Nature’s barb wire

Published 7:31 pm Friday, August 11, 2017

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 on green brier 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 develops a thick waxy cuticle which 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 their 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 lowlight 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 brier 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.

Green brier is so prevalent in our landscapes is because it has a tenacious root system, leaves resistant to herbicides and is spread easily by birds. Control is possible, but it takes dedication.

What is going on in Extension?

Market on Main: Every Saturday at the LaGrange theater parking lot from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The freshest produce in Troup County.

August 15: Troup County Cattleman will meet at 7 p.m. at the Ag Center. Levi Russel will speak on making money in the cattle business. Call ahead for reservations: 706.882.5561 $6 per person

August 21:  The Beekeepers Meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Ag Center. They will discuss Native Plants for Pollinators with guest speaker Brian Maddy.

September 5: Lunch-N-Learn at the LaGrange Library from noon to 1 p.m. on IPM: “Integrated Pest Management”

August 31: Grassmasters Program: If you are raising forages for sheep, goats, horses or cattle and want to improve your pastures and hay this class may be for you. Begins August 31 and ends October 26. This class will meet on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for seven evenings. The cost is $25 per family. Call UGA Extension-Harris County to register. 706.628.4824; This program is sponsored by Troup, Meriwether and Harris County Extension.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office. We have moved to 130 Sam Walker Dr. We are next to the sheriff’s office in the last building on the left. Our phones and emails are the same.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 130 Sam Walker Drive, LaGrange, GA. Monday – Friday/8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. Email: