En EspaŅol

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
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

Wednesday - October 02, 2013

From: Bonne Terre, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Vines
Title: How to get rid of Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed)
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Mr. Smarty-Pants, I have pokeweed growing all over my backyard. I know this plant is poisonous, how do I get rid of it for good? Also, a broad leaf vine that is swallowing my trees whole.


Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed) is poisonous; but, amazingly, some parts at some stages are edible.  Plus, the birds really like the ripe berries and, of course, that's why you have so many plants—thanks to the birds.  The plant isn't, however, endangered so it is not a problem to try and get rid of it.  You can pull them up or dig them up.   Discard them carefully out of reach of children that might be tempted to eat the berries.  You could also cut them off very near the ground and then paint the cut surface on the stem still in the ground with an appropriate herbicide (ask your local nursery which herbicide would be best).   Use a cheap foam brush and paint the surface immediately after cutting.  Many plants rapidly seal cells at the cite of an injury to protect themselves and the sealing would inhibit the uptake of the herbicide.  Please read and follow the safety precautions that are given on the herbicide to protect yourself and the environment.

For the vine follow the same strategy of cutting the stem near the ground and painting the cut base of the vine with the herbicide.


From the Image Gallery

American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana

More Problem Plants Questions

Source of Allergies in Austin, TX
June 19, 2012 - Hi, Mr. Smarty Plants. I live in Northwest Austin and I've been suffering from allergies since moving to Austin. The allergies seem to occur at least once a year for at least a month or two. Beg...
view the full question and answer

Smoking mint instead of tobacco from Fairfield CA
March 23, 2013 - I realize this is a stupid question, but i am a little curious about this. Anyway I heard more people are smoking mint leaves to help cure their addiction to tobacco and i was wondering if it is s...
view the full question and answer

Protection from native invasive trumpet vines
April 17, 2008 - Mr. SP: I have invaders! Trumpet vines from a neighbor's yard, two doors away have taken over and are eating my garage and trying to steal all the sun from my clematis vines. How do I get rid of...
view the full question and answer

removing paper mulberry shoots from lawn
August 09, 2011 - 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 realiz...
view the full question and answer

Poison Ivy in Semi-wetland Massachusetts
June 27, 2013 - You answered this question for Tennessee, but I would like an answer for a Massachusetts semi-wetlands area: What can I plant to discourage poison ivy, or at least make it very clear that it is poison...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center