En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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 Non-Natives Questions

Yellowing leaves in non-native Arbutus unedo in Washington
July 03, 2008 - I live in the Pacific Northwest and have planted 2 dwarf strawberry trees. I have been giving them lots of water. Their leaves are turning yellow. Am I watering them too much? Not enough?
view the full question and answer

Information about non-native Feijoa sellowiana (pineapple guave)
April 01, 2010 - Does a pineapple guava thrive in Austin, zip 78735? What height does it grow and what watering is needed?
view the full question and answer

Identification of non-native wildflower
August 20, 2007 - I am a painter and I need your help. When I was in Pecatonica, Illinois recently I saw a very beautiful blue colored wildflower. I was amazed by its beauty but didn't have a camera with me to take a ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native, invasive Datura sprouting from compost
September 26, 2005 - Hi, I have a plant growing out of some compost we purchased this spring and no one can tell me what it is. It's about 4 ft. tall, the stem is maroon like rhubarb and it produces 4-5 in. tubular lig...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Japanese maple for East Northport NY
August 20, 2013 - I live in NY and I am looking to plant a Japanese maple in front of my house. It would be in front of a window so I'm thinking should I get a dwarf? Or a semi dwarf? I know I want a red color but un...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center