En EspaŅol

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
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

Sheet mulching before planting Habiturf from Grand Prairie, TX
March 03, 2014 - Have you tried sheet mulching as a bed prep and to kill bermuda grass before planting habituff?
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native, invasive Japanese Privet from Peoria AZ
July 31, 2013 - I have Japanese Privit bushes. one out of 6 has started to grow very small leaves and does not look healthy. Moon Valley told me shortage of zinc, but that has not helped in 3 months. What can I ...
view the full question and answer

Is it OK to plant Huisache in southern California?
June 15, 2009 - We have a wonderful huisache growing on a very dry rocky/dusty slope. It has now sprouted babies and we are delighted because we have room for several more on this slope. I have some room on our front...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of non-native, invasive English Ivy from Davidsonville MD
March 19, 2014 - Just moved and need to rid the well established Ivy planted on the steep slope area around the back and side of the house as it is taking over the bushes on the top and trees in forested area at botto...
view the full question and answer

Methods of controlling poison ivy
April 19, 2005 - What do you suggest for controlling poison oak (ivy)?
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