Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

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!

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
May 13, 2009 - Every spring I have pink evening primroses blooming near the curb where the soil is very poor - lots of clay, very dry. Along with the pink evening primroses, there is a vine that can spread about th...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification from Clarksville TN
May 04, 2013 - We live on a north facing wooded ridge line in Middle TN. I have a single large (6') bush that is blooming now (late April) with beautiful 6" long, end of stem clusters of small pink flowers in 3-5...
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication for Roosevelt Park, NY
August 28, 2009 - Looking for the name and chemical breakdown of a tree. Its leaves are green with heart like puffs blooming out. This tree was seen at Roosevelt Park, Long Island NY 11575
view the full question and answer

Identification of shrub with purple flowers in Las Vegas, Nevada
July 13, 2011 - Large purple flower shrub, flowers are on long stems. Round flowers with green leaves on the stalks, used as front yard landscaping in a new house in Las Vegas NV. Very drought tolerant, shrub grows ...
view the full question and answer

How Can I Tell an Invasive Thistle from a Native
May 01, 2012 - Mr Smarty Plants, I have some thistles coming up in my yard. I'd like to keep them if they are native, but not if they are invasive or non-native. How can I tell? My yard is a wild area in West Lak...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.