B. Rosie Lerner
Consumer Horticulturist


Check out Rosie's book:Possum in the Pawpaw Tree





Question and Answer

Q. Is there anything that can be used to get rid of broom sage in my yard? I keep it mowed very short and have even tried to burn it, but nothing seems to work! We have acres of the stuff!

A. Broom sage, also known as broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), is a native perennial grass (not a sedge) that is related to big and little bluestem. Eradication would be difficult, especially when talking about acres, but it could be achieved with a multi-level approach to replacing the grass with something more desirable. But that is a really important question; what do you want to replace it with?

Broomsedge tends to dominate in soils of low fertility and low pH soils, so the goal would be to foster an environment favorable to a more desirable species (or multiple species) as a replacement. Fertilizing and liming might help, but you would still need to use additional techniques, such as repeated tilling and/or perhaps herbicide, to sufficiently suppress the broomsedge. There is an excellent article on this from Auburn University Extension,

You might also want to discuss more specific strategies with the Purdue Extension agriculture educator in your county. Purdue Extension contact information for your county is available at

Smilax fruit ball
Fruit cluster from Smilax species

Q. I have a vine growing on my fence that comes back every year. It produces a large fruit ball that is dark purple, almost black. Can you identify this plant?

A. The fruit cluster appears to be one of the Smilax species, a member of the Lily family. There are several species native to Indiana; most are armed with thorns, prickles or bristles along their twining stems. Some of the common names of plants in this genus include Greenbrier, catbrier and carrionflower. They can be quite aggressive and difficult to control, once established.


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox,