Saturday, May 25, 2013

Driven to Distraction by an Invasive Weed

Published in the Sun May 25, 2013

How much does the electricity cost to drive your Nissan Leaf?
Jim Stuewe, Walburg, TX

 The Leaf can go an average of 40 miles on a dollar of electricity.  That is 4.3 miles per kilowatt-hour at 11 cents a kilowatt-hour.  For comparison, a gasoline car that gets 30 miles per gallon can only drive 9 miles on a dollar of gasoline.  A pickup truck gets about 4.5 miles per dollar.

Teresa and her Carolina snailseed vine

My backyard is totally landscaped with natives, grasses, perennials, and trees.  I have recently been overrun by a very NASTY weed/vine that has crept under the fence from an area where I have no access.  I have been using Round-Up and 20% vinegar to NO avail.  Help me eradicate this MONSTER!  Worrying about this weed has made me physically ILL.
Teresa Robinson, Georgetown, TX

 Weeds, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder.  I submitted a picture of Teresa’s vine to the Texas AgriLife Extension Ask-An-Expert service.  Barron S. Rector, range specialist, identified it as Carolina snailseed, officially known as Cocculus carolinus.  Teresa is driven to all caps by this invasive intruder, which can climb up to twelve feet and cover bushes and small trees, but other gardeners might appreciate snailseed’s propensity to form a dense, drought-tolerant groundcover over poor soil.


Mr. Rector’s diagnosis was confirmed independently by Wayne Rhoden, a Williamson County Master Gardener, who has Carolina snailseed on a trellis in his yard, and likes its fall clusters of red berries which attract birds and squirrels.  The berries are supposedly poisonous to humans, which seems strange if birds can eat them, but I won’t be doing that experiment.


 “When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it.  If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”  The author of that quote is unknown, but wise in the ways of nature.  Agnes Plutino of the Williamson County Native Plant Society also has Carolina snailseed in her yard and confirmed that it is hard to get rid of once it gets established in a location.  Teresa tried to dig the snailseed out of her beds.  She got down about 12 inches and was still following roots, which of course were tangled up in the roots of her valuable plants.


Mr. Rector, the Ask-an-Expert, prescribed triclopyr, a relatively low toxicity herbicide for woody stemmed plants.  Unfortunately, triclopyr has to be applied to 12 to 18 inches of the vine stem, assuring that the chemical completely encircles the stem so that it absorbs into the root system.  For a vine that pops up everywhere, this could be a tedious process.  It’s probably easier just to change your opinion of what is a weed.


  1. This vine is a nightmare, if anyone can post any other ways to kill this please feel free. Or send to I have used the brush killer painted on the base of the plant, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't work.

    1. I am still waiting to find someone that has eradicated this vine from their yard

  2. I have been digging it up, chasing it like a madwoman. I have 2 ft trenches all over my back yard. My husband thinks I'm crazy. But if you get to the deep roots and go at it with a hatchet, you can separate the main root, and I've noticed that the other half surfaces somewhere else. I dig down a foot or two and chop at that half. The main roots are dying. Of course it takes a crazy OCD person with plenty of time to pursue this method.

    1. I feel sorry for you, I know the feeling...what else have you tried besides digging it up

  3. Gina, I was wondering what progress you have made
    ? is it all gone ... or is it winning