Best method to remove acres of multiflora rose, winged euonymus and japanese honeysuckle?

I’ve searched past forum posts on this subject but never saw a definitive answer. Plus, all of the topics are now locked/closed. I purchased about 5.5 all wooded acres a year ago in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia and noticed it’s filled with multiflora rose, japanese honeysuckle and winged euonymus. At least three acres scattered here and there in massive spots and so high we can’t even get near it. The invasion of these Asian plants is disturbing to me because it’s everywhere. So much so that people think that these are native.
I was researching on maybe hiring a forest mulching service to at least knock all of the ground cover out so we can at least walk on the property. In doing so, is there a preferred time to do this in the season? Or if it’s going to grind it all to pulp, it wouldn’t matter anyway?
I’m thinking of doing the forest floor mulching and then buy native plants from the Virginia Forestry Department here —>
My thinking is, if I mulch it all, I’d at least stop the immediate spread. As they grow back, I can single them out by digging them up. As my new native plants that I’ll be planting grow, it’ll help in the process of choking the invasive species out.
Some of my choices of native species are Alleghany Chinkapin, Hazelnut, American Elderberry and Redbud. While these are not ground cover masters like the invasive ones, they do spread and are native. Which is what this place needs. Anyone have any other ideas?


Welcome to the forum!

Ah yes, invasive species management – there are careers devoted to this! I get to work with quite a few landowners here in Texas that tackle various invasive species, and in some cases, the management techniques overlap.

One of the biggest suggestions that I could give you is to physically reach out to your local ag agents. Here they are from Rockingham County VA:

Get to know these folks! They probably host (or know of) workshops that talk all about land management.

Most of all, try your best to not get discouraged. I know that removing invasive species can feel like an exercise in futility, but keep that chin up, and stay persistent! :)


Thanks for the link and the welcome!

There is no single easy answer on how to approach this sort of problem.

Best thing is to contact your local invasive species people.

The most effective method will likely involve a certain amount of pesticide, which some people deem unacceptable. The least impacting and most effective method of pesticide use is a combination of direct cutting of the stem at the base, and a small direct application immediately to the cut surface. This tends to be extremely effective and to have minimal side-effects as it’s not a broadcast method, but you have to determine for yourself is any pesticide use is acceptable. This is a labor intensive method as it involves targeting each plant individually.

Weed wrenching is another common approach. It is even more labor intensive, but it doesn’t involve any pesticides. One of the downsides to this approach is that it’s rare to get all of the roots, and some species resprout from the roots, so you can wind up with more plants the next year than you started with. These are smaller and easier to deal with plants, but they are still there.

There are lots of other approaches (goats, cut and mulch, liberal pesticide use, etc), but each of them comes with upsides and downsides.

As someone working in the conservation field, out in the field, with a good appreciation for the issues of limited resources and the need for something that finds a balance between effectiveness and minimal impact, I’d suggest the cut and direct pesticide application approach. Close to water I’d suggest weed wrench, cutting, and mulching.

That said, the best thing to do is to consult with local experts, review the options, and decide what works within the constraints of your resources, needs, and tolerance for different approaches.


Would there be local and effective experience using goats?

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You can always message a moderator to ask for an old topic to be reopened.


I think all three of your major invasives will resprout from the crown if you cut them down and don’t immediately paint the cut stumps with an herbicide. So if you hire someone to just mow them down, they’ll come back, unfortunately. I’ve finally, after almost 18 years of cutting down invasives repeatedly on my six-tenths of an acre, resorted to using an herbicide on the cut stems.

As others have said here, it’s a balance between the letting invasives take over and using small (really quite small) amounts of herbicide. Here in Massachusetts, you can hire companies who will do the cutting and herbiciding for you, which is great if you can afford it. I used to work at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife before I retired, and we’d hire companies to do this work where we were trying to restore a natural community or protect a rare species from being swamped. Otherwise, just start and keep at it. Good luck!


Thanks for your responses. I’l lcontact the locals and see what they recommend.

Under the right circumstances, and with the right expectations, goats can be very useful. We have dairy goats who love nothing better to turn multiflora rose, autumn olive, etc into milk.

The best use of goats is to have them eat things down enough that you have access to the base of invasive shrubs so you can then cut/pesticide, uproot, or whatever other method you use. This is especially useful with multiflora rose, which is a nightmare to work with. But I recommend you find someone with experience in this. There are fencing and safety considerations that they’ll be able to handle efficiently.

Goats will also eat your natives, of course. And they won’t eat Japanese Barberry, although they’ll nibble at the very youngest shoots. Although I haven’t seen any research on this, in my experience, any ripe berries ingested by goats don’t appear to germinate once they’re, ahem, expelled. So they don’t spread the seeds as birds do. I don’t think the seeds are well suited to rumen conditions.

The use of goats for invasive removal is fantastic when it works, but can be VERY tricky to execute.


I don’t have any experience working with winged euonymus, but I have done pretty extensive work with japanese honeysuckle and multiflora rose.

Multiflora rose responds well to being dug up. it’s labor intensive, and you usually have to hack at it to gain access to the roots, but once digging it up, you can hang the plant from the root base in a neighboring tree so it dries out and it will die well enough. you’ll get a little resprouting from the base, but if you are persistent, you can use mechanical means on it and make solid progress.

japanese honeysuckle doesn’t work that way. it roots from stem nodes, and if you chop it up, there is potential for each piece you chop up to put down new roots and cause spreading. for the same reason (and the fact that it produces LOTS of very small stems so it can be really hard to get them all), I don’t feel it’s a good candidate for cut stump herbicide application, either. It does tend to respond well directed foliar spray of Garlon/triclopyr. especially if you hit it early in the season when there isn’t much else nearby that’s green.

