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common weeds with prickly seeds in ohio

Common Weeds of Northern Ohio

Northern Ohio’s humid continental climate, punctuated by Canadian fronts that sweep across Lake Erie, creates growing conditions that ideal for many weeds as it is for perennials. Several weed varieties as well as favored plants, like tulips, require a chilling period, which the northern part of the Buckeye State offers, to thrive. But unlike tulips, Ohio gardeners consider such weeds to have no redeeming gardening qualities.

Tall Fescue

Tall fescue is grass that can be found mixed in with turf, along roadsides and in fields. This European native was imported by settlers in 1886. It can grow in many types of soil and climate conditions, and is drought tolerant. The stems of tall fescue are round, smooth and erect, its leaves are rolled in the bud, and the flowers can reach up to 16 inches tall. The seeds are purple. Although it is cultivated in southern Ohio, it grows as a weed in northern Ohio. Endophytic fungus that infects many fescue species makes this plant potentially toxic to native grass species, and to cattle and horses, which can develop health conditions from grazing on it.

  • Northern Ohio’s humid continental climate, punctuated by Canadian fronts that sweep across Lake Erie, creates growing conditions that ideal for many weeds as it is for perennials.
  • Several weed varieties as well as favored plants, like tulips, require a chilling period, which the northern part of the Buckeye State offers, to thrive.

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy grows in every Ohio county and on the Lake Erie islands. It is an American native that ranges from Canada to South America. This perennial is well known to those who are allergic to it because its oily toxin causes severe skin rashes shortly after exposure. Time does not seem to decrease the oil’s potency– botanists have acquired rashes after handling 100-year-old plants. The three-leaved plant, usually having a trailing or vine-like structure, often grows under trees, along fence rows and beside structures because birds spread the seeds found in the small, white berries. Washing the affected area with soap and water immediately after contact helps prevent the spread of oil to other skin areas.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle is found in northern Ohio and throughout the eastern U.S. It thrives in damp, nutrient-rich soil found in orchards, neglected yards, dumps, ditches and floodplains. Stinging hairs located on the stems and saw-toothed leaves irritate skin upon contact and cause pain, swelling and numbness. Each hair has a sharp point that breaks off and acts like a hypodermic needle when brushed up against. Symptoms last up to a few hours and resolve themselves on their own. Stinging nettle spreads by underground rhizomes, making it difficult to eradicate. The stems are mostly unbranched and grow up to 6 ½ feet tall, usually in large clusters.

  • Poison ivy grows in every Ohio county and on the Lake Erie islands.
  • The three-leaved plant, usually having a trailing or vine-like structure, often grows under trees, along fence rows and beside structures because birds spread the seeds found in the small, white berries.

Prickly Lettuce

Prickly lettuce, a Eurasian native, grows along sidewalks, driveways, in alleys and other areas that are usually dry, although it also grows in moist areas like irrigated fields and garden plots in northern Ohio and south through Florida. It is an erect biennial that grows as a rosette of leaves the first year and then sprouts a taller stem with yellow, daisy-like flowers up to 7 feet tall. The leaves are prickly along the edges and have sharp prickles on the undersides. The plants reproduce by seeds with white, feathery hairs that are carried on the wind.

Weed or Flower? Identifying Weeds in Ohio

No one wants weeds and unwelcome plants taking on their lawn, gardens, and beds. However, for Ohio homeowners, identifying weeds from healthy, thriving flowers can be tough. Don’t let Ohio’s many weeds rob your lawn and gardens of its beauty. Brush up on some of our state’s common types of weeds to quickly identify and control even the most deceiving yard pests.

Here are 8 Common Weeds in Ohio:

Wild Violets

Don’t let the bright purple blooms fool you; wild violets are perennial weeds that need to go. Beyond the small lavender petals, look for heart-shaped leaves to know if, in fact, your property is home to this perpetual weed.

Thistle

With its long leaves and sharp, spiky spines, thistle has an almost cactus-like appearance to it. As a general rule of thumb: never keep something on your lawn that may break the skin if you step on it barefoot. Glove up and carefully remove these lawn weeds anywhere you find them.

Bittercress

Bittercress, or hair bittercress as it’s sometimes known, is an annual winter weed that hails from the mustard family. Weed identification for this one is made easy with its little white blooms, prickly seed capsules, and centralized stems.

Buckhorn Plantain

With its unusual leaf shape and rosette blooms, it’s easy to mistake buckhorn plantain as something you may actually want in your yard. In fact, it’s not. Look for long, green, slender leaves that are approximately 3-10 inches long, but less than 1-inch wide. You may also notice seed capsules ranging from 1-3 inches long on the plant as well.

Nutsedge

Nutsedge isn’t often mistaken for a flower; however, it’s shape, color, and texture often leads people to believe it’s a type of grass. This perennial growth is in the sedge family making it one of the most difficult weeds to control. If left untreated, then nutsedge develops into dense colonies, attacking any healthy plants in its path.

Chickweed

Chickweed is one of the many common weeds found in Ohio. It’s marked by oval-shaped leaves that curl as the plant matures. This annual weed also touts thin stems that sprout tiny white flowers in the spring and summer months. Every chickweed flower has five petals; however, deep notching on the blossoms makes it look like there are actually ten petals on every bloom.

Speedwell

Speedwell presents an attractive front but has a bad attitude. This annual creeping weed can quickly run rampant throughout a lawn, making it extremely difficult to control once it’s gotten a foothold in the soil. Bright green leaves with scalloped edges also distinguishes speedwell from other plants. It also flaunts small, light blue flowers when it sprouts.

Oxalis

The most distinguishing feature of this perennial weed? Heart-shaped leaves that seem to fold in the middle. In addition to its unique leaflets, Oxalis also is marked by small yellow flowers.

Musk thistle

Habitat: Pastures, meadows, wasteland, and roadside ditches. Found sporadically throughout Ohio.

Life cycle: Biennial, forming a rosette the first year and producing flowers and seed in the second.

First Year Growth Habit: A basal rosette. Leaves are waxy and pale green with few hairs.

Second Year Growth Habit: Large, coarse, branched plant that can grow up to 9 feet.

Leaves: 3-6 inches long, alternate, spiny, deeply lobed, long and narrow.

Stem: Stems covered with dense, short hairs and spines.

Flower: June – October. Purple thistle-like flower heads, 1-2” wide borne singly on stems; spiny-tipped bracts surrounding flower head. Often the flower heads droop or nod, hence the other common name of Nodding thistle.

Fruit: Seeds borne in white or tan feathery structures, similar to dandelion, spread by wind.

Similar plants: In the first year of growth, musk thistle may resemble bull thistle ( Cirsium vulgare ). However, the leaves of bull thistle are covered with hairs. Musk thistle is also referred to as nodding thistle.

The problem is ….This prickly weed reduces the quality of grazing land. It has spread quickly throughout much of the Midwest, but is not yet common in Ohio. Avoid handling without gloves.

The spines that cover nearly every part of this plant make it truly worthy of the Identifying Noxious Weeds of Ohio “noxious.”