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Weed Identification
Perennials 2

You will find weed information including weed names and pictures, as well as, information on control.

This page contains information on Buckhorn Plantain, Broadleaf Plantain, Red Sorrel, Wild Violet and Common Yarrow.

Understanding Weed Identification Perennial Terminology

A “perennial” is defined as a plant that will live for two or more years. This means that perennials will not have to come back each year by seed. (Although many perennials reproduce by seed.)

No lawn is immune to weed problems, however, not all weeds can grow in lawns. The weeds that become established in lawns will be a type that can handle continuous defoliation through repeated mowing.

Method of Spread

Weed control begins with weed identification and understanding how weeds grow. Proper weed identification is important because different weeds may require different control techniques. Weeds, like grasses, can spread by seed, rhizomes or stolons and some can regenerate from root pieces left in the soil, common with dandelions. 

Seeds – Some weeds are prolific seed producers.
Rhizomes – are underground stems which sprout at specific points and spread the plants.
Stolons– are above ground horizontal stems that also sprout at specific points along the stem.

Some weeds can be controlled without using chemicals, while others are almost impossible to control without them.

Many weeds don’t like competition, so a thick lawn is your greatest defense against slowing weed growth.

Focusing attention on weed control without building a thick turf is a guarantee you will have continued weed problems.

The weeds listed on this weed identification page are not an exhaustive list and you may have other weeds common to your geographical area. Be sure to check with your local university extension office for specific conditions in your area.

Important Note: A mention of any herbicide is not an endorsement, but is only a list of commonly used and effective products. Different states, or even regions within states, may have specific laws pertaining to herbicide use or specific products.

Your local university extension office can be a great help in determining what products are available to you. Not all herbicides are available for homeowner use and the EPA is removing or adding herbicides frequently. Always use and store products according to instructions on the label.

Plantain, Buckhorn

Weed Identification

Buckhorn plantain is closely related to broadleaf plantain. It has a taproot instead of the fibrous root system like the broadleaf plantain. The leaves of the buckhorn plantain are 1 to 1.5 inches wide and up to 10 inches long. Leaves can lie flat on the ground or curve upward.

The easiest method of making a positive weed identification is to look for the long, slender stalk and bullet shaped seed head at the end. The seed head produces tiny flowers that protrude in a circle around the center. Because of these stalks, these plants can be difficult to mow. The mower deck pushes the stalks to the ground where they can lay flat below the mower blades for up to a minute after the mower passes by. It may take several passes with the mower to get them all.

Buckhorn plantains are slow to establish and are more common in poorly maintained lawns that receive little maintenance except for mowing. They are common in roadside parks, right-of-ways and other areas that are not well kept.

Cultural practices

These plants can be pulled up by hand. Over time they can be so numerous that pulling may not be practical.

Well maintained, thick lawns will rarely encounter any problems with buckhorn plantains. Properly maintained lawns become the solution for this weed as well as most other weeds.

Chemical control

Numerous broadleaf herbicides are labeled for control of buckhorn plantain. The single best time for control is in the fall. However, you can spray anytime the plant is actively growing.

Isoxaben is a preemergent product to prevent seeds from germinating and is to be applied in early spring. Dicamba plus 2,4-D is a good postemergent herbicide against established buckhorn plantain.

Plantain, Broadleaf

Weed Identification

Broadleaf plantain is a perennial weed with a fibrous root system. Its primary growth period is in the warmer months from June through September.

The leaves are egg shaped from 1.5 inches to 7 inches long and have several prominent veins that run parallel to the leaf margins. The leaves are wider than the buckhorn plantain which has narrow and long leaves.

Positive weed identification can be made by looking for a short, slender stalk with a long seed head growing up from the center of the plant. (Buckhorn plantain have long stalks with a short seed head.) Broadleaf plantain seed head is longer than other plantains and resembles a rat-tail. Tiny white flowers protrude horizontally from the upper half of the seed head. Plantains do not like competition and tend to grow in areas of thin turf. The primary method of spreading is by seed.

Cultural practices

Plantains can be removed by pulling them up by hand. Careful attention should be taken to remove the entire root.

Maintaining a thick, vigorous lawn is the best way to prevent plantains from germinating and spreading. This includes fertilizing as needed for your particular grass type and ensuring the soil pH is correct. Removing the plantains without correcting the problems that allowed for their growth will only ensure a future plantain crop.

