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Spurweed, also known as stickers or burweed, is a winter annual weed. It is a tiny
plant with parsley-like leaves and grows close to the soil line. Proper identification
of spurweed is important, so check with your local extension office if you are in
doubt. Spurweed germinates in the fall and winter months in lawn and turf areas, particularly
in areas where turf is thin or patchy. During the winter, spurweed remains small and
low-growing where it usually goes unnoticed until the plant matures.
In late winter, spurweed blooms are tiny white flowers. In the spring when temperatures
begin to increase, the pollinated flowers of lawn spurweed begin to set fruit. The
fruiting structures appear as small rosette buttons and develop in the leaf axils.
As the fruit matures in mid to late spring, the seed in the fruiting structures develop
spines, and when the fruit becomes dry, the spines become very sharp. These sharp
spines are what make the lawn spurweed so undesirable.
As you walk across a turf area barefoot, more than likely you will notice any encounter
with this weed, due to the painful spines that penetrate in the skin.
You can prevent spurweed by maintaining a healthy turf. A healthy turf competes for
water, nutrients, and space. Fertility, irrigation, and mowing height can encourage
a healthy turf that acts as a physical barrier, choking out many opportunistic weeds.
If your managed turf site is a warm-season grass (like bermudagrass or zoysiagrass),
it may be helpful to adjust your mower to its highest cutting height for the last
cut of the season in fall, to ensure the thickest canopy is present over winter. This
can prevent many winter annual weeds from developing. However, if spurweed is already
present, it is critical to control before the fruiting structures develop, Otherwise,
the burrs will persist as hazards in your turf and shed seeds to re-infest your property
Spurweed can be easily controlled during the winter months of December, January, and
February. This is the ideal time to apply herbicides for spurweed control, especially
because warm-season turf species are dormant and not sensitive to many herbicide applications.
In most areas of Arkansas, the weed can also be effectively controlled in March.
Preemergence herbicides that are effective on controlling spurweed are atrazine (AAtrex,
a Restricted Use Herbicide), simazine (Princep, others), isoxaben (Gallery), and metribuzin
(Sencor Turf). This group of herbicides should not be used on bermudagrass over seeded
with a cool-season turfgrass or on tall fescue, as they are injurious to cool-season
turfgrasses. Note that isoxaben is effective for suppression of germinating spurweed
seeds, so its application must be timed prior to germination in the Fall.
The best option to control spurweed by homeowners is a post-emergence application
of one of the various two and three-way mixes of 2,4-D, dicamba and MCPP. Trimec is
one of the most common trade names in this category. These products can be used on
tall fescue, fall over seeded bermudagrass in which the over seeded cool-season grass
has been mowed four to five times and non-over seeded bermudagrass.
The postemergence herbicides should be applied on a warm (air temperatures at least
55 degrees Fahrenheit), sunny day. Two to three weeks after the initial application,
spurweed control should be evaluated. If control is not acceptable, an additional
application may be necessary. Make sure to read the label before application to make
sure the specific formulation and percentage of chemical that you choose is appropriate
for your lawn and always follow mixing and sprayer instructions to insure effective
control and proper use of the herbicide.
The reference to brand names in this article is not an endorsement of these products,
as the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension does not
endorse specific pesticide brands.
The University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal
access/affirmative action institution. For more information you can contact your local
county extension service, you can also follow Sherri Sanders on Facebook @UAEX.WhiteCountyAgriculture
By Sherri Sanders White County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
White County Cooperative Extension Service2400 Old Searcy Landing Road Searcy AR 72143 (501) 268-5394 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.