Weed Vine and Weird Leaf Growths

Weed Vine and Weird Leaf Growths

One is a problem and the other not so much…

When I consult with customers about their yards and gardens, they frequently ask me about anything in their landscape that has caught their attention. This week I looked at two common situations, one that’s problematic and another that’s not a concern.

At the first property we were looking at the homeowners perennial garden to see what other plants might be put in her flower bed. What I spotted there, masquerading as a perennial plant, was black swallow-wort vine, Cynanchum louiseae. At this time of year this vine looks like something you might have planted, and in this garden it was thriving. I’ve seen this plant growing lustily in the traffic island at the corner of Old Stage Road and 28…it looks like it was something planted, but it’s a horrible, invasive plant. If you see this vine, which is also called dog-strangle vine, dig it out asap and be on the lookout for small sprouts that are sure to come up. When you see them, remove immediately! 

At the second property the homeowner brought me to a shrub that was covered with upright, red growths. These look very other-worldly, like some sort of alien hairdo on the foliage. These are red mite galls, and although they look strange they don’t threaten the health of the plant. My client was very relieved that no action was needed.

Some things we see in the landscape are problems that need prompt attention, while others may look like our intervention is needed but in reality they are cosmetic curiosities only. Either way, enjoy the wonders of the natural world!

This is black swallowwort vine – also called dog-strangle vine. When you see this in your garden, dig it out quickly.
These are sometimes called “nail galls.” They are formed by mites and may look strange but aren’t any danger to the plant.


  1. Lynn Singer on June 11, 2015 at 8:26 am

    I have Roddy’s in front of my house that are blooming for the firs time this year. I know
    they have to be trimmed but when should I do that and how should I?

    • CLFornari on June 11, 2015 at 8:43 am

      You don’t have to prune/trim your Rhododendrons. If you want to promote bushy growth pinch the tip off the new growth (tender, green stems) NOW – but don’t do it after mid-June or you might take away flower buds that will form for next year. If they are looking good, you don’t have to trim them.

  2. Tom on June 11, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I have Japanese Knot Weed in my yard which I have been trying to get rid of for the past four years. Every time I think they are gone I find new shoots sprouting. Is there a one time treatment that will finally get rid of this horribly invasive plant?

    • CLFornari on June 11, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Unfortunately there is no magic formula for getting rid of Knot weed – keep digging! If you do decide to use an herbicide, however, the timing is imporant. Studies show it’s most effective on this plant when applied when the plant is starting to flower.

  3. Laura Sonnichsen on June 11, 2015 at 9:29 am

    C.L. – we have Asiatic dayflower that grows like mad and is particularly invasive.

    • CLFornari on June 11, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Again, no magic other than trying to be more persistent and determined than the dayflower! Keep pulling – you could also try smothering with a combination of sheets of newspaper and bark mulch.

  4. Melissa Woringer on June 11, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Our yard was overcome by moss and we rented a thatching machine, yielding mountains of moss to rake. Now I have huge mostly-bare patches. Can I plant grass seed now? I would like to add some clover, as it is much greener when it is so dry. Ordinarily we don’t water our lawn, but I know I’d have to do so in order for the grass/clover to get a foothold.

    • CLFornari on June 11, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Since moss thrives on compact soil, in shade and in moist conditions, you might either have shade or compact soil. Did the thatching machine turn the soil up at all? If not, you might want to do that or top dress with two or three inches of loam or loam mixed with compost – otherwise the moss is likely to come back while you’re watering the grass seed. Yes, you can seed both the grass and clover now – but you’ll have to watch for weed seeds that germinate while you’re watering the starting grass and it will need to be watered daily until it germinates and then weaning the newly seeded area off daily watering gradually. So at least through July you’ll be watering this area. Once it’s established you can go back to your usual routine. We sell bags of white clover for mixing in the lawn if you need it. Also, if the area is shady be sure to use a seed mix that is made for the shade.

  5. Mal Condon on June 12, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Many thanks C.L. for identifying Cynanchum louiseae. It’ a new bad-boy weed for us and we have it in several places. It is very vigorous and digging it out has been our only successful means of eradication.

    • CLFornari on June 12, 2015 at 7:43 am

      May The Force be with you, Mal!

  6. Sue on June 15, 2015 at 4:12 am

    I have mentioned this issue with the folks at coach light carpets , I will follow through with Steve this week. Have you seen it at Cg all along the fence??? We need an intervention.

    • CLFornari on June 15, 2015 at 7:28 am

      Yes! We keep cutting it down along the fence and it keeps coming back. SO frustrating!

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