Weed growing inside toilet pipe

An individual posting to the forums on HouseRepairTalk.com reports recurring problems with a strange and motivated plant that takes root under their toilet and grows into the drain pipe. From the forum:
 Albums O52 Infectious Sense House Pottyweed1-23 Over the past few months, the toilet would drain slowly. We plunged, we snaked, we blew out the clean-out drain with a blow bag - everything. We called a plumber, who used an auger to go down the drain and pulled out some large clumps of gunk... and also told us to replace our wax ring - that it might be old. The toilet flushed for about 24 hours, but when it began to slow again, we went and got the wax ring replacement. Upon removing the toilet to replace the wax ring, there it was AGAIN! This time - more than twice as long!
"The Potty Weed - HELP!!" (Thanks, Tara McGinley!)


  1. Oh, a weed! I thought you meant…never mind.

    Anyway, this sounds like a good premise for a horror movie, or at least a Stephen King short story.

  2. The soil line to the septic tank, or city sewer, depending on your locale, is likely perforated, allowing roots from outside to grow into the pipe. I am pretty sure that this is where this stuff is coming from. Grows really fast with our super chemical-infused fertilizer!

    1. Anon@2: Um, no. Municipal sanitary sewer leads and mains, by design, are decidedly not perforated. The pipe to the septic system is not perforated, either. Why? Because those pipes are carrying the potential environmental disaster known as human excrement.

      The only sewage system pipes that are purposely perforated are the drainage pipes off the header in a septic drain field, which is downstream of the last septic tank.

  3. I would do everything within my mortal power to not let that thing touch my bare skin. Some weed’s been filtering out your poop and pee water and you’re just holding it with your fingers? Dayum, that’s nasty.

  4. It looks like it could be milfoil, which is a huge problem in lakes. It’s why in some lakes you can’t launch a boat that has been in another lake recently, it’s pretty contagious. Toiletweed, however, is sick.

  5. Copper sulfate(possibly sold under the term “bluestone” in bulk non-chemist type locations) should show that plant the error of its ways.

  6. I’m actually sorta surprised this doesn’t happen more often; given all the … fertilizer that you run through there on a regular basis.

  7. Speaking of disgusting things sprouting up unexpectedly, what’s with that big, honkin’ McDonald’s ad on the sidebar? I nearly lost my falafel when I saw that gnarly sausage patty “snack wrap” thingy jump out at me.

  8. Because sometimes bad things happen to good people.
    And it was a ghastly, long finger coming out of the drain in the story. I believe the soloution was a hedge trimmer.

    1. was just thinking of that one, lol. The drain cleaner just caused fingernail damage, and made it angrier.

  9. Yeeeeeah… I’m gonna go ahead and ask for a unicorn chaser for that one. Until then, you’ll find my huddled in the corner with all the lights on.

  10. GAH! You had to bring up The Moving Finger! Oh god that story gave me the horrors. I used to be scared of the tub drain as a small child, and dayum if that story didn’t bring it all screaming back, and transfer it to every drain in the bathroom.

    … and now I’m having terror-flashbacks *twitch*

  11. That looks like a willow (Salix species) tree root.

    Willows are riparian, meaning they grow along streams and waterways, and have incredibly strong roots designed to seek out the merest hint of water.

    I would remove any willow within 10 feet your home as it will eventually find another microscopic leak in your sewer and crack into it.

    1. Re: anonymous who suggested willow.

      My willow trivia: A green willow twig or branch can be stuck in the ground and grow into a tree. So they likely have more regenerative capacity than average.

  12. Try selling that sucker to aquarium stores, seems like just the sort of exotic invasive they love to distribute. Grows in clorinated water full of crap, can’t be killed, needs no sunlight: perfect!

  13. Reminds me of when I was a kid … I had this pea-shooter pistol, a spring-loaded plastic gun that shot dried peas. Tons of fun in the bathtub — I absolutely loved shooting peas down the overflow drain. But my dad wasn’t so amused when he had to snake the overflow pipe and pull out a mass of pea sprouts ….

  14. That’s just what happens when you flush your stash. It’s just like when you swallow an orange seed and a tree grows in your stomach.

  15. Perforation due to rust, excess load, earthquakes, etc. is not unusual. Clay and iron are still in wide use ’round the country. Nobody is talking about intentionally perforated pipe, designed to leech fluids out on purpose.

  16. Problem is, downstream processing of sewage requires certain biota to be able to eat your sewage. So flushing all sorts of toxic crap to try and kill your invader probably isn’t the best answer.

