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
2 ratings

Monday - September 10, 2007

From: Pensacola, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Trees
Title: Removal of invasive non-native Chinese wisteria
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am going to be removing my ubiquitous chinese wisteria very soon (the method I'm going to use is undetermined). If I decide to use Round-up on the cut-stem (which may take more than one application), how soon could I plant a native vine in its place? I've read that a good way to combat or keep the wisteria from growing back is to plant another plant immediately after removing it. I would like to plant something that will choke it out (if there is such a thing) and provides food/shelter for birds. My two top choices that I decided on are: Trumpet Creeper (campsis radicans) and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Can I fight fire with fire this way, by warding off one invasive exotic species with a (somewhat invasive) native species? Any tips on how to remove wisteria and what to use in its place will be greatly appreciated. (I really don't want to use the herbicide method, but know that it is probably the quickest and most effective way to eradicate this problematic vine.)

ANSWER:

Wisteria sinensis, as you obviously already know, is an invasive import from China. This website from the Plant Conservation Alliance has more information about the problems and techniques in removing the plant from the landscape. Unfortunately, you are gardening in Florida where the introduced wisteria is an even greater threat to native landscapes. It can grow up any support many feet into the air, girdling and eventually killing mature trees, taking over structures, and shading out other, more desirable plants. You are to be applauded for deciding to remove it.

As you also undoubtedly already know, this isn't going to be an easy task. We discourage the use of herbicides if at all possible. In the first place, there is always the possibility of accidentally damaging a desirable plant. In the second place, there is the problem of disposal; if you find you must use it, check with local waste collection to find out if they have a "hazardous materials" disposal date, so your leftover herbicide will not have a chance to get into the water supply.

So, our recommendation is that you roll up your sleeves. First, to make the situation more manageable, start taking down the stems. Using a pruning saw (and don't worry about damaging the stems, that's what you're trying to do), start cutting the stems into lengths for easy disposal. Be sure to rake up and dispose of any seeds or pods left behind. And note that one of the ways this plant spreads is by suckers, so keep an eye out for those and pull them out. If there is a community composting site in your area, where the compost is tended and turned faithfully, the compost should get hot enough to destroy the seeds of the wisteria. Otherwise, it will need to be bagged and added to the landfill. Now, having made the roots more accessible by removing the trunk and stems, go after the base of the plant. Depending on the age and size of the existing plant, this is going to require some digging and more sawing. Theoretically, removal of all the leaves needed for nutrition should kill the plant, but Nature is tenacious, and the aforesaid suckers will continue to appear from the roots in an attempt to survive. Keep pulling or digging out and cutting off chunks of the stem until you feel satisfied that you have gotten as much as possible.

We really don't think it's a good idea to plant something else in that spot right away. It would be better to watch the ground over the winter, continuing to pull out root as possible, and certainly destroy any suckers that show up. If you start another fast-proliferating plant, even a native, there is the likelihood that it will just be cover for more wisteria suckers popping up, and they could get themselves established before you realize they are there.

This is a classic example of why the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is centered on the protection and propagation of native plants, and the avoidance of non-natives, invasive or otherwise. It's much easier to not plant an invasive alien than it is to get rid of one.

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Can bastard cabbage be eaten from Austin
May 02, 2013 - On a local cooking show they were talking about cooking local foods and mentioned bastard cabbage but never showed how to cook it or if it was in fact edible. Would be a way to help get rid of it if ...
view the full question and answer

Control of non-native invasive Japanese Barberry from Enfield NH
April 22, 2014 - 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 alway...
view the full question and answer

Plants for oak shade from Whitney TX
December 24, 2012 - I live in Whitney, Texas and have a number of beautiful Live Oak trees in a portion of my yard providing deep shade. Asian Jasmine grows in about 5 ft circle around them and then nothing! I have walk ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native ligustrum in non-native fescue in Medina TX
May 22, 2013 - Is there an effective way to kill baby ligustrums coming up in my fescue yard without harming the grass?
view the full question and answer

Nutgrass
September 12, 2008 - Hey Hi Barbara, I just read the information you gave about nut grass. I had wished for other options. Back to digging them out. Thanks for the information What about substituting cud zoo. S...
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