Chemical control

Many post-emergence herbicides are labeled for broadleaf plantain control including herbicides containing dicamba as one of the listed active ingredients. Herbicide use can be hazardous if used improperly. Follow label instruction carefully when mixing, using or storing herbicides.

Weed Identification

Red sorrel, also called sheep sorrel, is a summer perennial that grows best in infertile and acid soils (low pH). For correct weed identification, look for leaves that are arrowhead shaped with two lobes on either side of the petiole. (The stem that attaches to the leaf.) Red sorrel has a deep taproot and produces rhizomes that sprout new leaves. The leaves along the rhizomes are often smaller and lack the basal lobes. Over the summer, the leaves thicken with a fleshy feel.

Red sorrel produces both male and female flowers. The male flowers are greenish and the female flowers are reddish-brown.

Cultural practices

Red sorrel could be a sign of infertile soil or soils with low pH. If you find red sorrel growing in your lawn, a soil test should be conducted to see if you have pH problems. Your university extension office can help with the test or you can purchase an inexpensive soil test kit.

Maintaining a thick, vigorous lawn along with regular applications of fertilizer will keep red sorrel in check. Fertilizer should be applied according to the needs of your particular grass species.

Pulling by hand is not recommended because of the rhizomes. Breaking the plant could actually cause the weed to spread faster. If you choose to pull by hand or by shovel, try to remove all of the root and rooted stems. Chemical control is the best method.

Chemical control

Several herbicides are labeled for red sorrel control. Dicamba, Dicamba plus 2,4-D or triclopyr are effective. Homeowner herbicides with three different active ingredients will work best to control red sorrel. Don’t mow for several days before treatment and a couple of day afterward for best results. Mature plants may take more than one application spaced a few weeks apart. Read and follow all herbicide label instructions for best results.

Wild Violet

  • Leaves are heart shaped attached to long petioles.
  • Five petaled purple or blue flower with white centers.
  • Spread by short, branching rhizomes.
  • An extremely difficult plant to eliminate from lawns.
  • Some herbicides have little to no effect.

Weed Identification

Wild violets are a hardy winter perennial that can be difficult to control once it is established. It is considered a weed in landscapes or in lawns. Although not recommended, if planted as ground cover, make sure there is a sound border system to prevent it from escaping or you may spend the next few years trying to control it. Wild violets grow from 2 to 5 inches tall with heart shaped leaves attached by long petioles. They remain green throughout the year, but can deteriorate quickly from ice or snow.

For weed identification, look for their flowers. They are most commonly a purple or blue, five petaled flower with white or yellow centers that sit atop a leafless stalk. The flowers usually appear from April to June.

The root system of mature plants is thick and fibrous. The plant spreads by producing short, branching rhizomes. (Underground stems) Wild violets prefer cool, moist, fertile and shady soil, but can tolerate sunny or dry climates as well.

Cultural controls

As stated above, wild violets are a persistent perennial that is very difficult to control. They can be removed by digging if all the roots and rhizomes are removed, otherwise they will grow back. The problem with pulling is that it usually only helps the plant to spread faster. The broken rhizomes become individual plants where you end up with more plants than you started with. Covering with black plastic for several months will provide a certain amount of control in serious cases.

Herbicide Use

The are two important things to consider: Use the right herbicide and know that it may take three or more years to get complete control.

The first year, one should expect to thin the number of plants in the lawn and prevent any further spreading. After that it requires persistence. Be sure to use no more herbicide than what is allowed. Adding more will not increase its effectiveness and may harm desirable plants.

Look for products containing Dicamba combined with 2,4-D. These two combinations are available to homeowners. Many herbicides come in three active ingredient combinations for best results. Other combinations are Dicamba with 2,4-DP, MCPP, MCPA. Some herbicides are not available to homeowners. Always follow label instructions completely.

Common Yarrow

Weed Identification

For proper weed identification, look for a plant with fern-like leaves with sage-like aroma when crushed. The plant takes on a fern look due to its highly segmented leaves. The majority of leaves form at the base of the plant, similar to a rosette, but curve upward. They can reach lengths of 10 inches and are cover by small hairs.

In pastures or other areas that are not mowed, yarrow produces stems that can reach about 2 feet in height. The flowers are white and grow in flat-topped clusters. Each group consists of about 5 flowers surrounded by several disk flowers to form a cluster.

The roots of yarrow are somewhat fibrous. It spreads by forming multi-branched rhizomes and by seed. The seed can remain viable in the soil for approximately five years.

