Is there a Guinness Book of World Records listing for bramble roots?
Eileen asked me that the other day. She dug what looked like a stump that was about 16 inches in diameter, but it was made up of numerous tubers that were joined together. These tubers were the size of a nice potato.
What she was dealing with wasn't a bramble. It was greenbrier.
This spring, I was clearing a place for a new garden and I ran the tiller on what I thought was a stump. It turned out to be a clump of greenbrier tubers about the size that Eileen dug up. I have dug many greenbrier tubers, but none that were clumped together like these or any that was as large.
Greenbrier is the common name for plants that are in the genus Smilax. There are around 12 to 15 species of Smilax. It is in the Liliaceae family, which includes daylilies, lilies and yucca. Greenbrier has an extensive underground rhizome tuber system and the above-ground part has thorns on it.
The leaves of greenbrier are heart-shaped and very tough with a shiny, waxy look to them. Greenbrier plants are either male or female with the female plant bearing fruit that are black, blue, or red when they are ripe. Greenbrier is one of the hardest plants to control in the landscape because of the underground tubers. However, greenbrier does play an important role in the ecosystem. The berries are eaten by numerous birds, and the foliage and tubers provide food for numerous animals.
The seeds have a hard coat and can remain viable for many years. When the conditions are right, they germinate. Within a short time, they will develop the extensive rhizome/tuber system.
Once greenbrier produces a tuber, it is very hard to control with herbicides. The tuber stores a lot of energy in it. You can cut back greenbrier and it will keep coming back. You can treat it with herbicides and the herbicide will kill the top growth, but the tuber will sprout again. The best way to keep greenbrier from coming back is to dig up the tuber and destroy it.
Greenbrier likes to grow among other plants in the landscape. It will appear in the middle of a shrub bed or flower bed.
The question that I get all the time is what herbicide can be used in a shrub or flower bed that will kill greenbrier or other vines that are a problem, such as Virginia creeper or poison ivy. There is no herbicide that you can use on these vines that won't hurt the shrubs or flowers. If the vines are growing away from desirable plants, you can use products that contain 2, 4-D and dicamba. These can be found in numerous products that homeowners can buy.
These products will damage ornamental plants, so care should be taken when applying these herbicides. These herbicides will drift to desirable plants on windy days. Also, they will turn into a gas on hot days. This gas can drift and cause damage to nearby plants.
If you have greenbrier, Virginia creeper or poison ivy growing among plants, you have two options for control. First, you can unravel the vines from around the plants. You need to do this carefully since you don't want to damage the leaves or stems. Then, you need to lay the vine on bare ground or a piece of plastic, and spray or sponge-apply a 5-percent solution of glyphosate. A 5-percent solution would be six ounces of a product containing 41 percent glyphosate.
Allow this spray to stay on the plant for 48 hours, then cut the stem down to ground level. When the plant regrows, you can use the 5-percent glyphosate solution on the plant when it reaches 6 to 8 eight inches.
The second option is to cut the vine as close to the ground as possible. Then immediately paint the cut stem with concentrated 41-percent glyphosate. I like to use a foam brush that you use to apply paint and stain. I soak the foam brush in the herbicide, then reach into a plant making sure not to touch the brush to the plant and dab the foam brush on the cut stump of the greenbrier, Virginia creeper or poison ivy. Make sure this treatment is on the label of the herbicide. The best results occur in the fall.
You can control vines that grow into your shrubs and flower beds if do it when you first see the problem.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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