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17 Common Types of Weeds

Learn to identify common weeds

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The Spruce / Autumn Wood

Once you’ve identified nuisance plants, you can more readily access information on eradication. In some cases, however, finding out more about the plants in question may persuade you to show more tolerance toward them. There are even some edible weeds. Some are worth your time to remove while others don’t cause much harm (and may even have beneficial aspects).

Warning

Several of these weeds can cause rashes. Use proper clothing and gloves when working around these weeds, or enlist professional help to eradicate them.

Here are 17 types of weeds you might encounter in your garden.

Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron Vernix)

Poison sumac is a shrub (some consider it a small tree) that grows in swampy areas, often next to Cinnamon ferns and cattails. You will not find it trailing over the ground or climbing trees, as you sometimes find poison ivy. Every part of the plant is poisonous, meaning it can cause serious rashes if touched. As is often the case with toxic plants, it can also be very attractive; its white berries and bright fall foliage is pretty as well as dangerous.  

Japanese Knot Weed (Polygonum cuspidatum)

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ottoblotto / Getty Images

Polygonum cuspidatum goes by several other common names, including Japanese knotweed and fleece flower. Several other common names include the term, “bamboo,” such as “Mexican bamboo.” While its autumn flower does, indeed, look fleecy, “fleece flower” is just too dainty a name for so tenacious a weed!

Crabgrass (Digitaria)

Being an annual weed, crabgrass perpetuates itself via seed—millions of seeds. To control crabgrass, you’ll need to address the issue in spring when the plant is at its most vulnerable. The best option is to remove the plants by hand, roots and all. After that, use an organic fertilizer to encourage the growth of lawn grass which will crown the crabgrass out.  

Dandelions (Leontodon taraxacum)

Dandelions are a harbinger of spring. Their bright yellow flowers often poke up through lawns and appear between cracks in driveways and sidewalks. The seed heads of dandelions are probably better known than those of crabgrass, but dandelions are perennial, not annual weeds.

While dandelions have multiple medicinal uses and can be eaten in salads or used to make wine, many homeowners would prefer to eliminate them. Keeping dandelion seeds from germinating won’t be enough to get rid of dandelions. It’s possible to use herbicide to eliminate your dandelions, but the most effective and least harmful approach is to dig the flowers up from the roots.

Plantain Plants (Plantago major)

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A rather innocuous plant, common plantain can simply be mowed whenever you mow the lawn. Its relative, Plantago lanceolata is a similar weed, but with narrow leaves. Now a ubiquitous lawn weed in North America, broadleaf or “common” plantain was brought to the New World by colonists from Europe for its medicinal uses. Common plantain has many medicinal uses. Mashed, it can be used as a poultice for bee stings; the leaves can also be dried and made into a tea to treat diarrhea.  

Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

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Common ragweed may be an important weed for you to identify, even if you don’t care about keeping your yard weed-free for aesthetic reasons. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you should be aware that common ragweed is a major source of hay fever.  

Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida)

It’s not for nothing that this plant is named, “giant ragweed.” It can grow up to 15 feet tall, with thick roots and branches. Like its ragweed cousin (and unlike goldenrod), giant ragweed produces a great deal of pollen which causes serious allergies.  

Hedge Bindweed (Convolvus arvensis)

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Hedge bindweed has a fairly attractive bloom, similar to that of the morning glory, which can be white or pink and have a pleasant fragrance. But this is no innocuous weed. If you let hedge bindweed get out of control, your yard will feel like Gulliver in Lilliput. There is a reason for that “bind” in “bindweed.”

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederaceae)

Ground ivy, a common lawn weed, goes by a number of names. For instance, it is also called “gill,” “gill-over-the-ground” and “creeping charlie.” Although considered a weed, ground ivy has a pretty flower and, when you mow this weed, it gives off a pleasing aroma. Ground ivy is also used as a medicinal herb.

Purslane (Portulaca olearacea))

Purslane is the edible weed, par excellence. Purslane contains five times the amount of essential omega-3 fatty acid that spinach has, and its stems are high in vitamin C. A succulent mat-forming plant, it has a crispy texture and interesting peppery flavor. It is often served raw in salads but can also be cooked as a side dish.  

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

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Magdasmith / Getty Images

The flowers of stinging nettle plants are inconspicuous. You’ll pay plenty of attention to its barbs, however, if you’re unfortunate enough to brush against stinging nettle! The discomfort these weeds can cause seems incongruous with the fact that stinging nettle is edible. But the young leaves of stinging nettle are, indeed, cooked and eaten by wild foods enthusiasts. Just be sure to pick at the right time and prepare properly to ensure safe consumption.

Curly Dock (Rumex crispus )

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seven75 / Getty Images

Curly dock (also called “curled dock” or “yellow dock”) is more than just distinctive, it’s also useful: curly dock serves as a home remedy to treat stinging nettle burns–though it can be toxic to consume.   You’ll be able to identify curly dock by its greenish blossoms that cluster long thin flower stocks. After the flowers have dried and turned brown, they remain in place, making the plant easy to recognize. The flowers start out a much less distinctive light-greenish or reddish color. Blooming occurs in clusters in the form of multiple, long, skinny flower stalks at the top of the plant.

Wild Madder (Galium mollugo)

Wild madder is, like sweet woodruff, in the Galium genus. Wild madder is also called “bedstraw.” Apparently, people did actually once use this weed as a bedding material. Sweet woodruff is a creeping, mat-forming perennial that pretty clusters of white star-shaped flowers in spring and has very fragrant, lance-shaped dark-green leaves.

