Persistent Weeds and Volunteer TreesBy Timmy Jo Given (timmijo)
October 8, 2013
Pokeweed is everywhere along the local roadsides where it is left to its own devices. Not quite a noxious weed, in a residential area or in a rural yard, it should nevertheless be thoughfully removed if one has any reservations about its presence. The berries are toxic, and if children are likely to play near Pokeweed, it might be best to take the plant down. The trouble is that the seed-filled berries stay viable for a very long time, even after cutting down the plant. The roots of the Pokeweed plant can grow thick and deep.
On my property, I have taken to digging it out from underneath the cedar trees that border the yard. For small plants, this is not a problem, but for well-established plants, it is a nightmare. Chopping at the thick stems of mature pokeweed specimens is just topping the nuisance and does not solve the problem of long-term removal.
The EPA reccomends using Glyphosate, the chemical found in Roundup, as a permanent solution. This popular weed-killer is most effective when applied to actively-growing weeds. It can either be sprayed or painted onto the leaves which then absorb the substance into the entire system of the plant. Mature pokeweed will most likely require multiple applications and patience before it is really gone.
Another weed that never seems to gives up is Roundleaf Greenbriar. Having marvelled at this native perennial vine literally covering miles of local roadside brush and trees, I now notice that it has popped up on my property. You guessed it—the Greenbriar, just like the Pokeweed, is trying to establish itself deep within the mature cedar trees that border my yard. (You'd think I'd take a peek in between the cedars more often.)
From what I can tell, Roundup might not do the trick this time. The experts say to use a combination of controls, including the chemicals 2, 4-D, Mecoprop-p (MCPP), and Dicamba, found in broadleaf herbicides like Trimec and Weed-Be-Gone. All of this information can be daunting for those who hesitate to choose chemical solutions.
At least Greenbriar is condered a slower-growing plant than Pokeweed. I had better get out the shovel, at least to make an attempt to dig it out. My strategy for both types of weeds is to dig the small weeds up completely while shortening the height of the largest weeds, leaving several healthy leaves. Those healthy leaves will receive a carefully controlled application of herbicide with an artist's brush.
The secret is in the leaves. There is no sense in cutting large, unmanageble weeds all the way to the ground and then applying herbicide to a stalk when the leaves are the means of the herbicide's transport. This is what I learned after reading about weed removal on the Web.
In addition to these two nuisance weeds, the yard is full of little volunteer Oak trees.
I must explain that I live out in the country; furthermore, one length of my acre borders a fallow field. Anything and everything turns up in that abandoned field and then makes its way onto my property eventually.
Besides that, we have a lot of Bluejays in the yard each winter. They are said to be the source of the many small oak trees that I constantly find growing here, there, and everywhere out in the quiet countryside.
Bluejays bury acorns! Just like squirrels do. And then nature takes its course because no creature is so perfect as to remember every nut that was strewn. This seems to be nature's way of ensuring that the land is always full of trees.
What to do about all of the little oak trees?
The small ones can be dug with a garden shovel. The large ones that I discovered (not in the cedars but nearly hidden under the scrap brush pile) seem attractive enough to transplant. First, I would like to positively identify the species and then make a place for them along the edge of the property that borders the fallow field. Hopefully, I will not be contributing to the back-yard nuisance area by joining the Bluejays in promoting the spread of acorns and thus randomly-placed oak trees.
Besides oak trees, the yard has many small Mimosa trees. This is decidedly my own doing and is something I must evaluate over the long run. It might not be worth keeping my ornamental mimosa—the momma tree that faithfully plants her children wherever their seedpods land.
Although the mimosa is a lovely specimen, it is considered an invasive landscape plant in my area, so its cultivation is definitely not encouraged. Back to the shovel.
For unwanted trees that have been left to grow for too long, cutting them down is the only solution; after all, it is a very exhausting task to try to dig up a seven or eight-foot-tall tree with a garden shovel.
After cutting the tree as low as possible, some folks apply a stump removal chemical. A better idea is to allow the tree to keep some of its leaves so that an application of herbicide will be ingested throughout the tree's system. This takes patience, and not every tree should be removed in this way, but it is certainly an option. It just takes time.
The moral of this story is to keep a watchful eye in your yard for things that take hold without your knowledge, and above all else, do not wait for little problems to become big ones.
More about Roundup from the product's website (click on the name)
More about Trimec from the product's website (click on the name)
Toxipedia.org, a collaborative informational site about pesticides and their effects on people and the environment
New Mexico State University article on removing large tree saplings
Dave's Garden article with reader feedback on Pokeweed by Toni Leland, 5-29-2009
And a lighthearted article on Mimosa Trees by Steve Bender of The Daily South, 6-29-2009
Image of Roundleaf Greenbriar by Fepup (own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image of Mimosa tree by Bostonian (own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
All other images are the author's own