Plants can be our enemies too

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 18, 2008

With everything growing this time of the year the sights of town are magnificent, all plant beauty is appreciated but not all beauty is welcomed. We have several invasive plant species in our area that cause havoc on homeowners and are not easily controlled. Many of the invasive plants we battle were imported here for specific reason and whether or not they have served their purpose is irrelevant because the damage they cause often outweighs the benefit for landowners. Thankfully we do have chemical controls for many of these plants but unfortunately it takes numerous applications, persistence, and time to eliminate them when possible. We will discuss some here today.

Q. How do you control Kudzu?

Kudzu was brought to the US in 1876 as an ornamental plant and then found a positive use as erosion control in the early 1900s. In fact, extension publication from the early 1940s even provided guidelines for establishing kudzu in highly erodible areas, big mistake. Kudzu has consumed an estimated two million acres in the southern United States. A single plant grows over 60 feet in a growing season and in early summer growth can be in excess of a foot a day. Eradicating kudzu from a location usually takes between 4-10 years for complete control. This has caused a severe impact in the forestry industry, livestock and forage industry, and even for the common homeowner. With as estimated cost of over 100 million in damages, finding control strategies is important now more than ever. Clipping fields on a regular basis can help control it but with diesel cost and permanent eradication not likely, this method is rarely worthwhile. Goats are the most practical form of natural control used extensively in some areas with great success, but still not very feasible in our area. For the Miss-Lou chemical control is probably our best option. If you have attended one of our classes to receive a license to buy restricted use pesticides there are several options available to forest areas, pasture and crop land, and home use. If not and you have it creeping up on your home products containing 2-4D or glyphosate will achieve control, but it will take several applications and growing seasons. FYI- Round-Up is also effective for poison ivy control.

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Q. How do you eliminate horsetail?

Horse tail (Equisetum arvense) is easily identified. It looks like small bamboo stalks that are easily pulled apart in sections with a hollow middle. Much like kudzu, people have planted it for its unique look, but once its planted I hope you like it because it is not leaving without a fight. There are two restricted use chemicals that can control it but neither will eliminate it. The only way I have ever heard of control this is to go back to the basics and dig them up. Even after digging them up there is a chance of additional growth that will probably occur from creeping rhizomes and tubers that can form deep in the ground. Therefore, after digging up horsetail, use a weed block barrier before replanting any flower beds to eliminate any possibility of reoccurrence.

You can also visit the MSU Extension Web site at to get a complete list of Mississippi’s most invasive plant species.

David Carter is the director of the MSU Extension office. He can be reached at