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I've had lots of questions about this plant this year for the first time!  I don't have any professional experience with it, but personal.  My mother planted some as a ground cover in a part-shade spot, and it was aggressive.  We worked hard to remove it years later (physical only, dig/pull), and eventually mostly got rid of it, though a sprout or two comes up each year.  

I haven't seen evidence of it escaping into natural areas--yet.  I would expect similar risks regarding compost/dump piles in woods turning into escapees as other, more obviously identified as invasive ground covers.

The one thing that may be saving it from being truly invasive is that it seems to be more patchy than truly covering--one of the reasons we ripped it out in the first place.  That's only my experience in one location (literally one spot in one yard), so it could be very different overall.

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Thanks for your input Katie. Good to hear that you have some evidence that headway may be made with physical removal.

Christina Baugher reached out to her contacts and came back with this information...

Susie Iott reached out to Erin Hill, a weed diagnostician at MSU. Here is her response about the chameleon plant – I hope it helps!

“Here’s a small write up I put together as the control options should be similar to those for other aggressive groundcovers like  goutweed. Note I do not have direct experience with this plant, but this should be effective. It’s tough to find info even within Google Scholar as apparently it has a lot of touted medicinal properties…who knew. 

Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata) is a perennial plant in the lizard tail family (Saururaceae). It is not native to Michigan and often used as an ornamental and for groundcover. This plant has the ability to form large colonies from underground rhizomes but it can also reproduce by seed.

Control of chameleon plant can be very difficult, depending on its location. Digging up the root system and removing foliage are certainly options for control and will weaken the root system over time, but it could take a very long time. The use of landscape fabric plus mulch to deprive the plant of sunlight may work in certain situations on a small scale, however any holes in the fabric for desired plant may offer an avenue for emergence. There are no selective herbicides that will kill this plant and not affect desirable broadleaf plants. Depending on how interspersed it is, how big the area is, and how large of a nuisance it is, it may be possible to spot treating with a herbicide such as glyphosate (Roundup® Weed and Grass Killer, amongst others). Products containing glyphosate will injure other plants contacted during application (i.e. green tissue, damaged/green bark, exposed roots). Multiple applications may be necessary for complete control. Glyphosate does not have activity in the soil, so once you are satisfied with your level of control it is safe to replant desired species. Remember, always read and follow labeled directions.

*If it’s even in an all grass situation there are likely some selective herbicide options.”

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Just stumbled on this thread searching for info on this plant via google.  In Indiana it's a common problem in landscape areas, with a handful reports of it spreading to nearby natural areas.  I have some landowners battling it but I don't think we have enough escaped populations to classify it as invasive (yet?).  Dawn Slack reported using 2 percent Rodeo by volume and adding 0.015 percent of imazapyr on hard to kill populations (1 teaspoon imazypr per gallon of spray, any more and you risk off target damage).  It sounds like you can physically dig it up, but it's pretty labor intensive and the rhizomes have a tendency to break off.  

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Thanks for your community and the opportunity to vent about Houttuynia cordata. We've had a massive infestation on our quarter-acre property (no lawn) here in southern Indiana. It grows under, over, between, and through everything and expands its range every year. I first tried to get rid of it by covering it with mulch -- it happily burst through within a week. Next, I tried digging it out, but it quickly became clear that I'd need to rent a backhoe, and remove everything else, including the trees, to extirpate it. Then I blasted it with a massive dose of glyphosate; it "died", but within a month it was back, thumbing its nose at me. The off-target damage was appalling, and those plants, of course, stayed dead. Black plastic was next, but it grew around it and through any place that allowed passage of a single photon, and the areas that did "die" were back in action the next spring. But then I read on the Toronto Master Gardeners website that "if you keep cutting off new leaves as they emerge the continual defoliation will exhaust the root reserves and eventually kill the plant". I tried this method last summer on a small, isolated area, and it worked! It became weaker after about three rounds of immediate removal of every baby leaf, and this summer what little remained was easily handled. So now I'm trying the same method in a frontal assault on the entire H. cordata army. Wish me luck! I'm doing my part to keep this menace out of Michigan.

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