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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.

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

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Friday - June 15, 2007

From: Friendswood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Control of Smilax bona-nox (saw greenbrier)
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

We have some property near Round Mountain, Texas. Under and in the oak trees is a vine that has a heart-shaped, shiny leaf and nasty thorns. I'd like to know the name and how best to try to get rid of it in human-populated areas. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Not all native plants are welcome in the garden all of the time. This is one that causes many people a lot of consternation. Your vine is likely a Cat-brier, probably Smilax bona-nox (saw greenbrier). While its new growth is delicious as a steamed vegetable, most people overlook Cat-brier's culinary advantages because of its other, less noble characteristics - the ones with which you are already familiar.

Smilax makes a thick, hardened root in which it stores water and nutrients. Hand pulling Cat-brier usually only breaks off the top-growth which the root quickly replaces. Dig and destroy these root storage organs and you will destroy the plant. This is never easy and is often impracticle or impossible. Cutting new growth a few inches above the soil and painting the remaining stub with an herbicide labeled for that purpose is the most common control method.

 

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