Q: What is the name of the vine-like weed growing in my turfgrass? They are not difficult to pull up but it does smell unpleasant when it is disturbed. I have never seen it flower.
A: After bringing me this specimen, it was easy to identify as skunk vine mostly because of the strong, unpleasant odor. The plants are woody vines but it lacks thorns. It does produce small, pale lilac flowers but they are so small they may not be conspicuous to you. After it flowers it produces small, yellow-orange fruits. Skunk vine and sewer vine are easily separated from one another by their fruits. Skunk vine has spherical fruits and the seed (diaspores) lack wings, whereas sewer vine has fruits that are laterally compressed and seeds that are conspicuously winged. The leaves of sewer vine are typically larger than those of skunk vine.
The common English names of these plants relates to the odor of the leaves, which is due to the presence of sulfur compounds (Mabberley, 1997). The odor is another helpful characteristic used to identify these vines and it sets them from other plants. For those of you who are literalists, I don’t think it really smells like skunk but it is nonetheless disagreeable. In urban landscapes, this vine entwines branches of woody ornamental plants and also spreads horizontally through lawns, rooting at the nodes. Skunk vine is a Category I Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council weed (Langeland and Craddock Burks, 1998), a listing that groups the plant with the most invasive weed species in Florida .