this invasive species. Please report any black swallow-wort you spot at Arrest the Pest.

How to identify black swallow-wort

Leaves are opposite, dark green and glossy

Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae) is an herbaceous perennial in the milkweed family.


  • It is a vine with twining stems up to 6 inches long.


  • Lance shaped with smooth edges.
  • Opposite, dark green, and glossy.


  • Star-shaped flowers are 1/8 inch, purple with a yellow center, and occur in clusters at leaf axils.
Black swallow-wort flowers


  • Typical milkweed-like pod, up to 2-1/2 inches long, 3/8 inch diameter, and smooth.


  • When mature, pods open to release rounded, flattened brown seeds with silky filament at the tip.


  • Fleshy with a thickly budded rhizomatous crown just below the soil surface.



Author: Angela Gupta, Amy Rager,  Megan M. Weber, Extension educators

Reviewed in 2019

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