Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obnoxious vines

Greenbriar
Smilax bona-nox

Snailseed
Cocculus carolinus

I'm sorry, but I really despise these two vines. One has awful thorns, and the other spreads with a vengeance. I've been pulling snailseed runners (I never knew it had a real name...duh!) for years. Now that we're working on the Meadow (our adjoining lot), we've started removing the snailseed, greenbriar and Japanese honeysuckle. The snailseed has an amazing underground network of runners that send up foliage every foot or so. It's kinda fun yanking them up and seeing how long of a vine you end up with.

However, I also wondered if we were doing the right thing to remove the snailseed. So I e-mailed Mike Reagan, our regional biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and here's what he offered: "You can pull up the greenbriar and snailseed vines if you want to, even though they are natives to this area. Both vines produce fruit that birds eat so they can work well in a Wildscape. However, if you are trying to grow more colorful flowering plants, the vines might take up a lot of your garden space. You might want to consider just removing a good portion of the vines and leaving some in the garden."

That's the problem: the snailseed in particular acts like a darn invasive plant! It goes EVERYWHERE. In its place, we've already planted coral honeysuckle and pipevine (host plant for pipevine swallowtails).

In the meantime, I Googled snailseed and learned how it got its unusual name. Check out the photo of the snailseed seed, compliments of the Image Archive of Central Texas Plants.

Snailseed wrapped around greenbriar

According to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of Texas (Lone Star Field Guide series), snailseed's red, shiny fruit is not edible (for humans?) and the vine is used in landscaping (really???). Likewise, says the guide, greenbriar's blue-black berries are inedible. However, "berries and roots yield dyes for wool, new leaves are edible," the guide states.

Salad, anyone?

Snailseed and greenbriar

11 comments:

Cheryl said...

Just curious...how are you getting rid of these vines? They are all over my parents' property, and I would like to eradicate them...even if they are natives, since they are so ill-behaved!

Town Mouse said...

And here's the difference between a garden and the great outdoors. If it's a garden, you can choose what you like. Good luck!

(I have some native spurge that I hunt with a passion in spring. One or two always get away...and they reseed like the weeds they are)

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

Cheryl, we're YANKING them! So a little at a time....

cat said...

these two are our nemesis as well...the greenbriar comes up everywhere and all of a sudden too. the other one is less of a pain, but my hubby shakes his fist at it when it starts smothering our other plants..;)

Anonymous said...

One way to get rid of Snailseed that I have successfully used is to take a small plastic vial 1 to 3 ml or so in volume and duct tape it to a landscape flag (a wire 18" or so long with a small plastic flag). Find the end of a Snailseed runner and strip several leaves off. Cut the runner back leaving approximately 3 or 4 inches of bare runner. Put the bare runner end into the plastic vial and duct tape it to the landscape flag just above the plastic vial in order to hold the Snailseed runner in the vial. secure the landscape flag in the ground and fill the vial with concentrated brush killer. Leave for one day. In about three days, the entire vine will be a lovely brown or black. If you see any green Snailseed vines mixed in with the brown, you can treat it the same way, as it is a separate plant. After years of neglect, last year I treated 150 feet of hedge with 60 to 80 plants. This year I have found 3. The method is non-intrusive to surrounding plants as you can forget pulling up the runners.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

I've spent all morning (and the last 17 years) pulling both the snailseed and the greenbriar out of parts of my garden.

I wouldn't worry too much about killing it off. You may be able to fight it the plants that they smother but it will be back.

If you do find a way of getting rid of it permanently, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how far down root system the vines will be killed doing the method anonymous described on July 12. I think I would like to try that, as the vine's roots system has taken over my entire yard, and I've gotten to the point where I am thinking of just growing my entire yard in pots instead of in the dirt where it just seems to be encouraging that drastly snailseed vine.

DamienK said...

We've had problems with the same vines, especially the greenbrier. The problem with trying to pull up the greenbrier is that if you leave one of the big "node" tuber roots, it will grow right back. We only found two ways of controlling it - find and dig up the nodes or repeatedly cut the vines off at ground level until the nodes and roots die.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried what Anonymous wrote in July 12, 2009? Does anyone know what kind of brush killer to use?

Anonymous said...

Be warned, some people get a poison oak/ivy like rash when handling the snail seed vine. Be careful.

Stephen Betzen said...

Hate to be the odd duck... but I love green-briar. I have goats so it is not an issue in the fence... but I have large thickets of the stuff. Vines with diameters of 1.5 inches at the base (I'm guessing the plants are older than me).... the cover the back of my property, and keep intruders out.
It keeps coming through the fence for my goats and is very nutritious. I have yet to eat it, but I am not against the idea, there is so darn much of it.
If you want to get rid of it where it is not wanted, goats will do the job... short of that... well it would be a pain. I do like having it in the right place though, it is a nice conversation peice as it looks really wicked and mean.

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