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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Saturday - October 03, 2009

From: Largo, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Vines
Title: Invasive possibly non-native vine in Largo FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have vines taking over my backyard, climbing all over the ground and up trees. The vines are huge, non-flowering giant leaves that look like elephant ears. What are these and how can they be contained? They look nice up the trees but then sprouts start to hang down like tarzan vines and spread all over the yard.

ANSWER:

Without knowing what this plant is, we couldn't begin to recommend how to care for it or control it. Unfortunately, it sounds like a tropical plant, non-native to North America, and therefore out of our range of expertise. Because of the climate in Florida, it is often a victim of escaped exotic plants that become invasive. Please go to our Mr. Smarty Plants Plant Identification page, follow the instructions and we will try to identify it.

Meanwhile, we would recommend that you contact the University of Florida Extension Office for Pinellas County, and see what they know about the plant. If, indeed, it is a non-native that has escaped from cultivation, the Extension Office probably already knows what it is, and that it could be on its way to becoming very invasive. It could climb over the trees and shrubs and, with those big leaves, quickly shade the plants in your garden and kill them.

In that case, you would do well to begin getting rid of the vine as quickly and as thoroughly as you can. For rampantly invasive vines like that, we recommend that you buy a broad spectrum herbicide and some small sponge disposable brushes. Find every place that vines are emerging from their roots in the ground, and cut the vine off as close to the ground as possible. Then, within five minutes, paint the undiluted herbicide on the cut surface. It is necessary to do so quickly, before the root begins to heal over to protect itself. You should certainly begin to pull down and destroy the vines and leaves that are already in the trees, before they have a chance to do any more damage. If this vine is as invasive as it sounds, you will have to continue to pursue the destruction program every time you see a fresh sprout come up. Use the herbicide very carefully, and try to keep it off the soil, as a broad spectrum herbicide kills anything growing that it can get to, including the trees and shrubs you are trying to save. It may take several additional applications of the herbicide to freshly exposed vine surfaces to finally kill the roots, and until the roots are dead, the vine will likely continue to sucker and re-emerge.

 

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