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Common Weeds in Alabama and Surrounding Areas

Thursday, December 15th, 2022 by Samantha Moore

Why control weeds? Weeds deprive desirable plants of needed water, light and soil nutrients. Often unsightly, they can also scratch and irritate skin,
aggravate allergies and even harbor insects and disease.

Why are weeds an ongoing problem? Weeds are simply nature’s way of quickly covering up bare ground. Opportunistic and aggressive, they are genetically designed to germinate, grow and propagate faster than most desirable plants. Weed seeds are especially adapted to spread. They are widely distributed by animals, insects, hay, mulch, and topsoil. Once they find their way to your lawn and garden, they can remain there. While most weed seeds only exist in the soil a few years, there is a small percentage that can remain dormant for decades, waiting for the right growing conditions to occur. Most plants only produce several hundred seeds, but weeds are especially prolific. One single weed can produce anywhere from 10,000 to over 100,000 seeds. With these odds, it’s easy to see how weeds can quickly take over your garden or lawn if left untreated.

Most common types of weeds: 

Annual Bluegrass
Scientific Name: Poa annua
Description: Small tufted to clumped, yellow-green winter annual. Leaf blade smooth on both surfaces, with two distinct, clear lines, one on each side of the midrib, blades often wrinkled (wavy). Folded vernation. Leaf tip keeled or long, slightly pointed. Sheath smooth, compressed, and keeled. Light green to whitish spikelets that lack cottony hairs, are arranged on branches, one to two per node, in dense to open flower clusters. Fruits throughout life cycle with majority of seedheads formed during spring. Perennial biotypes (P.annua var. reptans (Hauskins) Timm.) occur in moist, closely mowed areas, such as golf course greens. Compared to annual bluegrass, the perennial biotypes generally are darker colored, more prostrate growing, produce few seedheads, and often form patches from short stolens.

Common Chickweed

Description: Common chickweed is a shallow fibrous rooted winter annual which grows in moist shaded areas. The leaves are small, smooth, pointed at the tip and elliptic in shape. They are opposite on branching creeping stems, which root at the nodes. Chickweed adapts well to different mowing heights. The flowers of common chickweed are white, small star like with 5 notched petals. Common chickweed spreads by seed. Common chickweed is found throughout the United States except in the Rocky Mountains.

Creeping Woodsorrel

Description: Creeping woodsorrel is similar to yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis Stricta), but is a creeping summer perennial. The leaves of creeping woodsorrel are deeply lobed, heart shaped, and may be green to reddish purple. Creeping woodsorrel contains a slender taproot, and roots at nodes along slightly hairy stems. The flowers of oxalis corniculata are yellow, contain 5 petals, and form in clusters of 1 - 5 at the end of slender stems. Creeping woodsorrel spreads by seeds. Creeping woodsorrel is found in eastern North America, to North Dakota and Colorado.

Description: This is a summer perennial weed. The leaves of dollarweed or pennywort are round in shape, approximately 1-inch in diameter. The dark green leaves are glossy, with scalloped edges and are on long slender petioles. The petiole is attached to the center of the leaf, not to be confused with dichondra in which the petiole is attached to the edge of the kidney shaped leaf. The flower is small with 5 white petals and forms in clusters on the end of long stems. Dollarweed or pennywort spreads by seed and rhizomes. The weed is found along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida and westward to Minnesota, Texas, Utah, Arizona and California. It is also found in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, the West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America and Southern Europe and Tropical Africa.

Dovefoot Geranium
Description: Dovefoot geranium is a biannual plant very similar to the annual Carolina geranium. Dovefoot geranium has slender, weak hairy stems which
branch and spread across the surface of the soil. The leaves are palmately lobed. The alternating rounded leaves of dovefoot geranium are not as
deeply cut as the leaves of Carolina geranium. Dovefoot geranium spreads by seeds which germinate in fall into the early spring. Bright dark pink to red violet flowers are present in late spring. The seeds of dovefoot geranium are smooth, unlike the wrinkled seeds of Carolina geranium. Flowers of both plants are borne on stalks from the upper nodes. The fruit of both species are born on conspicuous stalks (cranesbill). The fruit stalk of dovefoot geranium is 1-inch long and is much smaller than the 1-inch fruit stalk of Carolina geranium. Dovefoot geranium is found throughout the United States, but is more prevalent in the southeast.

Curly Dock

Description: Curly dock is a winter perennial. It contains a deep fleshy taproot. In a turf situation the leaves appear in a rosette form. The leaves are actually alternate at the top of the taproot. The oblong leaves have a wavy appearance on their edges. The flower of curly dock is almost never found in mowed turf situations. The flowers are long green spikes which turn reddish brown on maturity. The flower grows 2 to 3 feet in height and appears from April to July. Due to the lack of viable seed in turf areas, curly dock spreads by root fragments. Curly dock is found throughout the United states.

Green Kyllinga

Description: Green kyllinga is a perennial sedge. It is capable of forming dense mats due to its development of rhizomes. The leaves are dark green and grow up to 6-inches in height. The seedhead is round and has three leaves below it. Green kyllinga spreads by both seeds and rhizomes. Green kyllinga is primarily found from Georgia to south Florida, west to Texas and California.

