En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Identification of thorny vine in Michigan

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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 21, 2013

From: Three Oaks, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Vines
Title: Identification of thorny vine in Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We have a species growing around our rural SW Michigan property that I'm trying to identify: I either see stalks up to 3 ft tall, or much longer vines if they find anchor. The most notable characteristic are the "cat's claw" thorns along the stalks/vines that can form a painful thicket, pierce through work gloves, and be a nightmare to remove. Those "cat's claw" thorns look more like a cat's claw than the thorns of the vine commonly known by that name, and that vine shouldn't even be in North America. Do you know what it is?

ANSWER:

There are a couple of vines native to Michigan that could be your thorny species:

Smilax rotundifolia (Roundleaf greenbrier)  Here are photos and more information from Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.  Here is a description of the plant from eFloras.org.  Here are photos from the Herbarium at the University of Michigan.

Smilax tamnoides (Bristly greenbrier)  Here are photos and more information from Virginia Tech.  Here is a description of the plant from eFloras.org.  Here's information from the University of Michigan.

They will both form thickets that are almost impenetrable.

If neither of these is your plant, you should photograph it and visit our Plant Identification page to find links to plant identification forums that will accept photos for identification.

There is an invasive vine from Central America called Macfadyene unguis-cati (Catclaw-vine), but it is limited to states of the Gulf Coast (Texas, Louisiana, Florida) and Hawaii and, thus, is unlikely to be growing in Michigan.

 

More Plant Identification Questions

plant identification, Portulaca pilosa, Kiss-me-quick
October 02, 2007 - There is a small plant with clusters of red-purple flowers and tubular succulent leaves on branching stems I found in the flower boxes at the top of the look-out tower there at the center. I forgot to...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
July 28, 2012 - I have a plant that looks like a suculent tree with a canopy like an umbrella. It grows every summer & is no more than 5 ft tall. It has tiny spines on it's trunk, which has white spots on it. the en...
view the full question and answer

Identity of plant that looks like green onions
April 06, 2013 - I have what looks like green onions growing in my lawn. They have small white flowers. Are they edible?
view the full question and answer

Plant ID at the Wildflower Center from Austin
June 18, 2012 - I was at the Wildflower Center today and loved the green plants with delicate white flowers that were in both clay pots in front of the auditorium. Please let me know the name of the plants.
view the full question and answer

Propagating a Magnolia tree from a twig cutting in New Hampshire.
November 02, 2011 - I have a twig cutting from a rare magnolia tree I found on a farm in central New Hampshire. The tree seems to be at least one hundred years old. It was in full bloom in late August and I was told by t...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center