Types of Weeds in the Lawn

picture of creeping charlie flowers

Many fastidious lawn care practitioners spot a small flower hiding in the grass and immediately think, weed.

Broad leaves and medium sized yellow flowers help identify dandelions, one of the the most common types of weeds confronting the home owner. This brief overview presents other common types of weeds commonly found in the lawn. The presence of small flowers unites the group.

First up, the Creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea), pictured above, also known as ground ivy, thrives in shady areas on lawns.

It is especially problematic because the stems continuously grow out, seeming to creep across the lawn.

Often borax is suggested as an organic remedy for removing the week. However, borax is not biodegradable, and can stay in the soil, inhibiting all growth, including grass, for year.

Hand pulling the plant's shallow roots is a good short term remedy, however, the plant is so hardy that leaving any part in the ground allows for regrowth later in the season.

picture of a birdseye speedwell flower

Birdseye Speedwell (Veronica persica), a member of the figwort family (Schrophulariaceae), ranks as quite an adaptable plant. Most botanical histories trace its movement from East Asia to Europe in the early nineteenth century.

It spread to grasslands throughout much of the Continent, carrying the name, common field speedwell.

Introduced to the United States, is now finds a home in yards and fields from coast to coast. Small flowers (less than 1/2" in diameter) typically indicate its presence. picture of a dovefoot geranium flower

Dovefoot Geranium (Geranium molle), also known as Crane's Bill Geranium and Woodland Geranium is a common east coast and west coast lawn and garden weed.

Large round leaves eclipse the plant's small purple flower in size.

A shallow root system, makes hand removal of the plant and root the preferred organic remedy.

picture of a red-stemmed filaree flower

Redstem Filaree (Erodium cicutarium), another geranium family species, grows in most areas of North America.

Removal can be as easy as pulling up the roots when the soil is moist and loose for homeowners who consider the plant an unwanted guest in their lawns or gardens.

Farmers consider the plant an agriculture pest because of its ability to overtake large areas of land, thereby reducing crop productivity.

picture of a chickweed flower

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), an introduced plant in the Pink family (Caryophyllaceae), can be found on lawns throughout the United States.

Like many plants with the weed label, it grows well anywhere that grass grows. The white flowers, much smaller in size than the picture, are early bloomers.

It is considered a nuisance plant rather than a problematic ecosystem disrupter. Pulling is the advised removal technique for homeowners concerned with its presence in lawns and gardens.

picture of scarlet pimpernel flower

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), a small flowering plant in the Primrose family (Primulaceae), was introduced from Europe

It's now found in sandy soils, and lawns with sandy soils, across the United States. The orange flowers are small and the plant is not known to be an overly aggressive lawn grower.

Pulling is the recommended organic remedy in areas where it is not welcome.

picture of a bindweed flower

The extensive root system of Bindwind (Convolvulus arvensis), also called wild morning glory, makes it a problematic lawn and garden weed.

Bindwind also causes problems in the agriculture sectors because of its adverse effect on grazing animals when consumed.

A variety of organic remedies exist for control of bindweed in residential lawns.

Tilling the soil and pulling the weeds might be effective for small patches of ground with established plants. Other remedies such as solarization and spraying vinegar solutions show promise for treating larger areas.

picture of a rigid fiddleneck flower

Fiddleneck (Amsinckia), a western genus of flowers in the Forget-Me-Not Family (Boraginaceae), get identified by the presence of their orange flowers, rather than the traditional blue and/or white flowers associated with the family.

Thin stems with multiple flowers describe most species. The weight of the flowers bends the stem, giving it an appearance resembling the top of a fiddle.

Fiddleneck species are known to be toxic to domestic grazing animals and often for that reason they are categorized as weeds, despite their being native plants.

The top picture shows a Rigid Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii), also called Menzies' fiddleneck.

Other Weeds

In some larger yards, where perfectly manicured grass might not be the preferred landscaping option, a few larger weeds, such as Mulleins (genus Verbascum) and Clover might pop up.

They are large flowering plants in the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), native to Europe and Asia.

Many mullein species receive credit for having medicinal value. Other species are prized for their ornamental value.

Clover (Trifolium), a genus of plants in the pea family (Fabaceae) is easily recognized by it ball-headed flower. Clovers grow easily with grasses, often making them a lawn nuisance. However, some clover types are also considered beneficial plants and used as ground cover.

Here are a few examples of mullein and clover.

picture of Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Two common mullein species described below get classified as weeds.

Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), picture above, grows up to ten feet in height, the thin, woolly looking stem blossoms with yellow flowers.

Its size and aggressive manner means it edge out native plants wherever it is found, which is basically throughout the United States that receive at least medium amounts of rainfall.

picture of Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria)

Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria), also a weed, produces exceptionally nice looking flowers, with petals ranging from white to yellow, contrasted by purple filaments.

In instances of low density growth for either species, pulling is a recommended organic remedy. Beware of the deep taproot for the Moth Mullein.

In instances of high density growth for both plants, the U.S. Forest Service notes, "Two insects that have possible biological control implications for common mullein are European curculionid weevil (Gymnaetron tetrum) and mullein moth (Cucullia verbasci)."

picture of a crimson clover flower

In the beneficial category, Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum), pictured above, along with white clover, represent the beneficial plant category of clovers.

Both are the preeminent cover crops for the country's agricultural lands.

There it functions to help prevent soil erosion, keep down harmful weeds, attract pollinators and add nitrogen to the soil.

Those facts, along with the attractive, dark red flower should be sufficient reasons to keep it off of any weed list.

Found anywhere other than at the location of its intended plantings, crimson clover, along with white clover, may be considered unwanted plants. It's an annual that does not necessarily reseed easily, so plant removal prior to its going to seed serves as a good organic remedy.

picture of red-clover

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), a very common plant of fields and meadows across the United States, can easily identified by the pink flowers and three pointed leaves.

Adding an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen is the suggested organic remedy for lawns with clover problems.

Red clover also as a history as an herbal medicine, used to treat a variety of ills from cancer to respiratory problems. The National Institutes of Health says, "There is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether red clover is effective for any other health conditions (meaning a couple of small studies on its use for menopause)."

picture of a flower from a big-head clover

Big-head Clover (Trifolium macrocephalum) grow in open areas of the Pacific Northwest, east of the Cascades.

The flower head can measure about two inches in diameter, making it difficult to misidentify.

Clover is known for its edibility and farmers and ranchers often graze their herds in clover fields. The Big-head clover is likewise edible and was consumed both raw and cooked by Native Americans.

© 2008-2014 Patricia A. Michaels