My Big, Fat Ugly Weed

It began slowly.  I saw a bit here and there in the lawn after Hurricane Isabel but had no idea what it was. It looked fairly benign, just small plants growing beneath the grass. I’d easily pull one out, ignore 4 more, paint a tiny amount of weed killer on a small patch, but for the most part, I simply ignored it. Big mistake. After our wet winter this year, we know we have a problem with this difficult to control broadleaf lawn plague named Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana L.).

This spring I armed myself with information about buttonweed and I realize how monstrous my troubles could be. This is a very aggressive weed that forms dense mats in the lawn. Deep-rooted, this perennial can return each spring from its root system and it can spread by seeds and from any living portion of the plant. One remarkable characteristic of this weed is that it has self-pollinating flowers both above and below the soil. The tiny, star-shaped, 4-petaled white flowers can help identify the plant in the grass.  Interestingly, another identifying feature is a mottled mosaic yellow-green leaf in some buttonweed due to a virus.

Virginia Tech calls this weed “a very troublesome weed of lawns and turfgrass throughout the southeastern United States.” All I know is it likes moisture (we had plenty this winter) and it successfully adapts to mowing. Pulling it up is a temporary solution since root fragments will regenerate. I read that proper management of turf is a good preventative. Too late for that. Recommended is repeated applications of a postemergence herbicide every 4 – 6 weeks but I hesitate.

It is a native.   It is a survivor.   On some level I can’t help but admire it and wonder how it would look, dark green and mottled mosaic yellow-green, instead of grass.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

7 thoughts on “My Big, Fat Ugly Weed

  1. I agree a little with ‘marbles’ who says this native ‘looks pretty in the photograph.’ It is a lovely shade of mottled green when its infected by a virus. If I didn’t have to mow it, it’d be a perfect replacement for grass.


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