Ground Ivy
Description: Ground ivy is a creeping winter perennial. The leaves are round to kidney shaped with round toothed edges. The leaves are opposite on long petiole attached to square stems that root at the nodes. It is usually found in moist shaded areas, but also tolerates sun very well. Ground ivy will form dense mats which can take over areas of turfgrass. The flowers of ground ivy are blue to lavender and grow in clusters. It usually flowers in the spring. The flowers are funnel shaped and are located at the leaf axis or near the tip of the stem. Ground ivy spreads by stolons and sometimes by seed. Ground ivy closely resembles common mallow. Ground ivy is more common in the East, but can be found throughout the United States.

Lawn Burweed

Description: Lawn burweed (spurweed) is a low-growing winter annual which forms mats due to branching. The leaves are opposite and divided into narrow segments or lobes. The flowers are small and inconspicuous. The fruit forms in the leaf axils with sharp spines. Lawn burweed reproduces by seed. Lawn burweed is found in the coastal plains regions from Florida to Texas.

Nutsedge (Purple)

Description: Sedges have triangular stems with waxy grass-like leaves which alternate. Sedges are not grass plants, but seedlings may be mistaken for grass. The leaves on both sedges are waxy and have an upright growth habit and a prominent midrib. Both sedges have underground root systems containing rhizomes and underground
tubers which accomplish most of the reproduction. On yellow nutsedge, the tubers (nutlets) form at the end of whitish rhizomes. Purple nutsedge forms chains of tubers along brownish rhizomes. The flowers of yellow nutsedge are yellowish; the seedhead color of purple nutsedge is red-purple to brown. Both seedheads are on triangular stems. Both spread mainly by germinating underground tubers, which are the only part of the plant that over-winters. A yellow nutsedge tuber can produce 1,900 plants and 7,000 new tubers in a single growing season. Sedges do well where soil has poor drainage. Yellow nutsedge is found throughout the United States; Purple nutsedge is primarily found in the warm humid southern states.

Description: Henbit, a member of the mint family, is an upright winter annual that blooms in the spring. The leaves are rounded on the end with rounded toothed edges that grow opposite one another on square stems Upper leaves lack petioles. Henbit can grow from 4- to 12- inches tall on weak
stems. Although an upright plant, weak stems sprouting from the bottom may lay almost horizontal. Henbit can be confused with purple deadnettle. The leaves of purple deadnettle, however, are more pointed at the end and are slightly scalloped. The lower leaves of purple deadnettle are on long petioles, the upper leaves are on short petioles. The flowers of henbit are purple, tubular shaped and form in the whorls of the upper leaves. Henbit spreads only by seed and is generally not a problem in dense, vigorous turfgrass sites. Henbit is found throughout the United States.

Yellow Woodsorrel
Description: Yellow woodsorrel, also known as oxalis, is a summer annual, that can be perennial in some areas. Yellow woodsorrel grows on weak stems that branch at the base and may root at the nodes. The leaves form in groups of three leaflets on long petioles, and are alternate on the stems. Although sometimes mistaken for clover when not in flower, the leaves differ from clover in that they are distinctly heart shaped. The yellow woodsorrel flower is yellow with five petals and occurs in clusters. The seed pods range from 1⁄2- to 1-inch in length, have 5 ridges and are pointed. Yellow woodsorrel spreads by seeds which burst from the pods at maturity and may be scatted several feet. Yellow woodsorrel is found throughout the United States.


Description: Dandelion is a winter perennial. The dandelion has a thick fleshy taproot which often branches. New plants come from the root and root segments. Leaves form in a rosette, are deeply lobed, with the lobes pointing toward the base. Both the leaves and flower stems contain a white milky fluid. The flowers are yellow and are individual stems. The seeds are brown with the tip containing white hairs. The yellow flower will turn to a white globular puffball. The seeds are disseminated by wind. Dandelions spread by both seed and stems from the root. Dandelion is found throughout the United States.


Description: Chamberbitter is a warm season annual. The stems of chamber bitter are upright and grooved. The leaves are small and have smooth margins which are arranged oppositely on branchlets. Flowers are inconspicuous and form in warm weather. The fruit of chamber bitter is green and form on the underside of the branchlets. The seed explodes and spreads seeds in the surrounding area. Chamber bitter reproduces from seed. Chamber bitter is found from Texas to Florida and in the Tropics.

Spotted Spurge
Description: Spotted spurge is a summer annual. While similar to prostate spurge, there are several subtle differences in the two varieties. Spotted spurge has a
more erect growth habit than prostrate spurge. They have similar leaves, which are small and oblong shaped with an irregular red to purple spot, but the leaf of spotted spurge is slightly larger than that of prostrate spurge. Both spurges will have leaves that grow opposite on the stem, but spotted spurge has fewer leaves per stem. Both spurges contain a milky sap in the stem. Prostrate spurge roots at the nodes, spotted spurge does not. The flower of spotted spurge is small and green in color. It germinates in mid spring and flowers from June to September. Both spotted and prostrate spurge reproduce from seed, although prostrate spurge also roots at the nodes. Both spurges are found throughout the United States.





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