En Español

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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - May 25, 2011

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Invasive Cissus trifoliata in Dallas
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have finally identified an invasive, stinky vine in my urban landscape as Cissus trifoliata. It was waxy leaves, small greenish flowers, and small black berries. It appears to spread with underground tubers. Its odor, when pulled, is very unpleasant. It climbs on brick houses and wood fences, into trees, and over shrubs. Is there any way to get rid of this vine?


As you will see by following this link, Cissus trifoliata (Sorrelvine), to our webpage on the plant it is quite common, and a native plant to most of Texas. Just because we are in favor of native plants doesn't mean we approve of all of them, and this one is definitely on our "NOT" list. It is a member of the Vitaceae, or grape, family and anyone who has ever had wild grapes invade their gardens knows how hard they are to get rid of.

Native Habitat: Cissus trifoliata grows in chapparal, salt marshes, stream banks, open woodlands, and disturbed areas. It sprawls and climbs over rocks, shrubs, and trees. It is found throughout most of Texas.

It is a broadleaf plant, so if you purchased an herbicide specifically for broadleaf plants, as opposed to narrowleaf plants like grasses, you could probably at least discourage it. Unfortunately, the trees and plants it is climbing over are broadleaf plants, too. And, because of growing with underground rhizomes, the herbicide would probably affect it very little and damage or kill a lot of plants you want to keep.

You can at least get some control over it, and the sooner you start, the better. It blooms from May to September, followed by the berries, which the friendly birds no doubt consume and then deposit somewhere else for a fresh vine start. With heavy gloves and long sleeves and pants on, get as much of the vine cleaned out and bagged for the landfill as you can. As the base of this vine is often woody, particularly the larger ones, the next step is to sever those vines as near the ground as possible. Use a wide spectrum herbicide and paint it on the cut base of the vine, within 5 minutes. The vine will be trying to heal itself over, to protect the rhizomes under the soil, so a speedy application is important.

After that, it is a matter of persistence. This vine really, really wants to grow where you don't want it, and it will be using both seeds and the food storage in the rhizomes to do so. Learn what it looks like when it first pops up, and get it and as much of the rhizome that has sprouted it out of the ground immediately.


From the Image Gallery

Grape ivy
Cissus trifoliata

Grape ivy
Cissus trifoliata

Grape ivy
Cissus trifoliata

More Invasive Plants Questions

Landscaping in the Southern California desert.
October 16, 2007 - We are located in southern California in Lake Havasu. I'm trying to landscape sloping areas. I have arrow weeds (Pluchea sericea) and want to get rid of them permanently. How can I achieve this or...
view the full question and answer

Invasives species experiment from Fairfax VA
May 09, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have some friends that need an experiment on Invasive Species fast. They are in 11th grade at Robinson secondary school. Are you able to help? Its due in June and they don'...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Royal Empress tree with only green leaves from Chambersburg PA
July 12, 2013 - I have 3 Royal Empress trees in my yard that are between 2-4 yrs old and have never been any color other then big Green leaves. Do you know when they will turn Purple?
view the full question and answer

Source for Saltmarsh cordgrass from Houston
April 16, 2013 - I work for a consulting firm and we are looking to do more of our wetland creation/restoration. Do you know where one can purchased Spartina alterniflora?
view the full question and answer

Invasive Indian paintbrushes in Grawn MI
June 04, 2012 - I have lots of Indian paintbrushes crowding my lawn and taking over the grass..what kills it without killing the grass?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center