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    & Landscape supply

    Weed ID - Common Chickweed

    Another winter annual weed that flourishes easily is common chickweed or Stellaria media. The first signs will be along building edges and hard surfaces which create that micro-climate keeping the adjacent areas warmer during the winter months. 

    Seeds germinate and emerge in the 53 F to 68 F range. The plant will flower and can set seed within two to three months.

    Although generally considered a winter annual, chickweed has adapted into a weak perennial or biennial in some climates. Chickweed got its name because it is a preferred food source for chickens. It is edible, but the leaves do contain saponins which in large quantities could cause some digestive distress. This typically isn’t a problem as it is thought that these saponins are not easily absorbed by the body and just pass through.

    Chickweed is also said to have numerous medicinal uses with anti-inflammatory properties and can be found in some healthcare products.

    This plant can grow leggy or stretched at times, and in other times, it will form a dense mat, crowding out grasses.

    Stems are mostly forked and have a line of hairs down either side. Lower leaves do not have stalks and are egg-shaped coming to a point. Upper leaves have stalks and are arranged opposite of one another. Unlike some other similar weeds, these leaves will not have hairs, or if they do, it will be on the lower margin. ewing-irrigation-weed-identification-common-chickweed-stem

    Chickweed prefers a neutral soil and does not fare well in acidic situations. The weed will thrive in moist, rich soils, particularly those high in nitrogen. The flowers are white and deeply notched.

    What makes this weed more of a problem is its seed production ability. Rates range from 750 to over 30,000 seeds per plant with the average being around 25,000.

    Actual weed populations expand rapidly as the seeds do not have a dispersal method so they will deposit large amounts in small areas.

    What makes the weed even more difficult is the seed persistence in the soil. In studies at Michigan State University, seed banks will take at least three years to be reduced by 50% and nearly 18 years to deplete the soil to 99%.

    Common chickweed is so competitive that it can actually crowd out small crops like barley. Another attribute is that it can withstand low and repeated mowing. Chickweed has been known to survive in putting greens as well.   

    Common chickweed is sensitive to phenoxy herbicides, making it fairly easy to manage in turf. Non-selective herbicides and their organic partners will perform well in beds. Well-timed applications of pre-emergent materials in mid to late summer will help with controlling chickweed as it germinates. This program should be followed for three to five years because of the previously mentioned seed numbers and its persistence.

    For help with weed identification, contact the Ewing Technical Services Team with any questions.

    TAGS: Pre-Emergent Herbicide, Weed Control, Killing Weeds, Maintaining Turf, Turf Management