Troup extension agent: Green briers — Nature’s barb wire

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2016

We’ve all seen it around our yard. The insidious vine with very sharp thorns that wraps itself around shrubs and trees until it’s tendrils wave in the wind at the top of the plant like a flag planted on Mount Everest. If you clip it, it comes back with a vengeance. It seems the root reserves send even more nutrients for rapid growth.

This natural barb wire is commonly known as green brier or cat brier. It belongs in the genus Smilax, which is also another name for it. This native to North America with the exception to Smilax pumila, is a climbing vine. Daylilies, lilies and yucca are close relatives.

What spurs the growth of green briers is the extensive underground rhizome tuber system, which also makes it difficult to eradicate. If you are strong enough, you can pull up the white tubers. The barbs or spines are on the above ground stems and are sharp enough to pierce a leather glove.

Green brier leaves are deltoid or heart shaped and are soft and tender when young but develop a thick waxy cuticle that makes it tough for herbicides to penetrate. Wildlife and livestock enjoy the tender shoots and stems before it morphs into barb wire.

The plant itself is dioecious which means there are male and female plants. It flowers in May and June and develops white/green clustered flowers which develops into a bright red to blueish black berry the birds relish. Birds then deposit the seeds over the landscape. The tubers are also a food source for many forest animals.

Jamaicans use an extract from the roots to make the Jamaican sarsaparilla drink and other root beers. The powdered roots are also used to treat gout in Latin America.

Birds drop many of the seeds, which can wait a long time to germinate when growing conditions are just right. It can survive in low light conditions inside the canopy of a bush. It may emerge two to three years later. It will have developed an extensive root system.

Controlling green briers, as with many weeds, takes persistence. You can attempt to pull or dig the roots out or snip the stems each time after regrowth to exhaust the root reserves. This takes much time and effort.

Another method is to unravel the plant from where it is entwined. Lay it out and spray it or sponge it with a 10 percent glyphosate (Roundup) solution. This is approximately 12 ounces of glyphosate per gallon.

Make sure you use the product containing 41 percent glyphosate. If you can’t disentangle the vine, snip it and paint the stems going into the ground with 100 percent glyphosate. Then treat the sprouts with the 10 percent solution as they emerge.

The reason why green briers is so prevalent in our landscapes is that it has a tenacious root system, leaves resistant to herbicides and is spread easily by birds. It can be controlled, but it takes dedication.

Running out of time to sign up for the upcoming Master Gardener Program

Troup County Extension is hosting the Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program starting Aug. 9. If you wish to hone your skills in horticulture and related subjects, this might be the program for you.

We have a variety of topics lined up and taught by excellent instructors. We will cover a wide range of topics: botany, entomology, soils, plant nutrition, insect control, vegetables, herbs, plant propagation, planting and maintaining ornamentals, troubleshooting, pollinators, turf, trees and much more.

If you have your Tuesdays and Thursdays available and are willing to help out UGA Extension, send an email or call the office for more information. Please apply as soon as possible. We need at least 10 to sign up. The cost is $150.

What’s going on in Extension?

Master Gardener Extension Volunteer class will begin Aug. 9 and run through Oct. 20. Classes will be held Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The cost is $150. Call or stop by the office for an application.

Aug. 11: MGEV meeting, 7 p.m., Ag Center.

Aug. 15: 7 p.m., Troup County Association of Beekeepers.

Aug. 16: TCCA meeting. Guest speaker: Niki Whitley, small ruminant specialist, Fort Valley State University. Meal at 7 p.m. Cost: $6; the program starts at 7:30 p.m., Ag Center.

Sept. 1: Planting Food Plots for Deer Wildlife program. 6:30–8 p.m. at Oak Hurst Farm, just south of Jones Crossroads on Ga. highway 219 (Whitesville Road). Call to register, no cost. Wildlife specialist Dr. Mark McConnell will be the guest speaker.

Georgia Master Cattleman Program starting Sept. 6. Tuesday evenings from 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the Ag Center. Eight classes. Cost: $75. Call the Extension office for more information.

Market on Main: Every Saturday morning from 8–10 a.m. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 theater parking lot at Main and East Depot streets.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.

By Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.