Yarrow is able to grow in many different types of soil including pastures, rocky fields, prairies, lawns and roadsides. It prefers areas with poor quality and thin soils where other plants have difficulty growing.

Cultural practices

Yarrow tends to grow in poor soil areas where other plants have a tough time growing in. The best method of keeping yarrow out of your yard is to have a thick, vigorous, and healthy soil. If you have yarrow growing in your yard, you can pull it up, but care should be taken to remove all of the roots and rhizomes. Seed left in the soil could germinate, but as you improve lawn conditions, the problems should go away. You should look at your soil quality and correct any problems. A healthy turf will keep yarrow out.

Herbicide use

Herbicide control is not necessary if lawn conditions are improved. However, for severe cases, using a formulation of Dicamba and 2,4-D will control it. Always follow label instructions carefully.

Crabgrass and Foxtails- Annual Grassy Weeds
Crabgrass and Foxtails are two major annual grassy weeds that can cover your lawn. You will find detailed information on their growth habits and how to stop them before they even start.

Winter Annual Broadleaf Lawn Weeds
The coming of spring also brings a surge in winter annual weeds. Here you can find helpful information on these difficult weeds, including photos, growth habits and methods of control.

Summer Annual Broadleaf Lawn Weeds
Summer annuals begin from seed in spring or summer and die at the first frost. Click here to learn more about these invasive weeds, including photos, growth habits and control methods.

Perennial Broadleaf Weed Identification Page 1
Click here for weed identification and control of common perennial lawn weeds. This page has detailed information on Canada Thistle, Mouseear Chickweed, White clover, Dandelion, Field Bindweed, Ground Ivy, and Common Mallow.

Yellow and Purple Nutsedge
Nutsedge is a summer perennial grass-like weed. They can be particular problematic since they cannot be controlled by broadleaf weed herbicides. Click here for weed identification, growth habits and control methods.

In the Weeds

What is a weed anyway?
We have heard people say, “a weed is an unwanted plant” or “a plant out of place.” Yet, if a beautiful flower appears naturally in our garden, we call it a volunteer, and might even go to the trouble of transplanting it. So, categorizing something as a weed must have something to do with beauty, or lack thereof. Weeds are a natural part of our eco-system and all serve a purpose. They are tough, hardy plants that have adapted over time to their environments. On the other hand, our gardens are filled with delicate hybrids and pampered with regular watering and supplemental nutrients. So, it is no surprise that weeds appear like magic.

But where do they come from? Recently, I regraded a property and added new topsoil, but the sod was delayed. It was amazing how quickly the yard was covered with tiny little weeds from seeds that had hitched a ride with the topsoil – just waiting for the right combination of sunlight and water. Did you know that broadleaf weed seeds can remain dormant for decades? They can also be brought to us by the wind, the birds, or from weeds in your neighbor’s yard that creep under your fence.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Of approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide, only about 3% behave as weeds that we don’t want in cultivated areas. Weeds aren’t inherently bad.” But, they compete with other plants for sunlight, nutrients and water. They can also harbor disease and unwanted pests. Before you can eliminate them, you must know your enemy: what it likes, what it doesn’t, and especially how it reproduces. Like all living things—including us—weeds have defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. Some have thorns, some are poisonous, some break off and grow back from a tap root, some send out rhizomes that when cut are able to form new plants, and some use camouflage for protection by hiding near and under wanted plants that look like they do.

Your Arsenal

The best way to get rid of them is to not let them grow in the first place. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Applying a pre-emergent like Preen and installing two inches of mulch can result in a weed-free summer. Mulch can also be used to smother small existing unwanted guests. The most important thing to keep in mind is: the early bird gets the worm. In other words, never, never let them go to seed. You’ve got to nip this in the bud—no pun intended! And, be diligent. Pluck out the newcomers each morning as you walk around your garden with your morning coffee.

Pulling is by far the best, albeit most onerous way to rid your garden of unwanted plants, a/k/a weeds. But pull them carefully. Don’t pick them. You have to get the root. If you don’t, they will return—with a vengeance. Just like a professional contractor, be sure to use the proper tool. If they are in their infancy, simply loosen the soil and plow them under.

The best way to control weeds in your lawn is by choking them out. Keep your grass healthy and thick by applying fertilizer and crabgrass preventer. Test your soil to determine if it could also benefit from the addition of lime. Weeds love bare patches of soil; don’t give them any.

