En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Eradicating sumac in Burnet, TX

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

Thursday - February 05, 2009

From: Burnet, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Eradicating sumac in Burnet, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have several varieties of sumac on my property. I need to know how to get rid of it. When I cut it down it seems to come back in force.

ANSWER:

In order to find a point of reference, we found three members of the Rhus genus native to Central Texas: Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac), Rhus glabra (smooth sumac), and Rhus virens (evergreen sumac). You probably have, at the very least, some of all three of these plus others that have migrated in. The bad news, in your case, is that this is a very tough survivor. It can take just about all soils, rocky, sandy, limestone, etc., is drought resistant, can thrive in sun, part shade or shade. But the worst news is that it spreads by suckering. Colonies are often single-sexed, formed from a single suckering parent. Worse, we learned that colonies can be rejuvenated every few years by cutting them to the ground in mid-winter, which is probably what happened to you when you tried to cut them back in cool weather. 

Sumac is generally so well-regarded that we could find no references to how to get rid of it.  So, we are going to offer some ideas for you to try. You obviously already know that it comes back with a bang when it is cut down. However, it would seem from the information on rejuvenating it by cutting down in the winter also suggests that cutting it back in the heat of summer might have the reverse effect. Because the Rhus genus has suckering, spreading roots, cutting off one area of the shrub just means the upper part of the plant will have to go to another area for nutrition. But, any plant can be eventually starved to death, and being cut in the dry hot summer would hopefully discourage it. You can hardly dig out all those roots. As the plant digs in for survival, it will continue to pop out more suckers. So, our first suggestion is to keep cutting, perhaps even mowing, and do it into the heat on the summer. Hard on the gardener, but hopefully harder on the plant.

A second line of control is the use of an herbicide. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends neither for nor against the use of herbicides and pesticides, but in this case carefully controlled use may be necessary. Don't spray, you are dealing with too large an area, and spray can easily drift onto more desirable plants, contaminate the soil, and get into the drainage off the area. Instead, with large heavy-duty clippers, cut off main stems at the ground, and immediately paint the stub with an herbicide. This can be done with a disposable paintbrush, and must be done within 5 minutes of cutting, before the stub can seal itself off. This will then permit the herbicide to penetrate into the root system. That system is probably so extensive that applications everywhere you can find a stem to cut and treat will be necessary.

This is not a quick fix, and is going to be tedious. The plant will probably keep trying to return, since it obviously finds your area very enticing. Wild animals and birds who browse sumac or feed on its seeds will carry fresh seeds onto your property; again, frequent mowing is your best way to control the return of the plant.


Rhus aromatica

Rhus glabra

Rhus virens

 

 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Evergreen replacement for bamboo in Redding CA
July 27, 2009 - We have just removed bamboo from our backyard and need to replace it with a plant that will give us the same type of privacy. What plant would you suggest to plant along a fence line that will surviv...
view the full question and answer

Japanese honeysuckle invading a backyard habitat in Austin
April 29, 2010 - It has been a few weeks since we have been to our backyard (it is a place in need of desperate attention, but we have been re-landscaping the front yard first). When we went out today to start plannin...
view the full question and answer

Help with control of small, invasive groundcover
April 16, 2012 - I have a very invasive ground cover creeping into my yard. I've tried to identify it and it's similar to creeping charlie or garlic mustard. Leaves are triangular with jagged edges, small purple f...
view the full question and answer

Plant around Pittsburg from Weirton WV
September 19, 2009 - I have seen this plant outside of the Pittsburgh,PA area and was told it is called Midnight Cowboy. It has bright yellow flowers and long green leaves that only comes out at night(so I am told). Ca...
view the full question and answer

More information on coltsfoot in Rindge NH
July 28, 2009 - I wanted to give input regarding the query from Barbara Medford about: Coltsfoot invasive in Rindge NH Tuesday - July 21, 2009. I think it likely that the coltsfoot she described is Tussilago farfara...
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