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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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Sunday - July 27, 2008

From: Myrtle Beach, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Vines
Title: How to get rid of invasive wild bean vine
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

An invasive vine has taken over our beds, mostly wherever we have asiatic jasmine ground cover. We seem to be the only people nearby with this problem, and the volunteers with our local master gardener's group had trouble identifying the speciman I brought them. The closest guess seems to be wild bean vine, and that seems to match their pictures -- three leaves, small pink/purple flower in spring, insignificant little bean-like things here and there, and a tuber shaped like a fat carrot. Digging the tubers (nearly impossible to dig through the groundcover to do so) and pulling the vines only seems to encourage it. I have cleared entire areas, turned over soil and disposed of every tuber, but thousands of vines come back with renewed vigor, rise above the good groundcover, twine around each other, then fall to create a mat if they don't find any vertical surface to climb. "Painting" all those tentacles with insecticide would be an impossible task. Any suggestions, other than destroying all the groundcover beds and replacing with concrete?

ANSWER:

Mr. SP is very curious about what vine you have. Do you mean Strophostyles helvola (amberique-bean)—also known as trailing wildbean or wildbean—or Strophostyles umbellata (pink fuzzybean)—also known as pink wild bean or trailing wild bean. These are both native species to South Carolina that have the common name "wild bean" but I couldn't find any information that indicated that they were invasive. Also, nothing on the Invasive Plant Pest Species of South Carolina list matches your description, so I'm not sure what you are dealing with. If you would like for us to try and identify it, please send us photos. Please visit the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page to read instructions for submitting photos under "Plant Identification." A positive identification could lead us to sources who have dealt with the invasiveness of the species.

You aren't going to want to hear this, but I think short of digging up the entire area and starting over, you are going to have to try to dig them up or cut them off at the base and paint the area that has been cut or broken with an herbicide (being very careful not to get it on your other desirable plants). Painting each of the "tentacles" wouldn't be as effective as getting to the base of them and painting the part that is attached to the roots. Visit a reputable plant nursery and ask for their advice on which herbicide to use.  Read the instructions on using the chemical and the safety warnings carefully before using and then follow them.

This isn't going to be easy—but if you are vigilant and persistent, you should eventually conquer this pest.


Strophostyles helvola

Strophostyles umbellata

 

 

 

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