9 Types of Weeds - Facts, Identification, and Control Tips

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by Max - last update on August 2, 2020, 5:21 am
Types of Weeds

Weeds are wild plants that grow in areas they are not wanted, typically competing with other cultivated plants and stealing their moisture and nutrients, and often looking unsightly. In some cases, though, weeds are cultivated, generally as a food source for humans or wildlife.

This list of types of weeds will help you learn how to identify a particular weed and understand how to control it, eradicate it, or grow it.

1. Dandelions

Dandelions

Scientific Name: Leontodon taraxacum

Mature Size: Up to 1 foot tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Drought tolerant

Soil: Any soil type

Flower Color: Yellow

Dandelions are perennial weeds that usually emerge in early spring, commonly popping out of cracks in the sidewalk, alongside the base of fences, and amongst lawns. They have bright yellow flowers that are densely packed with long and slender petals, and these flowers are actually an important source of food for bees during early springtime. They spread in two ways; firstly, their flowers turn to light, airy seeds, which are easily dispersed in the wind, and secondly, they reproduce vegetatively. When found in lawns, these weeds, sadly, cannot be controlled with mowing, as many other weeds can.

Dandelions grow from basal foliage rosettes that grow at ground level, lower than a mower blade can cut, so mowing the lawn will not eliminate dandelions. These are tough weeds to get rid of because they have long taproots that grow deep into the soil, and are very strong. A new dandelion will soon sprout in place of an old one, you have pulled out unless you are sure to remove all of the taproot. To do this, gently tug at the base of a dandelion and wriggle it out to loosen the root from the dirt, or use a hand trowel to thoroughly dig out the weed.

If dandelions are a problem in your lawn, work on improving the quality of your lawn as this will prevent dandelions from sowing successfully. You should aim to create a dense lawn and fertilize it well to encourage stronger root growth, which will help to prevent dandelions from rooting. You can also create shade on your lawn with ornamental shrubs and trees, which will prevent dandelion seeds from sowing. If these weeds are a problem in flower beds, or gravel driveways and pathways, use a black polythene or fabric liner to cover the ground. This will help to ensure dandelion seeds do not get to the soil, and any that do will be deprived of light and, therefore, unable to germinate. Mulching soil at a minimum depth of three inches will also discourage dandelion growth. There are some organic & chemical dandelion killers if you want to get rid of these dandelions faster.

Dandelions are edible, and the leaves are best enjoyed when, young and tender. They can be consumed raw or cooked, and are very popular amongst some small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Dandelions will thrive in almost any soil type and are drought-tolerant, but if you are growing these weeds to eat, then you should keep the soil from drying out because this can cause the taste to become bitter.


2. Bindweed

Bindweed

Scientific Name: Convolvulus arvensis

Mature Size: Up to 7 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to shade

Water: Drought tolerant

Soil: Any soil type

Flower Color: White or pink

Bindweed is a perennial vine that produces white or pink trumpet-shaped flowers very similar to morning glory plants, and in fact, some people know the bindweed by the name of ‘wild morning glory,’ but the two are not related. This hardy weed is native to Europe and Asia, and it is known to be one of the most troublesome and invasive plants to control. It reproduces by seed and also by an extensively spreading root system, which can grow to depths of fourteen feet. Wandering roots have been known to produce new bindweed plants as far as 30 feet away. The plants sprout up in spring and grow radically throughout summer, with one single bindweed plant being able to cover up to ten feet of space in just one season. They die back in winter, but the expansive roots systems will survive underground, allowing the foliage of the plant to return the following spring.

The best method of controlling bindweed is through prevention. Keep an eye out for bindweed seedlings appearing, and pull them out before they are four weeks old. This should ensure their root systems are not developed enough to cause a recurring issue. If you already have a bindweed problem, then the best way to prevent it from spreading further is by using landscape fabrics like blac polyester or polythene. Cut back all the weeds and cover them tightly with the fabric, securing the edges and ensuring there are no holes. If there are any gaps at all, bindweed will find its way through to reach the light and survive. Sadly, mulches are not effective for controlling bindweed, and herbicides also have a low success rate.

These weeds are drought-tolerant, though they prefer moist soils and will survive in any soil and lighting conditions, except for complete and utter darkness. These weeds are especially rampant in tilled soil because a root fragment as short as two inches long is enough to grow a whole new bindweed plant, so digging around in an area where bindweeds are present can actually exacerbate the problem. All parts of these weeds are toxic, and they should not be consumed.


3. Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

Scientific Name: Urtica dioica

Mature Size: Up to 7 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Fertile, moist

Flower Color: Green

The stinging nettle, also known as common nettle, is a perennial native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but is now commonly found worldwide in shrublands and woodlands. It is the most common type of nettle found growing in Europe. Stinging nettles are, thankfully, easy to identify. They have narrowly ovate shaped leaves that are medium green and have deeply serrated margins. The foliage has a vicious look to it, with the undersides of leaves along with stems draped in hollow hairs. It is these hairs that act like needles and can sting, you by injecting chemicals such as histamine into, your skin when, you come into contact with them, with even just a gentle brush against, your leg leaving, you with an irritating stinging sensation for the rest of the day.

Though this is a bothersome plant for humans to encounter, it is actually an important source of food for wildlife, such as ladybirds, butterflies, birds, hedgehogs, frogs, toads, and shrews. Interestingly, stinging nettles are also edible for humans, and they were eaten by Native Americans and are still consumed by wild food enthusiasts today. The stinging component of the nettles is removed when the plant is cooked so that it can be handled and eaten without injury. The taste of stinging nettle is comparable to spinach, and it is high in nutrients, including iron, and vitamin A and C.

This nettle can become troublesome in gardens as a weed, and should not be mowed as this can encourage it to spread even further. The best way to remove stinging nettles is by regular removal and tilling (always wear protective gloves), and herbicides are also successful at killing these weeds and preventing them from recurring.

Stinging nettles are high in nitrogen, so if you remove them manually from your garden, you can add them to your compost pile. Stinging nettles thrive in fertile and disturbed or aerated soils. They perform best in moist to wet soils and are frequently found in large numbers along riverbanks and streams where the soil is fertile and moist.


4. Dock

Dock

Scientific Name: Rumex sp.

Mature Size: Up to 5 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Any soil types

Flower Color: White-pink

Broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius) and curled dock (Rumex crispus), are native to Europe and Asia but are found commonly in temperate climates around the world. They are often seen growing nearby to stinging nettles, and they provide a useful antidote to nettle stings. If you find yourself the victim of a stinging nettle, search the surrounding area for a dock plant. As their common names suggest, broadleaf dock plants have broad foliage, while curled docks have leaves with wavy margins that give them a curling look. The leaves can be quite large, growing up to 12 inches long.

You can remove a leaf from the plant and then use the dock leaf to soothe your sting by rubbing it vigorously over the affected area. It is believed that the sap contained in the dock leaf has properties that help to neutralize the sting and soothe the skin. The plant blooms from June through to September with small green flowers that develop to red. It typically grows in woodlands, wasteland, roadsides, and riverbanks. It is highly invasive in some areas and is troublesome as a weed because it is incredibly hardy and will adapt to growing in almost any conditions. It can thrive in extreme temperatures, and though it is known to prefer dry soils, it can even survive when submerged in floodwaters for as long as eight weeks.

The plant spreads and reproduces through aggressively growing roots, and it is also able to regenerate from fragments of roots underground, which makes it very hard to eradicate. These plants are capable of producing up to 60,000 seeds each year, with seeds able to persist in undisturbed ground for over 50 years. They are notoriously resistant to control measures, and the best method of control is prevention. Some herbicides can be useful for removing dock plants, or, you could try to introduce the dock beetle (Gastrophysa viridula) that feeds on the plant.


5. Canada Thistle

Canada Thistle

Scientific Name: Cirsium arvense

Mature Size: Up to 4 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Any soil types

Flower Color: Purple

This plant is also known as creeping thistle and field thistle. Despite being commonly known as Canada thistle, it is actually native to Europe and Asia. It now grows around the world and is thought of as one of the most invasive weeds, due to its adaptable nature and ability to reproduce aggressively. The weed can be identified by its spiny foliage that grows in rosette patterns. These deep green leaves are nasty-looking, though, in comparison, the violet-colored pom-pom shaped flowers that appear in clusters are quite attractive.

This is a perennial weed that usually appears in early spring. It grows aggressively to a height of up to four feet and spreads both through seeds and rhizomatous roots. These roots can travel as far as 20 feet horizontally underground, sending up new shoots of the weed around every ten inches. Their roots are incredibly strong and can grow to a depth of 15 feet vertically, making it very hard to get rid of them as they will reproduce from fragments of root underground after you have tried to pull out the weeds. Their seeds, dispersed by the wind, are also able to remain viable for over four years.

To get rid of this weed, be proactive. Remove any examples of Canada thistle shoots in spring when they emerge, before they are able to form extensive root systems. Physically removing the weeds is typically not enough to eradicate a Canada thistle problem, and you will likely also have to employ other measures. Herbicides are typically quite effective against this weed.


