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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.

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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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Tuesday - August 09, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Problem Plants
Title: removing paper mulberry shoots from lawn
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Dear Mr./Ms. Smartypants, I recently moved into an Austin home with the backyard taken over by paper mulberries. There were originally 2-3 large bush/trees, but now that I've removed them I realize there are hundreds upon hundreds of little paper mulberry saplings. I plucked the entire yard a month ago, and now the saplings have grown back. I really don't want to use harsh chemicals, but I'm afraid that the root system is too well-developed to uproot. Nothing else is growing in the yard, possibly because this invasive species has made such an inhospitable environment. Is my yard beyond hope? Is there anyway to get rid of these, once and for all? Thanks,

ANSWER:

Paper mulberry is a non-native plant that can be highly invasive and hard to eliminate, as you have learned.  However, if, as you state, there are no other desirable plants now growing in your backyard, you are well-positioned to use solarization to eliminate the invasive shoots. This is your best bet if you do not wish to use chemical herbicides, which might have only marginal success in this case. 

Mr. Smarty Plants does not find any reference specifically describing solarization to eliminate Paper mulberry, but if you follow the instructions given in the underlined solarization website there is a good chance of success.  A preliminary tilling with a roto-tiller should break up the fairly tender mulberry roots that lie only a few inches below the ground.  The hot Texas sun should kill the remaining plant material within a few weeks.

Solarization also kills many useful soil microorganisms.  If you plan to plant other things in this area soon it might be a good idea to broadcast compost or soil containing compost over the ground to help replenish the soil microbiota.

 

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