Smilax – Organic Control

Q: We have a wooded area just beyond our backyard. We would like to be able to use this area, but there is a thicket of green briar as an undergrowth throughout the woods.

I’ve tried pulling them up by the roots, but this is simply too difficult. Cutting them works, but they only grow back. Any ideas?

A: Theresa Schrum replies:

“You have just had an encounter with one of our native species of smilax.

“Even though I am a native plant enthusiast, this is one mean and nasty plant. As you have discovered, it is also very difficult to eliminate. I recently cleared a quarter acre of the plant. Let me tell you how I did it.

“I first cut the briars at ground level and removed the vines. They don’t compost well and will completely bind up any shredder/chipper. I cut mine into small pieces and threw them away. They have a very deep and expansive root system so forget about digging them out. They are also extremely resistant to herbicides. I even tried Roundup mixed with Brush-B-Gone, etc.

“Instead, after removal, I simply walked into the woods once a week and cut any that tried to re-sprout. This eventually starved out the roots and they did not come back. It took one growing season to accomplish this.

“I still occasionally get a new one from seed dropped by a bird, but it’s easy to eliminate. I have used the same technique to eliminate blackberry and poison ivy.”

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