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Mr. Smarty Plants - Removing invasives plants in Adairsville GA

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Tuesday - September 29, 2009

From: Adairsville, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Removing invasives plants in Adairsville GA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We just moved into a new house and kudzu, greenbriar and poison ivy are trying to take over. I pulled what I could out of the trees, cut everything off at the base of the vine. I even tried digging the root ball up but yikes! they are deep and big. Even after cutting them off, they have grown 3'-4' in just one week. I tried Round Up on a few of them and it did nothing. Do you have any suggestions how I can get this under control? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Boy, you must have the Poster Property for invasives, native and non-native, at your new house. There is probably nothing we can tell you that you haven't already discovered about these three plants. All three grow profusely in your area of northwest Georgia.

The kudzu is the only one of the three that is non-native to North America, having been imported in the late 1800's from southern Japan and southeast China, both as an ornamental and as a forage crop. Read this article on Kudzu, Pueraria lobata or Pueraria montana var. lobata Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group LEAST WANTED.

Greenbriar or greenbrier is a common name given to several members of the Smilax genus: Smilax laurifolia (laurel greenbrier) or Smilax bona-nox (saw greenbrier) and we are betting it's the latter, with its nasty little hooked thorns, giving rise to another common name, cat-briar.   

And, of course, everyone knows about Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy).

So, there's good news and bad news. First, the good news; these plants are all deciduous, and as their leaves drop off, you will be able to get a better grip on the problem. Now, the bad news; they are all perennial and will be back to grow and annoy again in the Spring. You need to take advantage of this "down" season to do everything you can to kill the roots. You have already discovered that they all will regenerate quickly and go on growing. 

For starters, do as you have been doing, pulling vines out of the trees, and tracing them back to their emergence from the ground. Remember, the cat-briar is armed with claws, regardless of the season and similarly the poison ivy is toxic even when it's supposedly dead. If you don't have a spare suit of armor in the garage, we would suggest long sleeves, long pants, heavy gloves (rubber gloves for the poison ivy) and protective goggles. As you pull stuff down from the trees, it can break off a branch, which will then thank you for your efforts in its behalf by hitting you, so watch what you're doing. 

Next, you still have use for the herbicide you bought, but you need to buy some small disposable sponge paintbrushes. Go on a killing spree, cutting off every vine as close to the ground as you can. Quickly, within 5 minutes, paint full-strength herbicide on that cut surface, before the vine has a chance to heal over and protect its roots. Repeat the process any time any sign of life pops up from the Three Scourges. Carefully dispose of everything you cut off; even the smoke from burning poison ivy can be toxic, and all of the vines will take any opportunity to resprout. And be very careful with that herbicide-it can kill desirable plants, too, if it gets spilled or sprayed carelessly.

Gradually, the roots will exhaust their stores of food for the plant, and starve to death, but it's going to be a never-ending process. For example, birds adore the little green berries on poison ivy, and they will be happy to plant a new supply in your garden. If there is an uncontrolled stand of kudzu nearby, you will be subject to constant attacks from the outside. Cat-briar is also dispersed by animals such as squirrels and raccoons and, of course, the birds.

Pictures of kudzu from Google.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Smilax bona-nox

Smilax bona-nox

Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

 

 

 

 

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