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QUESTION: Hello, I tried to find the proper category for my question; hopefully you can help. At my daughter's house, a large vine (?) grows on the side of her house. Its leaves are green and approximately 4 to 5 inches in diameter, round or heart-shaped. The stems have small, sharp spikes on them. This plant will wrap itself around the electric meter so she has to always cut it away from there. It grows upward to about 30 feet to the chimney where it also wraps itself around. I have a picture of it which I am attempting to attach. Thank you for any information, Joan

ANSWER: Hi Joan -
I am sorry, but the photo did not come through.  I can probably identify the vine if you give me just a few more pieces of information.  
1. Does the foliage die back in winter?
2. Are there ever any flowers on this vine?
3. Are the leaves arranged opposite each other on the stem, or are they alternately arranged down the stem?

I am very curious about what you have.  The heart-shaped leaves make me wonder if it is Mile-A minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata), also known as Asiatic tearthumb.  This is a highly invasive plant that can cover poles, fences, and even swallow whole trees.  Are the leaves truly round or are they heart-shaped or triangular?

That said, if this vine is really a nuisance, you can probably eradicate it with Round-Up or some other herbicide.  Contrary to lots of eco-squawkers out there (and I do count myself as one of those from time to time...) Round-Up does NOT linger or spread in the soil.  It does, however, kill any leafy vegetation it touches, so aim carefully.

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QUESTION: Hello Kathleen, thank you for replying. When I opened my e-mail with your answer, then clicked on the link to get your answer, the picture of the vine that I attached is showing - on my end, it is to the right, or it appears to be viewable under my first message to you it says "Image: vine 1" if that is clicked on. I hope this is making sense I am not very computer literate when it comes to attachments. This is Northwest Illinois, which I forgot to mention. The vine does appear to die-back in winter, the stems become "woody". There are no flowers on it in the summer. I would say the leaves are alternately arranged down the stems. The leaves are more like a large, wide, round heart shape; I consider them heart-shaped because of the indentation at their top. The stems have hairy looking sharp spikes. They are not like thorns on a rose bush, they have a soft appearance. Some leaves are smaller but most are 4 to 5 inches across. This vine climbs all the way to the top of the chimney and entangles itself closer to the ground on whatever is in its way, (the electric meter for example) it only grows in the one spot, there are no others around her house. I am hoping that you can see the picture. Thank you again for your help, Joan

I figured out how to open the photo.  Thank you!
Now, I looked at it really closely and compared it to my books and plant keys, and I am not absolutely positive what you have, but - to me - it appears to be Smilax rotundifolia, aka Common Greenbrier.  I forgot to ask whether the vine produces any berries.  Some members of the family of Smilacaceae  do produce both very tiny flowers - often so small they aren't noticeable - in the spring, and then sometimes berries in the fall.  Smilax includes the sarsaparilla plant and other greenbriers.  There are many, many types of Smilax, and varying shapes of leaves, but I think that's what you've got.
I hope I have been helpful and I am sorry for taking so long to answer.


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Kathleen Franklin


I can answer all kinds of questions about vines that thrive in most U.S. soils/climates, though I am more knowledgeable about Zones 4-8. I am a huge fan of vines (even the sort of "Look out, Martha, here it comes again" varieties), especially wisteria, climbing hydrangea, Carolina jessamine, and (invasive though it is) English Ivy. I grow them all, and would love to share what I've learned with you!


I am a certified, active Master Gardener in Maryland (Montgomery County) and have six+ years experience working at a local garden nursery. I've been gardening for more than 20 years and have done consulting work for many residential homeowners on all aspects of gardening and garden design.

Maryland Master Gardeners Friends of Brookside Gardens Nature Conservancy

I have authored numerous nature and gardening-related articles for publications ranging from Audubon Naturalist News to Washington Gardener magazine.

I have taken courses in Integrated Pest Management, perennials, shrubs, and vines.

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