5 Weeds of Spring

The mild, moist winter has provided the perfect environment for cool-season weeds. The best weapon against them is your mower or weed eater — especially before they go to seed.

With a mild moist winter, recent growing conditions have been terrific for cool-season weeds. Here are a few of the usual suspects, which will be flowering and seeding seed over the next month. They’re most obvious in lawns where the grass is still dormant, but with warm weather, very few plants will be dormant for long.

The best weapon against cool-season weeds at this point is your mower or weed eater, especially before they go to seed.

Beggar ticks (Torilis arvensis) – Hedge parsley looks innocent enough when its tiny white flowers are in bloom, but beware! By the time the seeds mature in spring, they’ll be coated in those tiny prickles that completely coat shoelaces, socks, pants and pets.

Beggar Tick (Torilis arvensis)

Bedstraw (Galium sp.) – Call it cleavers, catchall or Velcro plant, the name describes the scratchy hooks that cover the leaves, stems and seeds. Bedstraw forms climbing, tangling, sticky piles of smothering mass in moist shady places, especially in landscape beds. It can be a major irritant for us mammals and gardeners, and a smotherer of small wildflowers and spring bedding plants.

Bedstraw (Galium)

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) – Pink and purple flowers on square mint stems are the hallmark of henbit, which forms spreading piles in flowerbeds and lawns. It makes for nice flower arrangements, which may be a good thing since  it dominates turf grass this time of year.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) – In its early stages it may be mistaken for dandelion or poppy, but the clawlike leaves can give a nasty shock if you rub them the wrong way. Both the young leaves and the pickled flower buds are edible. If your sprinklers have been running in winter, you may have a bumper crop.

Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)

Bastard cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum) The name says it all: this giant perennial mustard bush can grow up to four feet tall and cover the roadways in central Texas with a monoculture of tiny yellow flowers resembling broccoli, especially after a wet winter. The huge basal rosettes are a familiar sight in any winter turf, since bastard cabbage is often introduced through contaminated grass seed mixes. It crowds out Texas wildflowers.

Bastard cabbage (Rapistrum rugosum)

If your grass sprinklers have been running all winter, your weeds have a huge head start. Just remember for next year that SAWS always recommends turning the sprinklers off in winter — or at most running them manually. As long as it rains once a month, you shouldn’t need to supplement it at all. When all your landscape plants are winter dormant, there’s no need to provide extra water just to grow weeds.

Picture of Brad Wier
Brad Wier
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation planner. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.
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