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?


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
1 rating

Friday - December 24, 2010

From: Granbury, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Vines
Title: Getting rid of a small itchy vine in Granbury, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I am clearing an area near some trees that has never been "domesticated". There is a little itchy vine that grows pretty extensively (not very much top growth, but is all over the place). The small leaves itch like crazy for 10 minutes or so wherever they touch my hands or arms, but there are no welts. It spreads underground, but when I dig and dig, I can never seem to get all the roots. It is robust where it is growing but the deeper I dig, the finer the root becomes until I break or lose it. In one place I determined to dig carefully so I could follow the thread-like root. Where I finally lost it was about a foot deep and there was a LARGE root, maybe 3/8" around, running parallel to the ground. I'd like to get them dug out once and for all, but can't if I don't understand how they spread. There are some trees nearby, but this root was growing parallel to the trees and not like it was growing outward from the trunk. Once I googled "little itchy Texas vine" and found its name, but I didn't write it down so I could research it further. The articles I found didn't address its root growth at all. Can you help me?


Mr. Smarty Plants can think of a few small perennial vines that have the potential to produce stinging or itchiness.  Most of the Tragia spp. cause a stinging sensation when touched.  Here are three species that occur in your area:

Tragia betonicifolia (Betonyleaf noseburn)

Tragia brevispica (Shortspike noseburn) and here are photos.

Tragia ramosa (Branched noseburn) and here are photos and more information.

The Botanical Dermatology Database lists a few other vines native to your area that are irritants to skin.  Members of the Genus Clematis all appear to have irritants.  Here are a couple in your area:

Clematis drummondii (Drummond's clematis)

Clematis pitcheri (Purple clematis)

Another vine that produces tubers that reportedly have a skin irritant is Dioscorea villosa (Wild yam); however, it would be rare for it to occur in the Granbury area.  It does occur in East Texas.

You can see other vines that occur in Texas by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database.  Choose 'Texas' from the Select State or Province slot and 'Vine' from Habit (general appearance) to get a list of more than 200 native vines that occur in Texas. If none of these are the vine that you are trying to eliminate, it may be a non-native.  In that case, you should take photos of it and visit our Plant Identification page to find various plant identification forums where you can submit photos for identification. 

Very few of the descriptions of the vines in our database or other literature are going to tell you much, if anything, about their roots.  However, I can suggest a method for getting rid of the vine without digging up the roots entirely.  First, cut the vine off near the ground and, using a small paint brush, immediately paint the cut surface of the stem leading to the root with an herbicide. Roundup is the name of one popular herbicide, but there are others.  You can ask your favorite nursery for their recommendation.  Don't spray the herbicide on the cut since you would risk getting the herbicide on other plants that you want to live.  Paint the surface immediately after you cut it since plant cells usually respond to injury by sealing themselves quickly.  It might take more than one treatment but this should eventually kill the vine.  Be sure you read and observe the precautions to protect yourself and the environment that are given on the label of the herbicide that you use.

Also, I might suggest that you wear a long-sleeve shirt and gloves when you are working in an area that has the vine.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:

Tragia betonicifolia

Tragia ramosa

Clematis drummondii

Clematis pitcheri





More Problem Plants Questions

Fast-spreading desert-type tree with thorns in yard
July 21, 2014 - There is a fast spreading tree in my backyard - many multiple almost symmetric flat green oval leaves on either side of the stem (sort of like a moringa tree but this is not that). Grows straight up, ...
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

Eliminating unwanted vine on arbor in San Francisco
November 20, 2012 - There is a vine growing on our arbor, it has sickle-shaped pods and is crushing the arbor, how do we get rid of it?
view the full question and answer

Will the
May 27, 2015 - I'm becoming interested in rain gardens, and although Silphium perfoliatum does not appear to be a host for butterfly caterpillars and like most of the "giant tall grass prairie daisies" may be a b...
view the full question and answer

Cat eating yucca stalks in England
May 07, 2013 - Is it safe for my cat to eat yucca as she is being sick and its hard to stop her
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center