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I have a backyard that was mostly a wooded area up until 2 years ago. It now completely consists of a lawn and a decent sized mulch area on a hill with some ground plants that are supposed to eventually spread across the mulched area.

The problem is that this hilly area used to be infested with this incredibly fast growing incredibly large broad leaf weed that looks like a type of skunk cabbage.

Repeated attempts to pull these from the root have proven pointless as more little ones crop up where there weren't any before and left unheeded become enormous broad leaf plants in a matter of a few months. They are a real eye sore.

Is there an easy way to get rid of these permanently so they won't show up anymore? I tried pulling them when they are small but they are too weak to get the root out at that size. I have to wait until they are fully grown before I can pull them completely.

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    Based on your location in Pennsylvania, presumably you're talking about Symplocarpus foetidus, not one of the other plants called skunk cabbage. – Niall C. Oct 9 '14 at 23:21
  • @NiallC. It looks extremely similar but the leaves are more rounded than this. It is western PA and this area gets a large amount of runoff from my neighbor on the top of the hill. I have french drains nearby that are preventing the area from becoming swampy but it is somewhat wetter than the lawn for sure. – maple_shaft Oct 10 '14 at 10:53
  • @J.Musser I will try to post pictures later tonight. What kind of herbicide do you recommend? – maple_shaft Oct 10 '14 at 10:55
  • @maple it will depend on the plant. – J. Musser Oct 11 '14 at 18:05
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Because they are resilient weeds, instead of spraying them with herbicides, I'd try tarping them. Start by cutting everything down at ground level. If it's a small area, you can use regular tarps, and weight down the edges with rocks/boards/anything heavy. In a large area, I use rolls of 10x100' black contractors plastic. It it's heavy duty, you can reuse it. Use earth staples to hold it down.

Because skunk cabbage has resilient roots, it may take a couple months for complete kill. You then remove the plastic and plant.

Another method is harder, but builds the soil. That is to spread flattened cardboard boxes (without plastic coatings or packing tape) over the area, then spread 3-6" of wood chips, packed straw/hay, chopped leaves, compost, over the area. Once that decomposes, the skunk cabbage will be dead, and the soil will be higher in organic matter.

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I've personally tried to do the same thing. We started by trying RoundUp, but that killed everything nearby without killing the skunk cabbage. I think other herbicides would likely have similar results.

We successfully removed it by cutting it all down and filling the wet area with a layer of sand and then a layer of topsoil. Other methods of draining would also likely be effective.

If you are unable to drain the area, the other way I've seen work is going out every day and cutting off every last bud. Eventually this will kill the roots.

  • I don't like the idea of layering sand on them. – J. Musser Dec 9 '14 at 16:03
  • Why not? The idea of the sand is that it promotes drainage through that layer. You could probably do it with just fill/soil. – Tom Brendlinger Dec 9 '14 at 16:07
  • But you'll just end up with wet sand, unless it's channeling moisture somewhere. – J. Musser Dec 9 '14 at 16:09
  • That's true. The wet sand will drain faster than wet topsoil, though. It might make sense to punch a couple of drainage holes through the first few feet of soil. I know where I am there is a layer of claylike soil a foot or two down, and a 1" hole through it can really help with drainage. – Tom Brendlinger Dec 9 '14 at 16:20

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