Skunkvine – A Stinky Invasive Plant

Skunkvine illustration. UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.

Skunkvine illustration. UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.

North Florida gardeners have many non-native, invasive plants to deal with, but none quite as stinky as skunkvine (Paederia foetida). As the name implies, skunkvine has a noticeable smell, especially when the leaves are crushed, and it is an aggressive-growing vine, capable of smothering desirable landscape plants. Gardeners should learn to recognize and control this plant before it gets a foothold in the garden.

Skunkvine is native to eastern and southern Asia and a member of the coffee family (Rubiaceae). It was introduced to Florida prior to 1897 as a potential fiber crop, but quickly spread and is now considered a Category I invasive plant by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) and as a noxious weed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences (FDACS).

Skunkvine can be identified by the following characteristics:

  • Aggressive twining vine
  • Leaves are opposite each other
  • There is a thin flap of tissue on the stem between the leaves
  • Leaves have a strong skunk-like odor when crushed
  • Clusters of small, tubular, lilac-colored flowers appear in late summer to fall
  • Fruits are shiny brown and can persist through winter

 

Skunkvine flowering. Photo by Ben Ferrin (UF/IFAS).

Skunkvine flowering. Photo by Ken Ferrin, UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

 

Once you have identified skunkvine in your garden, the next step is to work to remove it. For small patches, pulling by hand can be effective but will require monitoring to ensure it doesn’t resprout. When hand pulling, you want to be sure to get as much of the root as possible. For larger areas, chemical control using herbicide products that contain triclopyr, imazapic, or aminopyralid are most effective. Carefully reading the product label will help determine which product to purchase.

Since skunkvine can be easily spread by seed and fragments of stem, care must be taken when disposing of it. The best solution is to place plant debris into a trash bag and dispose of it with your regular household garbage.

By knowing how to identify and manage skunkvine, north Florida gardeners can keep it from stinking up their own gardens, their neighbor’s gardens, and surrounding natural areas that support our native wildlife.

 

References:

Langeland, K. A., Stocker, R. K., and Brazis, D. M. 2013. Natural Area Weeds: Skunkvine (Paederia foetida). Agronomy Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. EDIS document SS-AGR-80.

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