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 Vines Questions

Alamo vine not blooming in Liberty Hill TX
July 16, 2011 - My Alamo vine is not blooming. It is planted in full sun. The vine looks healthy. Should I fertilize, if so, with what.
view the full question and answer

Low Ground Cover for Steep, Shaded PA Site
February 17, 2014 - I am located in Downingtown, PA, right on the border between Zone 6 and 7. Please provide a recommendation of a native ground cover for the following conditions: steep slope (greater than 45%), full s...
view the full question and answer

Vine with big flowers or fruits
August 12, 2015 - I need a vine that will take over a 8ft wide x 12 ft high lattice. It will be the center piece of the front of the house. It will be In sun almost constantly throughout the day. I'd like something wi...
view the full question and answer

Hybrid Campsis radicans 'Madame Rosy' from Medina OH
July 07, 2012 - I have a Madame Rosy Campsis that is not blooming. We purchased and planted it last year, mid-summer and it did well for the remainder of the season but this year...nothing but green leaves........wh...
view the full question and answer

Prickly vine for fire escape in Boston
February 23, 2010 - I live in Boston area and would like to plant a prickly vine that will grow on my fire escape. What do you recommend?
view the full question and answer

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