Thorn Vines

Thornius Maximus 

Greenbrier (Smilax) 

Thornus Maximus

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Close up of Smilax   Climbing Smilax

Close up of SmilaxThis cute little sprig is the beginning stages of a vine that is absolutely some of the worst plants that I have had to deal with.  They climb by sending out a node that curls around branches and twigs on trees.  We have some that have reached as high as 30′.  Close up of SmilaxClose up of Smilax

The thorns cut like little razor blades and the are strong enough to poke through a pair of jeans and sometimes rip them.  I grew up with mesquite, cactus, and cat claw, but none of them compare to this tangled mess.  If you try to walk through them they’ll bring you to a screeching stop.  You will “screech” in pain after they have riped you to shreds and then “stop” you with shear force or the lack of desire to lose any more blood. 

Day 1

Removal has been accomplished by several techniques; cutting them at the ground and pulling them by wrapping a rope around them and attaching them to my truck, to individually pulling down 2 or 3 at a time by hand.  Fortunately, because they wrap around stuff, they typically let loose easier than if they were to root into the host.

In some areas, it is impossible to walk through because the vines are matted so thick.  We are hopeful that we’ll find that one tool that could help us hack faster so that we will be able to make a significant impact on this difficult infestation. 

Interestingly, we noticed that several of the older trees in the area don’t have any vines at all and sometimes they will be surrounded by trees that do.  It appears that the vines were introduced to the area in recent years and the older trees did not have the low lying branches needed for the vermin to climb.

Day 2

We only worked for a few hours today and made some excellent progress.  In doing some extensive research we found that the thorn vine has a natural enemy that will cause the vine to almost seemingly disappear in a short period of time.  It attacks the stalks of the plant just above the ground and makes regeneration difficult.  It likes to actually eat sections of the vine between the ground and 2 feet up and in most cases pulls the rest of the plant into it’s preferred range of quarters.

 The devourus (dee-vow-or-us) fordsonorus (ford-sun-or-us) is of the 2n variety and was introduced in 1947 to end the war against the terrible thornius maximus.  It’s natural hard shell is immune to thorn penetration as are the jaws that it utilizes to attack the vine base.

The fodsonorus requires some maintenance and does not mulitply.1947 Fordson 2n

The last part of the day I got the GPS out and was determined to find the western boundary of our place through the brier patch.  There is a stretch of 150 yards that is so matted with trees, vines and brush that it makes it impossible to understand where the boundary is. 

So I marked point A and point B.  Stood at point A on the back corner and put the GPS in “go to” mode towards point B.  Armed with Machete and Satellite technology I plunged forward through dense beauty berry and smilax.  It took me 20 plus minutes to hack my way through and though I feel like I had conquered the western front, the burning cuts on my legs (through my Dickies Jeans) reminded me all night that it wasn’t a free victory. 

Alaina couldn’t see me but could hear me cussin’ and hackin’ at the vines.  She lined up with the noise and shot this video as I came through on the B side.

These last few strides was the first time that I had taken more than 3 consecutive steps in the last 100 yards.

13 responses to “Thorn Vines

  1. joshua hewlett

    I feel your pain. I have these in my back yard. Their root structure is even more tangled than their above-ground growth. They have large root-ball masses that are the size of a potato. These masses are never directly under the point where the vine goes into the ground. You have to follow the main root for up to six feet in order to find the mass. It’s almost too much work. But these bastards made it personal when they tore my legs to pieces. Now it’s on!

  2. I know this article deals with mostly the removal and hatred for this vine, but I would like to grow these on the edge of my property along my fence. Do they take well to growing along chainlink fences? Does anyone know where I can buy seeds for these vines?

    • They will grow in anything that will allow them to climb. I wouldn’t recommend planting them if you plan on being anywhere near the fence. However if you are looking for a parameter control to keep people out, this stuff is like razor wire.

  3. Boy – Irecently bought a property on a creek and these vines have ripped through my hair and cut up my hands. My thumb is swolllen and really painful from a particularily vicious jab. I am trying to cut them at the ground level and will keep cutting at them if they try to grow again. They are all through what could be pretty trees. I was afraid to see snakes as I was cutting and getting jabbed but maybe this bad ass thorn even keeps snakes away!

  4. What is the Latin and Common names? I actually have a use for the plant. I live in Chicago and need to determine if it will survive our winter.


  5. Pingback: A Vine By Any Name Is Just As Thorny « Cottonmouth Creek

  6. I came across your posting while trying to figure out what this stuff is. It’s one of about a half dozen different vines that compete for my small yard. Fortunately the other vines aren’t as painful to deal with and seem to have the upper hand, which keeps this one at bay. I can’t image having a hedge of it to plow through or eliminate. It would certainly create an effective security barrier if anyone needs it.

  7. We have this hateful satan weed all over our property. Every year I cut it down or try to dig it up but it returns and brings its offspring with it. grrr! I don’t know where I read this, but last year (after it was too late) I read that according to folk traditions, you should cut the vine at ground level on the first full moon in September (Harvest Moon) and it will not return. It was past the Harvest Moon when I read that article last year, so I made a mental note of it. I have NOT forgotten it all year and today is the Harvest Moon. I went out and cut every vine I could find (probably 50 of them or more) at ground level. I guess I’ll have to wait until spring to see if this worked…but I’ll let you know. 🙂

  8. I bought my property 1 yr ago and have been fighting this invasive vines – they are plant cancer. I’d like any advices in terms of chipping them and hauling off, and everything to get rid of them completely. I have over 8ac land with the vines about 2ac. Thanks!

  9. Cut the vine at the ground leaving about a foot then cut the vine on the tree at least six feet up on the tree if you cannot remove it complely. In spring get some Round Up poisin ivy and brush killer and spray down only what you want dead. Do not spray your trees!!!!!! To keep them from ripping you to shreds invest in a pair of fire hose work pants from
    I spray every 3 years for new growth. 😉

  10. Truly a pain in the but, we have nine acreas of wooded land around our home and these vine are everywhere. What kills them is a lack of rain we did have a break during the droughts. Normally though my wife and I will pick out our best of our trees some as high as 75 feet and clear a circle from around the trees cut the vines with trimmers or if they are so clumped together we’ll use the chain saw to seperate them from their roots then start pulling anyway we can and some of these vines are fifty feet up in the tree and five eights of an inch in diameter. One note is the higher the vine from the ground usually around eight to ten feet the thorns are starting to thin out and higher still they really thin out so it’s easier to pull them without being stuck. If in the future you have the patience, cut the vines leave them for a few months go back and pull, they are not as strong gripping the tree do to lack of water in them.

  11. This has been very informative. We have as was called “satan weed” in our back yard. It came up suddenly, and we were shocked at how large in diameter these vines are. Here where we live in E. Tennessee we are used to honeysuckle. This vine is really a weed from satan. We are going to try all ideas share. Pray for us we are in our seventies and not fit for this job. But thank all your ideas.

  12. krista m brenner

    i have worked in my greenbelt in texas for about 20yrs. i cut 1foot from bottom. then i pull one at a time off the tree. after i win,i bring my shovel and dig all the bulbs that usually works. i have a love hate relationship. love the hard work hate all the blood and scars.but i am happy because the park is so big and since i am the only one interested in this vine work i will never run out. just turned 72 and will hopefully go another 20 yrs smile krista

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