Getting the vines out

central_valley(9)March 1, 2011

The tree is a magnolia. The vine is a wisteria. The invasion is massive.

I'm cutting the vines and pulling them down... trying to get as much of it done as I can before the vines leaf out. But some of them are too high to reach with a ladder, and so tangled in the tree that hanging all of my weight on the vine doesn't budge it.

I'm thinking about other ways to get the vines out. I wonder if a come-along would work. The danger, of course, is that if I pull too hard I'll break off large parts of the tree. Also, I'm not sure what would be the most effective way would be to attach a come-along to a vine.

Another alternative is to just cut the vines and leave them in the tree until they rot away. All of the instructions I've found on the web seem to imply that. I don't like the idea, but I know I have some neat-freak tendencies, and this may be one of the cases where they're better set aside.

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With such a strong vine, I would recommend cutting the vine, applying a dab of herbicide to the cut vine section that is still in the ground and leaving the vines in place for a little while.

You are right that you run the risk of breaking the tree by forcing them down. Wisteria vines are very strong, as you have figured out and I don't think that pulling is an option when they are that big.

Once the vines have been dead for a while, they "might" be easier to pull out, so you could try again after a year or so. Dead branches are brittle and that might help.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 6:54AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

riddle me this batman ....

why does it need to be removed ...

cut at ground.. apply killer ...

cut at the height where it disappears into the canopy ... wait for it the tree to leaf out ... ipso presto.. it disappears ...

couple years later... when its brittle .. it will come out more easily ... if you still care ...

you are working too hard.. when you start thinking about power tools ... lol ...

i learned this with poison ivy vines.. which went 40 feet up into the trees ... cutting them at about 6 feet ... and never though about them again ...


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:00AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

If they bother you again in the fall THEN call some tree trimming companies and get estimates for removal. Hopefully you just dont notice the vines by then.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 8:31AM
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Dan Staley

What ken said. Unless the OPs wife wants it gone, then all advice is moot and get crackin'.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:43AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the only thing worse than the PI .. is wild grape ... we are talking tarzan vines.. lol ... [BTW.. which he already tried hanging on his .. did you try the primal scream while you were at it???]

forget wifey .. once it leafs out.. you should be clear until the leaves fall off again ... lol


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 11:50AM
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all you have to do is cut the vine at the base. The top will then die and peel away from the tree. Make sure you put some herbicide on the vine were you cut it because it will start to sprout and grow again. I use this method on the poison ivy vines that grow on my pines, works really well.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 2:30PM
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Dan Staley

Aside, I used to have a pic of a wisteria that IIRC covered ~1.25 acres in SoCal and swallowed a house. Cut, paint, remove. Cut again, paint. Cut again, paint. Remove. Done.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 2:46PM
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Thanks for the suggestions so far. A few comments:

I'm skeptical that if I leave the dead vines in the tree they will become easier to pull out. They will become more brittle. Then they'll break when I try to pull them out, leaving the upper part tangled in the tree.

"why does it need to be removed ..."? I'm not sure it does, but I'll give one reason: there are a LOT of vines up there, some of them wound around the branches of the tree. They may interfere with light and possibly with the tree's growth even when they're dead.

As for unsightliness... The tree is not deciduous (at least in this climate), so there isn't going to be a sudden outburst of foliage in the spring. I expect the tree's leaf cover to improve after the vines are eliminated, but the change will be gradual. The tree will have to grow some fairly large branches to cover up the bulk of the vines, and that is going to take years.

Last, a come-along is not a power tool. Very much the opposite!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 3:20PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

footnote: Use concentrated triclopyr (Brush-B-Gon, Garlon, etc) or glyphosate (Gly-4, RoundUp, etc) to treat the freshly cut stump once you've cut the vines. The premixed watered-down stuff won't do much good at all. This time of year and in early spring may not be the ideal best time to kill the vine with herbicides, and so you may have to reapply if they don't completely die after the first treatment.

"They may interfere with light and possibly with the tree's growth even when they're dead."

I can't imagine that light blockage would be much of a problem with a leafless vine. If the fully-alive, leafed-out vine hasn't already killed the tree, then the dead vine should be an improvement so far as light penetration.

BTW, how big is your tree? Do you have a way to get up into the canopy?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 7:19PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

My home has wild grape vines invading the black walnuts. I cut it at ground level and it gets out of there eventually.

IF I really wanted to remove the dead vine trunks I would have to climb the tree. The big man lifts I have rented before for tree removal would be a little cumbersome and require resetting so many times to really get around the tree.

Wonder what the estimate from a tree trimming company would be.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:53PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

I would say more bucks than it worth.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:02PM
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How big is the tree: by comparing it to the height of the house, I'd guess about 40 feet. No way to get into the canopy without climbing it, and most of the vines are in places where there are no branches large enough to support an adult. A lot of them are right at the top, since the most light is there.

The lot is on a hillside with a good deal of fencing and terracing. I don't think I could get a lift in there, even if the cost of doing so were reasonable.

Without a doubt, dead vines will interfere with light less than leafy ones. But Brandon, with respect, you haven't seen the tree. There are a LOT of vines, and on the side of the tree where most of the vines grow, there aren't many branches. I think the vines may well interfere with the tree's growth even when they're dead, and if they don't, they'll still be highly visible and unsightly until the tree grows enough new branches to cover them.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 12:50PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

How about waiting one year's cycle, cut vine wait and see how the tree responds/looks then decide if you need to remove dead vine. My guess the dead vine at the top will be the first to break down due to being baked by the sun, more movement due to wind moving the branches, and not being as thick. With regard to dead vines impeding tree growth I have seen a box elder (not one of the strongest trees!) that continued to grow for over 30 years around a steel chain used to hang a tree swing!!! A desiccated vine is trivial compared to that.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 8:36PM
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