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Vines/Vine or root sucker


QUESTION: I have this 100 ft tall maple tree and what I have been calling a vine comes out of the ground and climbs way up in the tree.  I can't even make out the foliage because it is all mixed in with the leaves of the tree.  This vine is thick, about as big around as my upper arm.  The bark looks just like that of the maple.  And in my reading I heard about root suckers.  I was just wondering by any chance could this vine not really be a vine but rather a sucker from the roots of the maple itself?

ANSWER: Good morning, Art!
Short answer: Hard to tell without seeing some of the foliage, but it certainly sounds like a root sucker to me. Some people say Maples don't sucker, but I know they do because I have had the same problem, particularly with my Sugar Maples. In your reading, you've probably already learned that suckers often form because the tree is stressed in some way - OR from grafted root stock by the nursery/grower. So, what can you do? At this point, because your maple is so mature, all you can really do without jeopardizing the health of the tree is continually cut back the "vine" so it doesn't steal valuable nutrients from the "parent" and so it doesn't hurt the more tender branches in the tree's canopy. That's a pain, I know, but whatever you do, don't apply any herbicide to the sucker, as that could harm the parent. Just keep that sucker trimmed down to ground level (or as close to the trunk as possible without actually cutting the trunk) and the tree itself should do just fine.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Okay, got it.  Up to you entirely, but if you are interested I'll send you a foot or two section of this vine/sucker.  So address would be necessary.  Oh, another thing, it was easy to cut and wasn't "woody", which would be a point in the favor of being a vine I would think.  But I don't know about these things, so just guessing.

Oh, okay...when you said that "The bark looks just like that of the maple," I interpreted that to mean that the vine itself was more "woody" than "green." I'd be happy to provide my address (now you've got me so curious!) but I won't post it here. Please send me an email at and I will get back to you tonight with my address. If you can ship a section that has foliage attached, it will make identification a lot easier, as well as where you're located (state area, e.g. "southern Ohio" or whatever)....Have you taken a sample in to your local Extension Service?



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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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