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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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Friday - July 22, 2011

From: Stamps, AR
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Vines
Title: Eliminating a briar vine in American holly
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a wild vine (I was told it is a type of briar) living on my place. The root nest is like a potato. I have dug them up, I have sprayed them and I still am plagued with them. I have a beautiful American Holly. I have trimmed the limbs up high enough to walk under, but now the briars are taking over. I want to put more desirable plants under the tree. tell me what will kill them or a ground cover which will keep them from growing. Look forward to an answer, THANKS.

ANSWER:

There are 4 species of native greenbrier's that live in, or adjacent to, Lafayette County, Arkansas.   I'm not sure which one you have, but here they are in order of their "thorniness":

Smilax bona-nox (Saw greenbrier) has formidable thorns.

Smilax laurifolia (Laurel greenbriar) also has lots of thorns and here are photos and more information.

Smilax pumila (Sarsaparilla vine) has almost no thorns.

Smilax smallii (Lanceleaf greenbrier) has no thorns.

I suppose it doesn't really matter which one you have—you just want to get rid of it.   The keys to getting rid of the vine are vigilance and persistence.  First, watch for new shoots, cut them off and immediately (using a small paintbrush) paint the cut stem with an appropriate herbicide (check with a nursery for the best brand for this monocot vine).  You need to paint them immediately after cutting because the plant, to protect itself, will begin to close up those injured cells.  Painting works better than spraying because you aren't as likely to harm other plants and the liguid will go directly into the plant's transport system.  When you can, dig up those tuberous roots.  The plant can't live without those.

This is not the first question we have received about eliminating greenbriers.  Please click here to read the answer to a previous question.

 

 

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