I need to clean and restore an old olive plantation which was not cultivated for around 20 years and is now covered with weeds, bushes and spruce tree. I'm new to olive trees but have clean almost everything. But one "pest" bothers and comes back very quickly. It is a plant Smilax aspera which so far I was unable to eradicate. It grows very quickly and is capable to cover and suffocate whole olive tree.

What is the best way to get rid of Smilax aspera?

Initially I thought to do everything in an ecological way, but now this Smilax aspera is very resistant and I'm comfortable to use chemicals. Reason (frustration) for this is that olive plantation is far from road access, 1200 m (6000 ft) on very difficult to walk Mediterranean rocky terrain and even when Smilax aspera is removed from under the olive trees, it grows from nearby dry walls as on this image: smilax aspera from a dry wall

What other options do I have? Would burning and use of fire remove it permanently?

  • It might be helpful if you explain what you have tried to do so far to control it. Sep 11, 2013 at 21:34
  • So far I have just cut it out and removed it. Unfortunately partially it grows from rocky walls and the roots are not accessible.
    – ssasa
    Sep 12, 2013 at 6:34

2 Answers 2


I've frequently used 3 different organic herbicides (link to my site) in the past with good results. They work by drying out the plant foliage. How it was explained to me by one of the manufacturers when I tested 2 of them on my lawn is: Plants need their leaves to create energy. If you keep removing their leaves they will use reserves from their roots to grow back but repeated application eventually depletes the reserves in the roots.

Flame weeding is another option. You're not trying to burn the weed, just damage it's leaves so that the leaves dry out. That might be a better option since you can't access the area by road.

Or you can just keep cutting it like you are but you need to do it every week or two.

Smilax Aspera is also known as rough bindweed. You might be interested in reading this document on organic control of field bindweed. Different family but similar name and characteristics.

This article on killing thorny smilax indicates using chemical controls is also difficult and timing is critical. It also recommends digging out or cutting down frequently.

  • I'll try this with flame weeding. But that will be in January/February. Not sure about organic herbicides. They are all based on some acid. Haven't found any info if acid will ruin olive tree roots.
    – ssasa
    Sep 12, 2013 at 15:14
  • @ssasa you should definitely look into it more but my understanding is that the solutions are very dilute. They don't harm the roots, even of grass and small weeds. They work by removing the protective coating on the leaves which then causes the sun to dry the plants out. It is very similar to flame weeding except with a spray. Sep 14, 2013 at 19:26

Fire does not kill weeds permanently if they are big enough, I would guess no but I do not know. I was going to suggest an alternative to find a more aggressive ground cover to push it out, but I just searched for something and it does not seem like there are too many more aggressive than what you got. Maybe get 1000 caterpillars to hold the front lines.

  • Which type of caterpillars? How can I produce/get them? I would need some caterpillars that doesn't like to eat olive tree leaves ;)
    – ssasa
    May 14, 2013 at 21:04

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