WEST BOYLSTON – “We are racing the clock,” Brian Keevan said. An invasive vine, called Mile-a-minute Vine for its fast growth, as much as six inches a day, continues to spread, pushing out other plants.

As a natural resource analyst for the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Water Supply Protection, Keevan has been fighting it wherever it has been found on watershed land.

Keevan said he wanted to make sure people were aware of the vine, especially at this point where it is starting to go to seed, in order to stop its spreading into other areas.

The vines are identified by triangular leaves, small curved barbs along the stem and saucer shaped leaves at the stem nodes.

He said contractors working on the power lines along Route 140 by the landfill discovered it in West Boylston and crews have worked on hand-pulling it in order to pull up roots.

Keevan said growth in Holden was discovered by a local person who saw it by the side of the road.

One solution is hand pulling, especially in areas of the watershed, while biological solutions are used in some other areas.

“We’re trying to control this plant and prevent it from spreading,” Keevan said. “We want to make sure if it exists outside the area we know,” with the objective of making sure it does not get into other areas.

There are several dozen sites across the state, environmental biologist Jennifer Forman- Orth said.

Working for the state Department of Agricultural Resources, she has seen small patches as well as areas covering many acres where the vine has overwhelmed all other vegetation.

She said invasive plants usually get into the area starting as ornamental plants that thrive and overwhelm other plants.

The Mile-a-minute Vine, also known as Devil’s Tail, Asiatic Tearthumb or Persicaria perfoliata, took root after it hitched a ride in the soil of other plants, originally entering the state in potted plants.

“This is one where no one really wanted it,” Forman-Orth said.

While it had been in the country since the 19th century, it had more recently come to Massachusetts in nursery shipments from New York and Pennsylvania as a contaminant in the container plants.

She said biological controls have been used for several years, since it was first discovered in Massachusetts in 2006.

But in sensitive areas, such as wetlands or where it is encroaching on rare and endangered habitat, it’s all hands on the vine to pull it out.

Since seeds can survive in the soil for six years, Forman-Orth said, “we really have to be vigilant about checking every year” even where it has been pulled up.

Keevan said he has gotten help from local students from Wachusett Regional High School, where the Think Globally, Act Locally club took a hands-on approach.

“They became aware of the problem when Brian Keevan offered to come and present at a TGAL meeting about the vines,” club advisor and social studies teacher Angela Arbour said. Several students attended the presentation and then recruited students to take part in an afternoon of pulling vines. This was our second year working with Brian and the DCR.”

Think Globally, Act Locally is a student-led club that focuses on student-selected issues.

“Over the last few years, students have chosen to focus on environmental issues that have both local and global impacts like invasive species,” Arbour said. “Students were excited to take part in a project like this because it was a ‘hands on’ solution to a local problem.”

Property owners who find it can remove it, and may be able to get assistance once it is confirmed, but it will also be important to make sure it does not grow back.

Keevan collects the seeds and makes sure the seeds will not grow or be spread by birds. He takes the seeds and securely bags them to be sure they are disposed of.

Those who may see it are being asked to alert the state via a website or phone call.

The agricultural resources pest hotline is (617) 626-1779, or it can be reported at massnrc.org/pests.