Make sure to keep your beds tidy especially if you have prolific seeders like Norway Maples (Acer platanoides) or Japanese Snowbell (Styrax japonicus). Clean up the “seeds” also known as spinners and nutlets. If you don’t, you will have so many seedlings next spring you could start a tree farm.

You can also eat weeds—or least some of them like bittercress, chickweed, clover, dandelion, dead-nettle, and purslane, just to name a few. Be sure to identify them properly, as many weeds are poisonous. Also, wash them thoroughly to remove any pesticides that may have been applied.

Plain boiled water can also kill weeds. So can natural substances like white vinegar, salt, rubbing alcohol, or even a little bleach diluted in water. Or, you can make your own herbicidal soap by combing vinegar, salt, and dish soap. Natural solutions are far better for the environment, but they are not selective and will harm ornamental plants if you’re not careful. If all else fails, and you must resort to chemical warfare, go easy. Don’t use anything stronger than what you need. There is no need for Roundup® when Weed B Gon® will do, and please read the labels carefully.

The Most Wanted List

The one that pops

Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsute) is actually a delicious wild mustard plant. It is one of the earliest annual weeds to appear but will disappear once temperatures climb. It starts out as a basal rosette, then sends up three- to nine-inch stems that develop tiny, white flowers. After the flowers fade, it develops seed capsules known as siliques that pop seeds out, up to three feet around the plant. It likes cool moist soil and is easy to pull. Just make sure you use a tool to get the tap root and pull it before it goes to seed.

The one that looks like grass

Yellow Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) has v-shaped leaves that are yellower and thicker than grass. If you roll it between your fingers, you will understand the old saying “sedges have edges and grasses are round.” Since it grows faster than grass, it is easy to spot and maxes out at about six inches. It is a perennial that appears in spring and dies back during the heat of summer. It likes all types of soil and sports straw-colored flowers. It reproduces every four to six weeks by three different means: seeds (the least problematic), rhizomes that grow eight to 14 inches below the surface, and nutlets that can remain dormant for up to 10 years. When they germinate, they will not only grow up through mulch but can pierce landscape fabric as though it weren’t there. One plant left unattended can turn into a patch 10 feet or more in diameter. Do not pull this weed. If you do, you will see tiny little roots and think you got it, when in reality, the rhizomes and nutlets were left undisturbed. The bigger frustration is that most herbicides are ineffective against this imposter because it is a sedge, not a broadleaf weed or a grass. You can try digging it up, but make sure you go down at least 10 inches. Targeted herbicides like Sedgehammer®+ (halosulfuron) or Ortho® Nutsedge Killer (sulfentrazone) are unfortunately the usual solution.

That huge thing with the berries that stains your clothing
Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana) is a large, poisonous weed that grows four to 10 feet tall by three to five feet wide. It has a thick reddish-purple stem and green leaves as well as a thick, fleshy taproot that can reach four inches wide and 12 inches deep. White flowers appear from early summer to fall followed by dark purple berries. It likes full sun to part shade. When the plants are small, pulling is an effective means of removal. As it grows, you will need a shovel to dig it out. Cutting it off below its crown may also do the trick.

The one that looks like Morning glory vine
Bindweed (Convolvus arvensis) looks pretty when it blooms with its white or pink flowers, but you will be sorry if you leave it alone long enough for it to do so. It is an aggressive vine that grows over four feet long, twisting its way around existing plants and sometimes causing them great distress. If left unattended, it can smother your garden. It reproduces by sending out rhizomes and generating seeds that can last up to 30 years. This is another weed that requires persistence to eliminate. Repeated cutting at the base of the plant will weaken it eventually or you can carefully apply an herbicide.

The one that looks like chives

Onion grass (Allium canadense) has thin leaves and grows in clumps. It is a cool weather plant appearing in spring and fall. It reproduces by seed and bulblets. Don’t simply try to pull it out. Either the green tops will break off or you will surely leave behind some baby bulblets because they are designed to break away from the mother plant and stay in the soil. Rather, dig it up (preferably after a rainstorm) being careful not to shake off the soil. Dispose of the whole clump. If new shoots reappear, dig them up or treat them with an herbicide like Ortho Weed B Gon® MAX.

