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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.

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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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Thursday - April 17, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Vines
Title: Protection from native invasive trumpet vines
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. SP: I have invaders! Trumpet vines from a neighbor's yard, two doors away have taken over and are eating my garage and trying to steal all the sun from my clematis vines. How do I get rid of the aliens without harming my desirable plants? They take root and creep everywhere. Thanks. Under Siege in Austin

ANSWER:

You do, indeed, have a problem. Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) is an aggressive, fast-growing vine that uses aerial rootlets to climb up over buildings, other plants and even layering on itself. It spreads both by suckers and by seeds, a double whammy, and you already know the damage it can do. We really hate to tell you this, but manual labor is about the only way you are going to win this one. Because one of the way it spreads is by underground roots, spraying a herbicide would not result in total elimination, and would very probably harm some desirable plants in the same area. It's going to take a two-fold attack. First, cut down everything you can get at, so it won't bloom and seed any more. Be sure and dispose of these cuttings carefully so they won't seed and spread somewhere else. Pulling those aerial rootlets away from your garage is going to be difficult, but absolutely necessary. Next, start on the suckers. Dig out, pull out or use a hatchet to eliminate as much of the root system as you can. Then, be constantly on the lookout for the suckers. Just pulling them out is not enough, because the presence of a sucker indicates the presence of yet another viable root. If the sprouting suckers are somewhere that you can mow or use a Weed-Eater, that will at least knock them down and discourage them, but you have to remember, this plant is a survivor! You say the origin of the plant is two doors away, which means they are crossing the yard next to you, as well. If you can enlist help from that neighbor in stopping the encroachment of the plant, that will be that much less to spread into your yard.

Trumpet creepers are planted for good reasons - to cover unsightly walls or chain link fences and to attract hummingbirds, both of which they do very well. And, they're not alien invaders, although it seems they are; they are actually natives of this area, which is why they do so well. But, a weed is a plant in the wrong place, and it would seem the Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) is in the wrong place in your yard!

 

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