Native greenbrier vine is tough to eradicate from landscape

Backyard Q&A

August 21, 2005|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to the Sun

What is the name of the thorny nonflowering vine in my backyard climbing the trees? I spray every year but can't get rid of it.

Our native greenbrier vine (Smilax rotundifolia) has glossy oval or heart-shaped leaves, sometimes mottled. With blue-black berries eaten by birds, it's a fine plant for wild areas. Its extensive root system and waxy foliage that repels herbicide make it a challenge to eradicate from home landscapes. Dig up seedlings. Apply a high concentration of systemic herbicide directly to freshly cut stems in early fall, when the herbicide will be translocated to roots most readily. Reapply to any regrowth.

In the past month, I've seen many large (about 2-inch) greenish flying insects with long clear wings. Each one nests underground, and when it digs a new nest, it leaves behind a cup of soil on the ground and a nickel-sized entrance. I think they may be cicadas.

These are our annual cicadas, unlike the periodical cicadas we saw last summer. The annual cicada has a very squared-off head compared with the periodical cicada. Annual cicadas are the ones making all the racket on summer nights. They are not harmful.


1. Fall webworms make silken nests on the ends of the branches of deciduous and evergreen trees. The fuzzy yellowish larvae feed on foliage but are not a serious pest. Prune out or tear down the nests when possible.

2. Fertilize warm- season grasses like bermuda grass and zoysia grass this month. Wait until September to fertilize cool-season grasses like fescue and bluegrass.

3. Check ponds regularly for small animals that may have fallen in while attempting to drink the water. Consider placing rocks or boards at the pond edge to allow small animals to climb out.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information and answers to plant and pest questions. Call its hot line at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail questions to (You can also download or order publications and diagnose plant problems online.)

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.