The one that breaks off

Creeping Woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata) resembles clover but is green to purple and flatter. It is a perennial and grows in full sun or shade. It is a frustrating, tenacious, persistent pest that takes dogged determination to eradicate. Once you understand how it reproduces, you will know why. Most plants have only one way to replicate themselves—this one has four! It sends out interlocking rhizomes that break when you try to dig them up. Each piece left behind can turn into a new plant. Those rhizomes also develop tiny little bulbils that form new plants. In addition, it produces seeds (up to 5,000 per plant each season) in tiny little capsules (resembling okra) that are ejected up to 10 feet from the mother plant. Lastly, every place a stem touches the soil, it can re-root, forming a new plant. It often hides under other plants, becoming intertwined with their roots. So, even though herbicides will work to some extent, you may end up damaging other innocent bystanders. Pulling will not solve your problem either, because the rhizomes break off so easily. The only solution is to dig up the area around the plant and sift the soil. It is a time-consuming process that can take many years to complete.

Public enemy #1
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) I predict when the world comes to an end, poison ivy will still be thriving! The leaves grow in groups of three, are both shiny and dull, emerge red, turn green then back to red in the fall. Each one can be a few inches long or as big as your hand. Poison ivy has many forms, from a small plant to a large shrub or a climbing vine and prefers semi-shade. It reproduces by seed and rhizomes. The problem is the oil the plant produces, called urushiol, which is found on its leaves (even dead ones), stems and roots and can last up to 10 years! We all know the horrible itchy rash it causes when it comes into contact with your skin. What you may not know is the oil can be transferred via clothing, tools, pets, or anything it touches. Your pets may spread it to your carpets, furniture and even your bed linens.

If the plant is small, protect yourself with a product like IvyX™ or Ivy Shield™, wear disposable gloves and pull it. Small patches can be removed by digging them up. Be sure to clean your tools afterward. Products like Ortho® GroundClear® Poison Ivy & Tough Brush Killer are usually necessary to eliminate larger infestations. Just never, ever burn it. Burning releases urushiol into the smoke which enters your lungs and can land you in the hospital! If you are unlucky enough to come into contact with this plant, wash immediately with Dial soap or Tecnu® and cold water. Most importantly, remember the old adage: Leaves of three, let it be.

Lambsquarter Control Info – Tips For Removing Lambsquarter

Common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is an annual broadleaf weed that invades lawns and gardens. It was once grown for its edible leaves, but it is best kept out of the garden because it harbors viral diseases, which can spread to other plants. Keep reading to learn more about how to identify lambsquarters before this weed gets out of control.

How to Identify Lambsquarters

Removing lambsquarter from the lawn and garden effectively is easier once you know how to recognize this weed. The leaves of young lambsquarter seedlings are green with a slight bluish tint on top and reddish purple undersides. The foliage of the youngest seedlings is covered with clear, shiny granules. The granules later turn to a white, powdery coating that is most noticeable on the undersides of the leaves.

Mature leaves are oblong or lancet-shaped, wider near the stem than at the tip, and pale, gray-green in color. They often fold upward along the central vein. The leaf edges are wavy or slightly toothed.

The height of a lambsquarter weed varies from a few inches (8 cm.) to 5 feet (1.5 m.). Most plants have a single central stem, but they may also have a few rigid side stems. The stems often have red striations. Tiny, yellow-green flowers bloom in clusters at the tips of the stems. They usually bloom from July to September, but can bloom early in the season as well.

Lambsquarter Control

Lambsquarter weed reproduces only through seeds. Most lambsquarter seeds germinate in late spring or early summer, although they can continue to germinate throughout the growing season. The plants flower in late summer or early fall, and are followed by an abundance of seeds. The average lambsquarter weed plant produces 72,000 seeds that can live in the soil and germinate 20 years or more after they are deposited.

Lambsquarter control in the garden begins with hand pulling and hoeing to remove the weed and mulching. Lambsquarter has a short taproot, so it pulls up easily. The goal is to remove the weed before it matures enough to produce seeds. The plants die with the first frost and next year’s plants grow from the seeds they leave behind.

Consistent mowing to keep lawns at the recommended height will cut down lambsquarter weed before it has a chance to produce seeds. Aerate the lawn if the soil is compacted and minimize foot traffic over the grass to give the lawn a competitive edge over lambsquarter. Maintain a healthy lawn by following a regular schedule of watering and fertilization.

Herbicides also help control lambsquarters. Pre-emergent herbicides, such as Preen, prevent the seeds from germinating. Post-emergent herbicides, such as Trimec, kill the weeds after they germinate. Read the label on the herbicide product of your choice and follow the mixing and timing instructions exactly.