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Beware of things that creep

Posted: August 25, 2013 - 12:04am

Several types of vines have been creeping through the landscapes of Columbia County. The main concerns about these vines have been regarding identification and control. Greenbrier, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy have been the main culprits and are all easy to control if treated properly.

Greenbrier grows among other plants in the landscape. It will appear in the middle of a shrub bed or flower bed. Greenbrier is the common name for plants in the genus Smilax. There are around 12 to 15 species of Smilax, and it is the Liliaceae family, which includes daylilies, lilies, and yucca.

The leaves of greenbrier are heart-shaped and appear waxy. Greenbrier plants are either male or female with the female plant bearing black, blue, or red fruit. The seeds have a hard coat and can remain viable for many years. When the conditions are right, they will germinate. Within a short time, they will develop the extensive rhizome/tuber system.

Greenbrier has an extensive underground rhizome tuber system. This tuber system makes greenbrier one of the hardest plants to control in the landscape. Once greenbrier produces a tuber, it is very hard to control with herbicides. The tuber stores a lot of reserve carbohydrates; therefore, cutting back greenbrier will not control it. As long as the tuber remains, the vine will continue growing. Likewise, treating with herbicides will kill the top growth, but the tuber will sprout again. The only way to eradicate greenbrier is to dig up the tuber and destroy it.

Virginia creeper and poison ivy look very similar. However, poison ivy has three leaflets while Virginia creeper usually has five. Both grow vigorously and can consume landscape trees and shrubs.

There are two control options for Virginia creeper or poison ivy growing amongst plants. First, unravel the vines from around the plants. Of course, use protective wear if handling poison ivy. Lay the vine on bare ground or a piece of plastic, and spray or sponge a 5-percent solution of glyphosate. A 5-percent solution would be achieved by mixing six ounces of a product containing 41 percent glyphosate with one gallon of water. Allow this mixture to stay on the plant for 48 hours and then cut the stem down to ground level. When the plant regrows to a height of six to eight inches, use the 5-percent glyphosate solution on the plant. The second option is to cut the vine as close to the ground as possible, and immediately paint the cut stem with concentrated 41-percent glyphosate using a foam brush. Soak the foam brush in the herbicide, and dab the foam brush on the cut stump of Virginia creeper or poison ivy.

Unfortunately, there is no herbicide that can be used on these vines that will not harm other plants in the landscape. If the vines are growing away from desirable plants in landscape beds, use products containing 2, 4-D and dicamba or glyphosate for best control. These can be found in numerous products available for home use. Remember to apply these herbicides carefully because they will damage ornamental plants in the landscape. Controlling these vines can be a challenge, but try to treat or remove the problem before the vine has become established is the best option.

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