En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - April 22, 2014

From: Enfield, NH
Region: Northeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Control of non-native invasive Japanese Barberry from Enfield NH
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I recently bought a home that is bordered by woods and a sizable area of invasive Japanese Barberry growing on a steep hill in and around a stone wall making it that much harder to dig up. I've always been a fan of gardening with native plants and want this painfully thorny plant gone. What's the best way to remove the barberry without hurting surrounding vegetation or at the very least minimizing the damage? I'm worried it will multiply faster than I can remove it by hand particularly due to the difficult terrain.

ANSWER:

Since this plant is not native to North America, it is obviously out of our area of expertise, and we have no information on it. However, it can be easily disliked by us anyway.

From the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group LEAST WANTED Japanese Barberry. We don't think we could say a single thing that would make our feelings any more clear than what is said in this article. From that site:

"Japanese barberry has been reported to be invasive in twenty states and the District of Columbia. Due to its ornamental interest, barberry is still widely propagated and sold by nurseries for landscaping purposes in many parts of the U.S."

"Japanese barberry was introduced to the U.S. and New England as an ornamental plant in 1875 in the form of seeds sent from Russia to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. Japanese barberry spreads by seed and by vegetative expansion. Barberry produces large numbers of seeds which have a high germination rate, estimated as high as 90%. Barberry seed is transported to new locations with the help of birds (e.g., turkey and ruffed grouse) and small mammals which eat it. Birds frequently disperse seed while perched on powerlines or on trees at forest edges. Vegetative spread is through branches touching the ground that can root to form new plants and root fragments remaining in the soil that can sprout to form new plants."

When you scroll down that page, you will find excellent Management advice, but it is not going to be easy. We urge you not to use sprays as they can disperse to harm more desirable plants, even animals, like people. The first thing we recommend you get is a long-handled pruner, with very healthy cutting edges. When we say long-handled, we mean one that you can stand erect and use, as your back is going to be in enough pain as it is, and you sure want to stay away from those thorns. As the referenced article points out, you want to prevent it from seeding out however you can, all year round. Cut off the seeding heads and dispose of them where they won't be available to birds for dispersal, nor can be washed onto new ground by rain. Again, that long handled cutter will come in handy.

Now, to get at the root of the matter (pun intended.) Starting from the outer edges of the infestation and using the pruner, cut a plant's root off as close to the ground as possible. Immediately, using a long-handled sponge disposable paintbrush, paint that cut root with an undiluted wide-spectrum herbicide. You need to do this quickly because that cut area is attempting to heal over to protect the very root you are trying to kill. Do this with every branch or trunk that sticks itself out of the ground, as well as branches touching the ground because the plant can sprout from those, too.

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Chinaberry trees coming up volunteer
October 14, 2007 - I have several chinaberry trees that have sprouted after my neighbor trimmed his tree. I have cut these trees down to the ground a couple of times, but they just send out new shoots. Any idea on how...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on vitex
May 12, 2005 - I recently purchased a vitex tree and I don't know anything about it other that it blooms. Can you tell me everything there is about this tree?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 02, 2011 - I have a plant that I would like to identify. It is a tall shrub/woody vine? (approx. 8-10 feet) that has very large thorns on its branches and stems. The stems remain green during winter. It loses it...
view the full question and answer

Information on edible tubers of hog potato from Austin
November 10, 2011 - I inquired a while back about hog potato or Hoffmannseggia glauca. You gave me some information on the plant but no information on when the plant produces the edible tubers. Also how long does it take...
view the full question and answer

Possibility of consuming Rapistrum rugosum
April 21, 2007 - Reference: "Bastard Cabbage" (Rapistrum rugosum) Garden section of Austin American-Statesman (April 7, 2007) speaks of this weed. As a child, my parents used to pick, cook and eat this weed at the ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center