Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Control of Wild Grape Vines

In response to my post on July 1, a reader emailed me with some excellent questions.  Because they are of general interest, I will answer them here, with her permission. Please chime in with any additional advice or comments, since this is a community forum! Here is the first question, with my response below:

Reader:  "Hi, I wonder if anyone else is having problems with an invasive weed - a grapevine that is appearing all over my yard, strangling everything it climbs up. It does not pull up and I have not had luck trying to dig it out ( I have limited digging ability) and I tried roundup but that does not seem to effect it except briefly. I would like to know if anyone else is having this problem and what they are doing about it."


NVG: The first step in addressing this problem is identifying the plant. There are several species of Wild Grape in Virginia. The most common are Riverbank Grape (Vitus riparia), Fox Grape (Vitus librusca), and Summer Grape (Vitus aestivalis). For more specific plant identification, you may wish to submit a sample to the Virginia Cooperative Extension Plant Clinic. Here is a link to the Weed Form, which includes instructions. What an excellent service, provided by Virginia Tech! 

While any plant growing where you don't want it is a nuisance (read: weed), before you remove all of the Wild Grape from your yard, you may want to consider the vibrant eco-system it supports.

Wild Grape benefits a multitude of birds. Cardinals, Catbirds, Thrashers, and Mockingbirds nest in the tangled vines, while other species use the bark to build nests. An impressive list of feathered friends dine on the fruit, including Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, Cardinals, Bluejays, Finches, Orioles, Kingbirds, and others. Grapevines are also attractive to deer, opossum, raccoons, foxes, rabbits and skunks. 

That being said, if the Wild Grape is strangling your other plants, you may selectively rid it by snipping it at the base and attempting to remove as much root as possible. You can cover it with clear plastic in the heat of summer, which will essentially suffocate it. This process is known as solarization. Cover the treated area with a 3-inch layer of shredded wood mulch. If you keep on top of it, you will find Wild Grape can be controlled. I urge you to avoid herbicides, since you mention they are not helping, and they are very detrimental to wildlife (see the post on bees). 


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