6. Buck Plantain

Buck Plantain

Scientific Name: Plantago lanceolata

Mature Size: Up to 2 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun

Water: Drought tolerant

Soil: Any soil type

Flower Color: Brown-purple

This perennial plant is native to Europe and Asia but now grows around the world in temperate climates. It is most prevalent in Britain, though it is also very common in North America and Australia. It also goes by the name of ‘ribleaf plantain’ and ‘narrowleaf plantain’ and typically grows in meadows, grasslands, woodlands, and on the edge of pathways, wasteland, and roadsides. This weed has long, narrow leaves in a pale to mid-green shade. The foliage takes a basal rosette form, and this low growing habit makes it difficult to pull out from the ground. Flowers are sent up on long and slender stems, with tiny blooms appearing in a brown-purple shade. Each flower is able to produce up to 200 seeds, allowing the plant to vigorously reproduce.

Buck plantain develops a tap root, which enables it to become very hardy and survive long periods of drought. This makes it very difficult to control the plant once it has become established, so always remove these weeds as soon as they appear, and work to encourage a densely grassed lawn where buck plantain seeds will struggle to take hold. It can also be managed with herbicides, if necessary, and struggles in the shade. This plant is edible and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It is also frequently used when brewed in tea and is sometimes used as medicine to treat coughs and other respiratory issues. It thrives in disturbed areas, though it is rarely found in soils that are highly acidic.


7. Lambsquarters

Lambsquarters

Scientific Name: Chenopodium album

Mature Size: Up to 5 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-11

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average to high moisture needs

Soil: Any soil types

Flower Color: Yellow-green

This plant, also known as white goosefoot, is considered to be one of the most common weeds growing in North America. Though it is broadly regarded as a weed, in some regions of the world, such as India, it is cultivated as a food crop. The plant is thought to be native to Europe, but it has become naturalized across every continent on the globe, even Antarctica. It is a summer annual that spreads rapidly by seeds that are light and easily distributed far and wide by the wind.

In ideal conditions, seeds will germinate to produce plants that have vigorous growth, but the seeds can also remain viable in the soil for many decades. The foliage of the plant takes a rough diamond shape and has serrated margins. When young, the weed grows in an upright habit, but with age, it slumps under the weight of its foliage and seeds. Flowers bloom in tiny clusters and have a yellow-green color.

This can become a particularly troublesome weed when it grows among crops. It establishes itself quickly and is a thirsty and competitive plant that will soak up all of the moisture from your soil and thereby starve other nearby plants of moisture.

To get rid of lambsquarters, simply pull or dig them out as soon as you spot them to prevent them from getting strong and spreading. Alternatively, you might want to cultivate this plant as a food source. It is used similarly to spinach in some cuisines and can be steamed, boiled, or fried. In India, it is added to soups, loaves of bread, and curries, or it is used as animal feed in some regions. It will grow in any soil type, though it prefers moist soils. It will not tolerate shade.


8. Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd’s Purse

Scientific Name: Capsella bursa-pastoris

Mature Size: Up to 1 foot tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-10

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Any soil type

Flower Color: White

This plant is native to Eastern Europe and some parts of Asia but has become naturalized as a weed across much of the world. It is common along roadsides and in meadows and woodlands and is considered to be the second most common type of plant in the world to be growing in the wild. It belongs to the Brassicacae family, which is also home to cabbage and broccoli. It produces distinctive lobed leaves that form a low growing rosette shape. Flowers arrive in loose clusters of tiny white blooms, which have a pretty and dainty look. Flowers bloom sporadically throughout the year. The flowers, then develop into heart-shaped seed pods.

To control these weeds, pull them out as soon as you spot them to prevent them from establishing strong root systems. Alternatively, you can cultivate these weeds as a food crop, as is routinely done in Asia. Young leaves can be used in salads or as a garnish or added to stir-fries. Be careful to avoid the seeds, which can be toxic. These plants grow well in any soil type and are tolerant of both dry and wet soils.


9. Pigweed

Pigweed

Scientific Name: Amaranthus sp.

Mature Size: Up to 6 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-11

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Any soil types

Flower Color: Green

This plant belongs to the Amaranthus genus, which does include some species of ornamental cultivated plants, but most plants within this genus are considered to be weeds. Pigweed is an annual weed that reproduces through its seeds, so if you want to prevent it from spreading, you need to pull it and before it flowers to avoid any chance of the seeds being produced. Pigweed seeds require light in order to germinate, so it can also be controlled well by covering the soil with a dark landscape fabric or heavily mulching the ground. Tilling soil early each spring will help to prevent any pigweed seeds from germinating, as they will get buried in the soil and therefore be unable to germinate in the darkness.

These plants typically appear in late spring or early summer and develop long and fleshy taproots that allow the plant to survive drought. These are adaptable plants that thrive in warm climates. Like many weeds, pigweed is edible. It is best enjoyed when, young as the leaves will be tender, and can be used in salads, or in recipes as an alternative to spinach. The plant has good nutritional content, being high in vitamins.

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