Invasion of the Green Zombies

The invasion of the plant zombies is here. Look around you and you’ll see their spawn devouring whole forests and – gasp! – your yard.

Yes. They’re here. Usually we call them “vines” but that little name cannot even begin to describe the horror they will unleash on the unwitting homeowner if left to their nefarious devices.

Vines really are like zombies. Certainly, they’re like parasites, and should be treated with the exact disdain you’d have for, say, tapeworms.

Where do they come from? Birds plant many, that’s the reality, no matter how much it seems green zombies breaking out of the neighbor’s patch to invade yours. Watch out, or they’ll wrap themselves around you, too!

So, knowing that almost all the ghastly parasites are actually considered invasive, in other words, they really are zombies (!), it’s well worth mounting your own zombie defense to go after these horrible invaders of the well-kept yard. (Invasive species are foreign plants/animals that are wreaking havoc in the environment here)

Porcelainberry is a major zombie invader, but there are many others. Even Kudzu. These bad boys burst out of the ground with only one goal – to get to the sun, the best sun, no matter what, and they don’t care what innocent, hard-working sturdy plant they kill to do it, all because they’re too lazy to support themselves. There are native vines, but they’re zombies, too, so don’t worry about attacking them as well, if you like.

Take heart! Fall is the time to go after the green zombies.

You can rip them out to your heart’s content if you like. It’s good exercise and the feeling, when you’re looking at a previously completely smothered patch that now shows off the nice tree you planted there, is of uncontained triumph. Go for it!

Or…take a slightly easier approach that may, in fact, be more effective (if less soul satisfying).

Cut the vine twice, once down low and once well above so that reattachment is impossible.

If you sneak up on the vines and cut them off at the source, i.e. within six inches of the ground, and then cut them again about a foot higher up, you’ll block the entire top structure from nutrients from the roots. Good deal! You have to cut twice because they can – yes, they can – re-attach themselves if there’s any opportunity.

Paint the lower vine stump with glyphosate. Some folks like to soak a cotton ball with the poison, put it in a baggy and wrap it tightly around the stem with a rubber band.

Then…this really does feel good…carefully wipe the cut end closest to the ground with glyphosate (Roundup). Use a sponge, or, better, a painter’s sponge, to do the dirty deed. Since it is fall, and the vine is sucking all the good stuff from the top down to the roots, it will cheerfully drink all that lovely root killing stuff without harming the tree or whatever it was parasitizing.

Don’t pull the vine off the tree that day, wait, instead, until it’s really good and dead. Otherwise you may hurt the tree – the living vine will pull off lots of bark as it goes down, but, once it’s dead, it just comes off easily. It’s okay to leave the dead vine on the tree, it won’t hurt the tree once it’s a goner.

A WORD TO THE WISE. Poison Ivy just loves vines. In fact, it’s a vine itself, although it’s not considered invasive because it’s native here. Get rid of it anyway, if you like, but take extreme care! Urishiol, which is the component that causes the itchy rash, is present in all parts of the plant, even if it’s dead as a doornail. Poison Ivy doesn’t mind company and will grow right up next to wild grape or Kudzu or whatever, so be careful! This alone makes the easier approach very much the better approach.

Go ahead! Make some zombie vine’s day a nightmare!

Maureen Rice is a naturalist/gardener living in Talbot County. She is the author of “Not! Your Granny’s Garden.” Email to receive the blog straight to your inbox.

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