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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.

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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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Monday - July 08, 2013

From: Denton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Problem Plants
Title: Identification of a plant with winged stems in Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, We live in Denton Texas & our backyard is being taken over by a very woody type weed or bush. The most distinguishing characteristic is that long thin vertical ridges or fins grow along the branches. This plant spreads like wildfire & completely took over one side of our yard & I'm afraid we will have no yard left soon. It doesn't pull out of the ground like most weeks, has no seeds or berries, just skinny flat leaves & grows to about 3 feet tall. Thx! We want to figure out how to prevent it from being in our yard at all.

ANSWER:

This sounds like Rhus copallinum (Winged sumac).  They have winged stems, grow quickly and often form colonies from a single plant with a tap root that has rhizomes that produce sucker plants, making a clone of plants.  Here are more photos and information from Illinois Wildflowers and University of Florida Lee County Extension.

The fact that your plants may be all connected is going to make them a bit more difficult to eradicate.  To be rid of them you will need to dig them up.  To help you get rid of them, you can carefully treat the broken or cut remaining roots with herbicide by painting the surface of the cut using a small foam paint brush.  If you do use herbicide, be sure you read and follow the safety instructions on the label and be careful not get any of the herbicide on plants you want to keep.

For another possibility, there is an Asian plant, Euonymus alatus (winged burning bush), that is considered invasive over much of eastern North America.  The Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States shows that it has been reported in southern Oklahoma, but not in Texas.

And here are photos of other plants with winged stems from the Native & Naturalized Native Plants of the Carolinas & Georgia website.

By the way, it's Smarty Plants (not Pants)!

 

From the Image Gallery


Winged sumac
Rhus copallinum

Winged sumac
Rhus copallinum

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