Cold weather is no excuse for not tackling your  invasive plants.

Cold weather is no excuse for not tackling your invasive plants.

The plant that we will discuss today needs little introduction.  I am sure that at some point everyone has encountered Rosa multiflora (or multiflora rose).  In fact, I bet that everyone has lost a little blood from walking through the woods and running into the plant.   Multiflora is an invasive plant that was planted as a barrier and natural curb before the invasive tendencies were realized.  Before we discuss control of the plant, I must tell you about the benefits of the plant.  I am certainly not encouraging that you plant multi-flora around your yard, but if it currently exists you can rest knowing that it is not completely disastrous. 
The green plant interspersed with the multiflora
in this photo is Greenbrier (smilax rotundifolia)
 which is a native plant! Note the nest in the branches. 
 Multi-flora will provide cover for birds and small mammals in the winter months.  It will also protect some plants and small seedlings from deer browse.    Like us, deer are not very interested in battling with the thorns so they will not browse those small oak seedlings or native orchids that just might be growing under your multi-flora rose cover.  This is important to note as you tackle control of the species. 
Identification:  As with any species, it is very important to know what plant you are looking at before you enact any type of control efforts.  Some of the following tips will not be useful in the months that the plant does not have identifiable vegetation or fruiting bodies, however, it will give you a general overview of the plant.
  • Leaves: Leaves are pinnately compound, divided into 7-9 leaflets, and have fine serration around the edge.
  • Fruit: Red rose hips mature in September-October
  • Thorns: Sharp hooked thorns with smaller thorns that continue along stem into leaf.  This is the main ID tip between multi-flora and your native pasture rose.  The native rose has straight thorns and has nothing where the stem connects into the leaves.  This is the best ID tip for the winter months.
Mechanical Control: If you are opposed to using chemicals, you can dig out the roots of the multiflora, or pull it out with a tractor anytime that the ground is cooperative.  You can also mow multiflora in late spring to early summer.  This will not eradicate the plant, but it will offer better control.   The biggest drawback to using either mechanical method is the amount of disturbance you will create.  I would recommend mowing for a meadow situation, but not for a woodland situation.  I feel that the digging really disturbs the soil and habitat of all of the surrounding plants and this will remove any protective qualities that the rose would have otherwise offered.   One other very interesting mechanical method that I have used with success are goats.  Multiflora rose happens to be the favorite food of many goats.  If the area of concern is large enough, you may be able to fence goats in with the rose.  It is important to know that goats will eat anything so this method is most useful in an area that has very little “good” vegetation.  I call these areas “no man’s land”.  There may be a farmer in your area who will rent their goats to you for a fee.  They typically provide the fencing, access to water, and shelter for the goats.    This can be a great option for someone with limited time who is looking to make a difference.  If you proceed with this method, it is important to realize that you will need to do follow-up in the area once the goats are removed.  They do a great job of making the area accessible, but you will need an action plan for after the goats leave.

Chemical Control:   At this time of the year, the most effective way to control multiflora is to cut the stumps close to the ground and then paint the cut stump with a non-diluted glyphosate product (Roundup is the common trade name).    This method can be used year-round with similar results, all of the other mentioned methods are restricted to a specific time.  In late winter and very early spring, multiflora will be among the first plants to leaf out.  You can spray the plant with a solution of glyphosate and water to maximize control at this time.  It is important to note that any glyphosate based herbicide is NOT SELECTIVE and will kill anything that is green that it touches.  Invasive plants are among the first to leaf out with the exception of Skunk Cabbage, and perhaps some of the very early spring ephemerals.  Pay close attention to what you are spraying so you do not have any collateral damage, however, this method will achieve control of multi-flora.   
Best of luck with your control!

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