I’ve been fighting with a lot of japanese honeysuckle at my house for a few years. it sucks and smothers other stuff. I also have quite a bit of oriental bittersweet, which IS a very good candidate for cut stump herbicide application because it has larger, discrete woody stems.

with all of these things, definitely hit them early in the season before they flower or seed.


I agree, goats are definitely not a perfect solution. There’s a hillside near me (Southern California) that is completely covered with invasive mustards and radishes (mostly Hirschfeldia incana, Brassica nigra, and Raphanus sativus). Every year, someone brings in goats which graze for a week or two, presumably to control the invasives. Unfortunately, they always bring the goats in after the plants have already gone to seed and dried up, so all the goats do is trample the dead vegetation—spreading seeds in the process—and eat the natives because they’re the only plants that stay green in late summer. Then, because the goats have come and ripped out all of the living vegetation, the topsoil erodes even with the slightest rainfall in winter, and someone (probably whoever keeps bringing in the goats) has to lay jute netting and straw wattles in a futile attempt to prevent landslides. I’m tempted to go out there in the spring and remove the mustard myself before it’s gone to seed, then plant goat-resistant natives in their place.


Who owns the hillside, and the goats?
Seems a severe failure of logic.


I’m not sure. The hill is topped by a small park and tennis courts, which I think are owned by the city, so the slope might also be owned by the city because it’s too steep to build on. My best guess is that the city owns it and has a contract with a goat farm somewhere to clear the brush. Unfortunately, mismanagement of undeveloped land is all too common near me. The city government usually owns the steeper areas that no one is willing to buy, so they go with the cheapest option to “maintain” it. That often just means planting tons of Carpobrotus spp. for “erosion control” and forgetting about it, but I think in this case they are worried about fires so they try to clear all the dry brush without actually solving the problem of flammable invasive plants.


This is a great question but I don’t think an iNaturalist forum is the best place to ask it. Others have suggested some great resources where you can get expert advice. I would also suggest contacting your local county weed management agency for help. There are also a number of Facebook groups where things like this are actively discussed. I would recommend Gardening With Native Plants, for one. There are many others that focus on weed management and likely there is one for your part of the country.

I would second the suggestion to talk to a local extension office, as well as maybe any local native plant groups that are in your state-- they are likely in contact with many land managers who would be willing to give you pointers on killing invasive plants.

As for methods, since no one has suggested that yet… you might look into prescribed burning instead of mulching, if there’s someone who can safely provide that service in your area. I’m not sure about those particular species, but many non-natives absolutely cannot handle fire and many natives actually like occasional fires. It’s not as scary as it sounds, although I will say I have no idea how much that service would cost.

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Goats won’t work because:

  1. they will annihilate native desirable vegetation you badly need to take up space and compete with your invasives. They will kill a whole generation of native trees.

  2. whatever goats eat will resprout from the root system, so you would have to put them back repeatedly.

  3. goats will not address your seed bank of invasive plants and weeds

  4. goats are expensive especially because it’s $$$ to fence in five acres.

Basically goats are almost never a good idea.

My advice is to join an invasive plant removal Facebook group and start up a conversation with the community. Learn how to do foliar as well as cut stump and hack-and-squirt herbicide applications. I would ignore the well-meaning advice here suggesting digging or pulling anything. You CANNOT dig or pull five acres, the soil disturbance would be immense, it’s very slow going, and you will probably injure yourself.

Five acres is a ton of land so you’re probably not going to be able to do this on your own or with a partner, and it sounds really overrun. You’re going to want to get a professional assessment.

If you decide to go it alone though, start small. Pick a quarter-acre on an edge or corner and restore it. That’s your “green zone”. Then move out from there.

Don’t plant trees or shrubs because deer will just demolish them, and you can’t plant enough trees for that much space anyway especially if you’re building fences to protect them.

What you want to do is sow native grasses and forbs each fall/winter into places you’ve cleared. Buy quality mixes from Ernst, Roundstone, or another vendor using only native plants. Pick mixes suitable to the sun exposure and drainage. Maybe get extra Virginia Wild Rye/Canada wild rye/etc, cheap native grasses to fill space.

The only way to do this is through natural succession. Turning it into a meadow first means that natives take up space and start to lock out most invasive plants. You’re going to run around for the first 1-2 years chasing stray invasives but overall it gets much easier and less time-consuming.

Then you’re going to let it get scrubby/shrubby. Where I am that means raspberry bushes and whatever else. Tree saplings will start to come in through the cover on their own (or seed them if you need to), and that gives them some protection from herbivores and adds to complexity. If you want to plug certain plants, plant a few oak trees with guards, go for it. Or when you see native wild trees popping up, protect them, that’s way easier than planting.

I hope this makes sense. It’s what’s worked for me over and over, really letting the natural biotic processes get back up and running after they’ve been warped and stunted with the non-native invasion for so long.

I find this kind of thing incredibly rewarding, personally. And yeah that first year or two is hard. I’ve gone back and forth between despair and hopelessness to thrilling success many times and you will too.


Rehabbing a former pine plantation

You see, this is why it frustrates me that comic book or cartoon characters with powers like Poison Ivy are always portrayed as supervillains. Seems to me, someone with powers like that would make a great superhero for conservation.


The challenge with digging is that you create significant soil disturbance and often expose an unwanted seedbank. It also depends how large the plants are. I had winged euonymus plant that was 2-3 inches in diameter, you’d need a backhoe to get that out of the ground. So I opted for the cut and paint method, it worked nicely for both the euonymus and the multiflora rosa (and the tree of heaven).

And in that case the goats are likely spreading the seeds to wherever they’re moved to as well.