    If you can get to the roots by lifting the toilet off the seal, then maybe a single application of herbicide such as Roundup will kill off the mother plant without sending an unacceptable quantity of poison down the sewage system. Roundup is designed to biodegrade, and a dose that will kill your invader plant isn’t likely to be very toxic after mingling with all the other sewage.

  17. We had a cracked drain once, the tree roots would clog it almost completely every year or two. Naaasty job getting it out.

  18. I don’t have anything reaching up to my toilet like this situation, but my clogged sewer line was diagnosed as having invasive tree roots growing into it. The plumber who augured it twice so far said that he’ll probably need to provide this service annually, unless I spent several thousand digging up and replacing cast-iron pipes circa 1937 between my house and the city sewer.

    The nearest tree between my house and the street is some kind of maple, I think, with those little helicopter dragonfly-wing seeds. Trying to remove it would be a sad, sucky and probably expensive option.

    If anyone has advice about how to stop this without the multi-thousand dollar replacement of pipes, and without buying or renting an augur, please tell. I doubt that any herbicide strong enough to keep the tree roots at bay would be appropriate to dump into a city sewer system.

    1. Look into the cost of the machine that the plumber used to auger it out. 300 bucks? Or you could rent one. Then look at the cost benefit of using it instead of the plumber.

      It could pay for itself in 3 years.

    2. If you’re pretty sure the maple is at fault (And I would not be surprised if it was, silver maple in my experience is pretty obnoxious, almost as bad as willow) get copper nails. Scrub them with steel wool to remove any varnish on them. Nail ’em into your tree. Start with five or six, in a ring around the base of your tree.

      It might take a year or so.

      However, note that killing the tree will result in a big ass dead tree hovering over your house, car, and road, and if it falls on your hosue, your car, or any passers by (or drops deadwood on them) you’ll probably be liable. And, rotting wood attracts wood eating pests which will ALSO have your house to eat near by. And frankly, it’s ugly.

      So be really sure it’s the tree, and realize what kind of long term costs you’re setting yourself up for. Budget money for getting your drains augered anyways, and if the tree dies, SAVE THAT MONEY to help you clear it out in a year or five, when it becomes a hazard to life and limb.

  19. My grandfather’s home, built circa 1945, originally had clay pipes. The home was built by the contractor who built the entire subdivision as his own home – so it is well-built.

    The problem is that Dallas’ clay soil shifts a lot with seasonal moisture. So the pipe sections eventually disjoined, and tree roots invaded.

    When my parents inherited the home, my father’s solution was a simple one: He applied for and got a permit to replace the pipe, then bought the materials and performed the work himself*, rather than pay a contractor.

    Knowing your municipality’s building codes and permit process can save you a ridiculous amount of money.

    *by which I mean he did almost everything with some help from my brother and I on the actual labour.

    1. ‘Knowing your municipality’s building codes and permit process can save you a ridiculous amount of money.’

      For sure. I had a similar problem at an apartment I was renting. The 80 year old iron pipes got invaded by roots or burst due to freezing. Ended up with raw sewage in the basement… and I was renting the basement. That wasn’t a good morning.

      Came to about $9,000 to repair it all. But really all they did was dig a hole and replace a pipe. Probably wouldn’t be that hard to DIY. I saw a guy fix a similar problem with a septic tank using a 2 L pop bottle to replace the broken section.

  20. One word: bleach. Use it whenever you wash the bathroom/toilet or kitchen and a lot of nasty stuff will go away very quickly. Just keep windows open when you use it then keep small kids or pets away and it’ll be perfectly safe.

  21. @Bardfinn

    My grandfather’s home, built circa 1937 in Dallas took a different approach to Dallas’ shifting clay. In the building contract my grandfather inserted a clause that stated he needed to inspect the holes dug for the piers to ensure that they went to bedrock. The contractor poured the holes with concrete before inspection, so he had to do it again.

    Then when the man he’d paid to plant trees on the lot failed to do so, granddad was so infuriated that he uprooted any tree that attempted to sprout except for a lone pecan behind the garage in the alley. I think his dislike for trees was compounded by the American Elm and prolifically fruity Mulberry that his neighbor, Dorothy Malone (ancient film actress) allowed to grow over his driveway.

  22. This whole thing just reminded me that I have a small willow tree just outside of my bathroom. Luckily, I live in NM, and the house is not exactly near a river, so it’s pretty much dead anyway. Better get rid of it before this happens.

  23. Holy crap, this happened to me! I broke my toilet once while drunk (long story) and when my dad and I pulled it off the floor, we saw long tendrils growing into the linoleum. He grabbed one with his gloved hand and pulled… and pulled. The thing was over four feet long. We called it the “toilet trout”.

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