The Beautiful Greenbrier Plant Is One Pretty Weed
Ever heard of a catbrier? What about a deer thorns? According to Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center, there are quite a few monikers for the greenbrier vine, a shiny-leaved, bright green trailer that would be pretty—if it wasn’t so invasive. The problem is that greenbrier vines don’t ask for a lot at first, though they are not to be underestimated, taking over your cool and shady beds faster than greased lightning.
Native to North America, greenbrier is one pretty weed. It was once a member of the lily family, before being separated into its own plant family, and can easily be mistaken by novice gardeners as a variety of ivy. Though it might be a pest for our garden beds and yards, it’s important to note the larger role the greenbrier plant plays in nature. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin describes it as an important part of the wildlife ecosystem, providing cover for birds and small mammals while also being a food source for a variety of birds. In North America, there are around 20 known species, but the most common variety are the woody-stemmed, prickly versions that can quickly form dense thickets if left to their own devices. While a haven for small creatures, these thickets can be a problem for home gardens.
The greenbrier vine is dioecious, meaning it has both male and female plants. The female plant produces edible berries that appear in late summer and are a real treat for birds and other garden foragers. Once the berry is consumed and subsequently finds itself back in your yard (or your neighbor’s—sorry, Jan!), it can quickly lead to a greenbrier problem. Upon finding a greenbrier within your landscape, therefore, it’s best to remove it thoroughly and without delay.
When determining the best method for greenbrier vine control, you’ll need to take inventory of what you’re dealing with. If plants are small, with shallow root systems, you should be able to dig them up without issue. Larger weeds will have to be cut back and sprayed with a chemical solution, which Clemson Home & Garden Information Center describes in detail. The glossy leaves of mature plants don’t allow for the solution to penetrate effectively. In order for the method to work, it must be used on newer, less mature foliage regrowth.
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Greenbrier have extensive roots that provide an additional challenge—even when ornamental shrubs aren’t part of the equation. They’ll regenerate quickly, so special attention has to be payed when eradicating them to ensure no small clippings are left behind.