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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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Tuesday - August 26, 2008

From: Fairfield, CA
Region: California
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Eradicating non-native pyracantha bushes in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We removed several pyracantha bushes but they keep coming up in other parts of the garden. How do we kill the shoots? Thank you for any help

ANSWER:

Pyracantha coccinea, also called Scarlet Firethorn, is a native of Southern Europe to the Caucasus Mountains in western Asia. Since at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are dedicated to the use and protection of plants native to North America, we do not have this plant in our Native Plant Database. However, we can usually find some websites that will help.

In this case, we have had personal experience with Pyracantha. The common name Scarlet Firethorn is certainly appropriate. More than once, in trying to prune or shape or destroy the plants, we got stabbed with those ferocious thorns. Not only did they hurt like anything, but they appeared to have some sort of venom on their tips that really burned. And when it came time to take them out, that was a problem, too. In fact, years later, preparing a flower bed in the same area, we came across big roots from the pyracantha. Since it propagates by berries, and the berries are usually prolific, and birds like the berries and bring some more in to plant in your yard, the shoots do keep popping up. There really is no quick and easy solution. If you spray them with an herbicide, you risk harming other plants more valuable to you. The first order of business is to rake up and destroy any berries you find, before they can sprout or before a bird can plant them for you. Second, just keep pulling the sprouts out. Other people in your neighborhood probably have the pyracantha bushes, too, so you'll just have to be vigilant.

 

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