Clover Leaf (Trifolium )

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Jim Edelstein / Getty Images

While many consider clover a “weed,” there’s really nothing wrong with having a little clover mixed into your lawn. The Irish consider various tripartite clover leaves (such as the one in the photo here) to be “shamrocks.” The tradition behind the shamrock is quite distinct from that behind four-leaf clovers.

Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Like curly dock, orange jewelweed (or “jewel weed”) can be used as a home remedy for poison ivy.   The taxonomic name of orange jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, classifies it as a wild version of the colorful impatiens flowers sold so widely for shady annual beds.

Bittersweet (Celastrus)

There are three plants named, “bittersweet.” American bittersweet is harmless, but Oriental bittersweet should be regarded as a weed since it can harm your trees. The third type of weed that goes by this name (bittersweet nightshade) is one of our most poisonous plants, despite being related to the tomato.  

Horsetail Weed (Equisetum arvense)

There’s more than one kind of “horsetail.” Equisetum arvense is a thoroughly weedy-looking plant that will spread out of control if given a chance, even in dry soil. Equisetum hyemale, by contrast, is a more useful horsetail plant to the landscaper. It is an architectural plant that can be employed as an accent around water features. If given moist soil, it, too, will spread, so consider potting it up for use around water features so that you’ll have firm control over it.

Brown, Sydney Park. Identification of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, and Poisonwood. EDIS New Publications RSS, Environmental Horticulture, 16 Mar. 2018.

Crabgrass. University of Maryland Extension

Álvarez-Acosta, Thais, et al. Beneficial Role of Green Plantain [Musa Paradisiaca] in the Management of Persistent Diarrhea: A Prospective Randomized Trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 28, no. 2, 2009, pp. 169–176., doi:10.1080/07315724.2009.10719768

Chen, Kuan-Wei, et al. Ragweed Pollen Allergy: Burden, Characteristics, and Management of an Imported Allergen Source in Europe. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, vol. 176, no. 3-4, 2018, pp. 163–180., doi:10.1159/000487997

Guide to Poisonous Plants. Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Many weeds are also prized as decorative, edible, or medicinal plants. Learn to identify common weeds and determine if they are truly problematic.

What Is A Weed: Weed Info And Control Methods In Gardens

Weeds are an all too common occurrence in lawns and gardens. While some may be deemed useful or attractive, most types of weeds are considered a nuisance. Learning more about weed info and control can make it easier for gardeners to decide whether these weeds should be welcomed or if they must go. Let’s take a look at some common weed plants and when or what weed control methods may be necessary.

What are Weeds?

So what are weeds and where do weeds grow? By definition, a weed is known as “a plant in the wrong place.” For the most part, these plants are known more for their undesirable qualities rather than for their good ones, should there be any.

Weeds are competitive, fighting your garden plants or lawn grass for water, light, nutrients and space. Most are quick growers and will take over many of the areas in which you find them. While most types of weeds thrive in favorable conditions, native types may be found growing nearly anywhere the ground has been disturbed. In fact, they may even offer clues to your current soil conditions.

Therefore, many questions concerning “where do weeds grow” can be answered by having an understanding of how they grow by type.

Types of Weeds

There are generally three types of common weed plants in regards to their growing characteristics. These include:

  • Annual types – Annual weeds germinate and spread by seed, having an average lifespan of one year. These include both winter and summer types. Winter annuals, like chickweed, germinate in late summer/early fall, go dormant in winter and actively grow during spring. Summer annuals, such as lambsquarters, germinate in spring, grow throughout summer and are gone with the arrival of cold weather.
  • Biennial types – Biennial weeds complete their life cycle in two years, germinating and forming rosettes their first year and producing flowers and seeds their second year. Examples of these types include: bull thistle and garlic mustard.
  • Perennial types – Perennial weeds return every year and normally produce long tap roots in addition to seeds. These weeds, which include dandelions, plantain, and purple loosestrife, are the most difficult to control.

In addition to their growing type, common weed plants may belong to one of two families: broadleaf (Dicot) or narrow leaf (Monocot). Broadleaf types have larger leaves and grow from tap roots or fibrous root systems, whereas narrow leaf or grasses have long narrow leaves and fibrous roots systems.

Weed Info and Control

There are a number of weed control methods, depending on the weed and the gardener. Here are your options:

  • Cultural weed control – One of the easiest ways to control weeds is through prevention or cultural control. Close planting in the garden can reduce weed growth by eliminating open space. Cover crops are good for this as well. Adding mulch will prevent light from getting to weed seeds and prevents growth.
  • Mechanical weed control – Mechanical control of common weed plants can be accomplished through hand pulling, hoeing, digging or mowing (which slows growth and reduces seed formation). While these methods are effective, they can be time consuming.
  • Chemical weed control – Since many weeds, like dodder, ivy and kudzu, can become aggressive to the point of taking over, chemical control is sometimes necessary, and used normally a last resort. There are numerous herbicides available to help eliminate common weed plants.
  • Natural weed control – Generally, invasive weeds are well worth the trouble of removal. However, some weeds can actually be quite attractive in the garden, so why not consider allowing them to stay. This more natural weed control method results in a lush native environment when given their own designated spot. Some of these ‘good weeds’ include:
    • Joe-pye weed – tall stems of vanilla-scented rose-colored flower clusters
    • Chicory – brilliant blue flowers
    • Hawkweed – daisy-like blooms on fuzzy stems
    • Queen Anne’s lace – lacy white, umbrella-shaped flower heads

Of course, which weed goes and which weed stays depends on the individual gardener, though a little bit of weed info and control methods makes this decision easier.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and more environmentally friendly.

A weed is known simply as "a plant in the wrong place." Take a look at some common weed plants and if control is necessary in this article. ]]>