I bought a house a few months ago (zone 9a). It has a large (12'x25') flower bed that was badly overgrown. My house is 'U' shaped and this is inside the 'U', so it gets full sun for about 40% of the day and shade otherwise. It had some bushes in it that were in poor shape. I've overturned everything, yanked out all the weeds, pulled out the bushes, and am getting ready to plant what we want.

However, I pulled out a large number of these spiky Vines (they were covering the bushes and also the sides of my house). The roots were extensive, criss crossing almost the entire area - I pulled out some 5 foot sections of root. Some of the bulbs we're as large as my hand, and while scattered throughout, they also seemed concentrated under the bushes. I don't know if they were what was killing the bushes, but I doubt they helped.

I want to figure out what these vines were. Mainly because, thanks to how extensively they covered the garden area, I doubt I got all the bulbs (in fact some of the roots went under the house, so there are probably some bulbs I can't ever get). I want to figure out how worried I should be for a new garden, how much effort I should take to try to find any remaining bulbs, and whether or not any extra steps might be required to safe guard my flower garden.

The weed (long thin leaves) in a scraggly bush:

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The bulb that was hiding under the bush when I pulled it up:

enter image description here

A small vine:

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A gigantic bulb:

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  • I have no idea what the plant is, but those things look like rhizomes (i.e. swollen underground stems) not "bulbs". If they are, then any broken-off piece left in the ground is likely to grow into a new plant, which is not good news for you! Glyphosate might have been a better method of zapping them than trying to dig them out - it will get to all the roots, wherever they are. But glyphosate only works when there are actively growing leaves, so you lost your chance to use it till the problem reappears (probably next year).
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 21:54
  • @alephzero I'm more interested in weed control than identification. If you know how to general deal with these "kinds" of plants then I would be happy to accept that as an answer. Also, thanks for the clarification on nomenclature. I'm a plant novice, so "bulb" in this case just means "Has a somewhat round shape". In retrospect it seems obvious that that is not actually the correct botanical term :)
    – conman
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 23:59
  • I don't know what it is so I'm not going to post an answer, but "working from first principles", the good news is that if it reproduces mainly by growing new plants from the swollen roots, that means you don't have to worry much about seeds (which can lie dormant for years before they germinate) If you break up the roots trying to dig them out, the broken bits will grow into new plants. That's why I would suggest a herbicide like glyphosate (round-up) which will kill almost anything. Spray the leaves when it re-grows. It will be carried down into the roots in the sap and kill them.
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 0:18
  • … and since glyphosate will kill everything it touches, don't rush to start replanting with anything "permanent" until you get rid of this, whatever it is! You could grow some annual flowers to cover the bare ground and provide a bit of colour, and not worry if some of them suffer collateral damage while going after the weeds..
    – alephzero
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 0:25
  • I just have to say that weeds are not that big of a deal in the garden. You see something you don't want growing, you simply pull it out. The younger the better. Successful gardens are created by people that visit their gardens routinely. Not once per week. At that rate, weeds sure can look overwhelming. If weeds can grow then your plants should grow. Just get anal about pulling weeds when you visit your garden. Learn how to make 'raised' plant beds without lumber or any structure, just double dug soil. How about fertilizer, proper watering? Weeds can't out compete vigorous happy plants.
    – stormy
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 9:56

1 Answer 1


Read what you can find about Greenbriar or Thorny Smilax (Smilax bona-nox) and see if it (or one of its relatives) is the plant you have. As you read you will find it is quite a problem to get rid of. Tubers and bulbs will persist, but persistence on your part will overcome it eventually. It will resist herbicides when the plant is mature and has underground resources, so it is more a matter of physical measures such as digging that will be required.

  • It is very difficult to dig all the tubers so I cut the vines as I find them . They can persist for years. When I dug a 10' X 5' area for a pond I got about a bushel of tubers although the area was undisturbed rainforest/ Big Thicket. Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 18:54

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