Controlling lawn burweed

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2016

Warm weather has arrived now and many of us are kicking off our shoes and walking across our lawns barefooted only to be painfully reminded that we did not do a very good job controlling lawn burweed (Soliva pterosperma).
It is also commonly called spurweed and sticker weed.
This winter annual germinates and emerges in the fall/winter. Once it has matured in late spring, it will produce clusters of seeds with tiny spines that can pierce delicate skin of tender feet, knees, hands are other parts of the body that come in contact with it.
This small dainty weed has freely branched prostrate growing leaves that somewhat resemble a miniature carrot leaf. The leaves are opposite along stems and have doubly serrated narrow blades. The flowers are mostly inconspicuous and are nestled down in the leaf axis until the small button shaped seed clusters with needle sharp spine tips mature.
Lawn burnweed should not to be confused with Southern Sandbur (Cenchrus echinatus) a summer annual grassy weed with seedheads having sharp spines or burs.
If you did not apply a pre-emergent herbicide earlier this fall/winter to control winter annual weeds and you had lawn burweed in your lawn last summer, then you most likely have them again now. You will have to endure their painful spines for another summer unless you take action soon to control them.
Once the fruiting clusters have formed you can eliminate the weed, but the tiny spines and seed will remain to inflict pain for another summer.
The most effective method of controlling lawn burweed is to apply a pre-emergence herbicide (atrazine) in the fall/winter prior to emergence. Post-emergent herbicides (atrazine, 2,4-D, dicamba, metsulfuron, chlorsulfuron, etc.) can also be effective, but need to be applied by early spring before the seed clusters develop.
Applying post-emergent herbicides now will kill the existing plants for a more aesthetic looking lawn, but, unfortunately, those mature seed clusters will still be there through this summer to remind you to put your shoes back on or suffer the consequences.

By Eddie Smith

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