Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Did you know that August is the perfect time of year to work on eradicating two invasive species that can be found all over Virginia? Tree-of-Heaven, or sumac, and honeysuckle are both invasive species that originate in Asia and choke out native species. Both rebound from halfhearted attempts to eradicate them with a ferocity that seems impossible. Removal must be complete, or it comes back in multiples and somehow more resilient. So, how do we go about removing these seemingly invincible plants?
With TOH, timing and persistence is everything. From now until the leaves change color, TOH is pulling carbohydrates back down into its roots. When an herbicide containing glyphosate or triclopyr is applied now, the tree pulls it into the roots along with the carbohydrates which will in turn poison the tree from the bottom up. There are a couple ways to apply the herbicide. There’s foliar, which douses the leaves, bark, stems, etc. with herbicide. This is a good first step if you have a particularly dense stand of TOH you want to kill, or if the trees you want gone are smaller in diameter. After the low-lying trees are killed or your trees are bigger, it’s time to break out the axe. Traditional stump application won’t work with these tenacious devils. Instead, cut into the tree in downward sloping cuts evenly around the trunk and wedge the cut open and douse the cut with herbicide. Be sure to leave undamaged bark between the cuts. By doing so, it allows the tree to pull the herbicide into the roots. Unfortunately, this is not a one-and-done treatment. You will have to continue to monitor and treat the trees to fully eradicate them.
Honeysuckle is sneaky because it’s pretty and smells nice, but it can prevent native plants from flourishing, which in turn can be detrimental to local bird populations. Honeysuckle fruit has low nutritional value, which leads to unhealthy birds. Honeysuckle is also capable of climbing trees, girdling them, and causing canopies to collapse under their weight.
If you’re fortunate to catch the honeysuckle when there are only a few vines, just pull them out by hand and then apply an herbicide. If any root is left behind, it will come back. If your problem is more advanced, stump application is the way to go. Cut or mow the vine down to the ground and immediately apply undiluted herbicide containing glyphosate or triclopyr. The stump method allows for a targeted application which in turn protects surrounding plants. Continue this treatment as new growth emerges. Removal before fruit forms is important as it will prevent birds from spreading the seeds.
When using herbicide, be sure to wear protective eyewear and gloves. Avoid using it on windy days and follow the instructions on the bottle. If you have any questions about removing these or any other undesirable plants, remember that at Randy’s Do it Best Hardware, we don’t mind your questions. We don’t mind them at all!