Weeds. We all have them, and we all want to get rid of them. But what do you do when you don’t know what they are? This is especially important for lawn and garden homeowners, who need to identify weeds in order to remove them properly.
Chickweed, for example, is a common weed that can be found in many lawns and gardens. This weed can be identified by its small, white flowers and its ability to grow in dense patches.
If you are not sure if you have chickweed in your yard, here is some information on how to identify it and how to get rid of it. So, what does chickweed look like, and how can you eliminate it from your backyard? Keep reading to find out!
What is Chickweed?
Chickweed, also known by its scientific name Stellaria Media, is a common weed you might find in your garden, lawn, or other areas. It is also sometimes called Common Chickweed, chickenwort, maruns, and winterweed.
It is a low-lying, prostrate plant with small flowers with white petals. Because it does not grow very tall, it is easy to miss if you only take a quick glance at your lawn. But, chickweed leaves can pop up easily and constantly all over your lawn grass, and they can grow very rapidly if you don’t remove them.
The leaves of this weed are used as a cooling herbal remedy, and it is cultivated as a ground cover and vegetable crop for human and poultry consumption as well.
Where Does Chickweed Grow?
Chickweed is a European and Asian plant that has been used as a medicinal plant or salad greens, but it is an invasive species in North America. Chickweed may be found in singular plants or growing in large swaths of the United States and Canada.
Chickweed is an annual weed in colder climes that becomes evergreen and perennial weed in more temperate areas. It thrives when it grows in large open spaces, such as lawns, meadows, grasslands, fields, and waste places.
This pesky weed spreads through seeds and also develops fast via runners. The seeds lie dormant in the ground for years before sprouting, so you might have it in your yard without even knowing it.
How to Identify Chickweed
Here are the main ways to identify chickweed if you think you have it growing in your yard.
Chickweed is one of the easiest weed species to spot since it is not hardy and doesn’t grow much beyond a few inches off the ground. It’s delicate and stringy; the leaves are tiny and shaped like small teardrops or eggs, with a pointed tip, and they grow on opposite sides of the stem.
Chickweed’s flowers are tiny and distinctive, with five white petals split with small cracks that give the impression they are ten in number. The flower stem and the sepals – the leaves surrounding the base of the flower – are suffused with fine hairs.
Chickweed has a single line of hairs along each stem, like a mohawk, which is one of its most distinguishing features, and is an uncommon quality for a plant to have.
In the south, chickweed emerges from hibernation in November and December as other weeds die down or go dormant for the year. There are more than enough large (by comparison) and healthy patches that you will notice by late January or early February. As the summer approaches, however, larger, stronger strains will take its place as conditions become less favorable, so it can be harder to spot.
Chickweed has two distinct growth habits, depending on the location. When you see a single plant, its stems will bend over and spread out across the ground; when growing in a clump, the weed eventually reaches a critical mass that allows the plants to support each other and stand upright. So, while it is true that it mostly grows low to the ground, a large enough cluster can grow up to a foot high.
Other Unique Traits
Chickweed will germinate in temperatures ranging from 35 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It can tolerate temperatures below freezing, but thrives best when the average temperature rises into the 40s. If the temperature reaches into the 90s, it dies off, but it reappears in the fall when conditions become more temperate.
Additionally, chickweed is an edible plant. You can eat it raw, as in a salad, or steep it in boiling water to make an herbal tea.
Plants That Look Like Chickweed
Plants in the Cerastium genus are closely similar to those of Stellaria, as they are all in the overarching Caryophyllaceae family. However, the Cerastium plants have hairs uniformly covering their stems, unlike the Stellaria species. Hence, these types of chickweed are commonly called Mouse-Ear Chickweed.
Another weed that looks like Chickweed is called scarlet pimpernel. The poisonous scarlet pimpernel is difficult to differentiate from other species of chickweed, especially as it may grow among them. Its stems are square and lack the single line of stem hairs that is present in common chickweed. Also, as the name suggests, its leaves have a splotchy reddish color on the undersides, and its flowers are red rather than white in color.
How to Get Rid of Chickweed
So, now that you know all about chickweed and how to identify it, what are you going to do with this information? Well, if you have a weed-infested lawn or garden, chickweed is one of the plants you’ll want to get rid of. The good news is that there are several ways to get rid of chickweed.
You can pull up the weed by hand or with a spade, but if you do make sure you pull the entire root system up with the weed, or it can lie dormant underground and come back next year. This is probably the easiest and most efficient way to remove chickweed.
Other natural solutions include wiping down the weed’s leaves with a vinegar-soaked rag, or pouring boiling water over the plants. Do each of these a few times a day for up to a few weeks, or until the weed dies.
If you need an immediate solution and don’t want to use all-natural chemicals, try pesticides that have active ingredients glyphosate, 2,4-D, Aminopyralid, or Sulfentrazone. They aren’t as efficient at eradicating chickweed as they are at killing other weeds, however, so don’t be surprised if they don’t fully work.
Chickweed is a pesky weed that can be difficult to get rid of. The first step to making sure it’s gone for good is knowing how to identify it and where it’s likely to grow. Once you know what chickweed looks like, from there it’s only a matter of time!
We hope this article has helped you to learn the visual identifying traits of chickweed, so if it ever pops up in your garden, you’ll be ready. If you’re having trouble eradicating this weed from your garden, contact us or your local pest and weed control services for help. Thanks for reading!