27 Common Types of Weeds with Names & Picture Identification
Let's face it, weeds can cause garden problems for gardeners. While some types of weeds can be nice looking, they can also be invasive. It can be difficult to identify each type of weed and prevent them from taking over your entire garden. Keep in mind that many weeds are good for pollinators, so it may be worth relocating them to another area, or leaving them be. In this article, we help you identify the most common types of weeds, with photos of each.
Weeds are essentially just plants growing where they are not wanted or needed. They can be cause problems gardens when they grow wild and compete with the plants you’ve worked hard to plant. Many types of weeds can spread from plant to plant, reproducing quickly and forming a large patch very quickly.
Gardeners often face the problem of weeds in their yards and gardens. It’s a delicate line to balance, as many weeds are actually good for local pollinators. While there are dozens upon dozens of different types of weeds, some more difficult to prevent. There are also less invasive options, which include relocating the plant to another area.
This article contains pictures and descriptions of some of the most common types of weeds you may find in your garden. It’s important to remember that if you plan to remove them, plan to do so with the least amount of impact to pollinators in your area.
Scientific name: Celastrus orbiculatus
Asiatic bittersweet is a perennial weed that has small, orange berries. Round yellow fruits and red berries can identify it. it’s quite invasive and can cause major problems for both homes and garden spaces. Keep in mind we are not referring tot he Amrican bittersweet, which is native to the United States. The introduced Asiatic Bittersweet is invasive, and very difficult to prevent from coming back.
Asiatic bittersweet prefers areas with thin or no vegetation cover, such as roadsides or abandoned farmlands. It can adapt to most habitats but is more common in moist or wet soils on sunny sites. These perennial plants thrive in lawns and sports fields; mature vines may reach four inches in diameter.
The bitter-tasting leaves are pointed, oval, and grow about two inches long. Once established, these weeds prove challenging to remove, making it better to use preventive measures in areas you plan to succeed.
Scientific name: Convolvulus arvenis
Bindweed is a perennial weed identified by its bright green, hairless stems and arrowhead-shaped leaves with scalloped edges. Flowers are white and appear in clusters near the middle of the plant.
Bindweed grows very low and forms dense mats in lawns and pastures. It thrives in poorly drained clay soil often found along fence rows, roadsides, and fields with exposed subsoils.
Bindweed can grow through the tiniest of cracks or seams in the pavement; therefore, it can be challenging to kill. Bindweed also has an extensive root system that contains many perennial buds (located at the nodes of the roots).
These buds allow it to regenerate any broken pieces of the primary root. Bindweed has thin thread-like vines that wrap themselves tightly around plants or other upward objects.
Control Bindweed by boiling water and pouring the hot water into infested areas. Alternatively, you can repeatedly prune the vines back to the ground as a control measure. These methods are very destructive, so you can use them without valuable plants to save.
Scientific name: Cirsium arvense
Canada Thistle is a perennial weed that spreads by seed. It has its origins in Europe but was introduced to America in the 16th Century, among other agricultural shipments. Thistle is very common and is identifiable as a weed by its purple spiky flowers.
In general, the leaves are lobed and form an arrow-like shape. The stem is prickly, and the plant has a very hairy appearance. Seeds are shaped like dandelion seed heads but are more significant.
Canada Thistle usually appears in open overgrazed areas by livestock or areas tilled repeatedly to cultivate other weeds. You’ll also find these weeds along river banks, forest openings, roadsides, and gardens.
Mowing it into the soil before planting will help prevent infestation. You can also use a pair of scissors and snip off the weed at the base if you’re working on a small area. Uprooting is ineffective in controlling this weed as the root can snap in half and regrow. The roots reach deep into the earth, and even a tiny portion of it can regenerate the plant.
Remember to wait until the weed has emerged before treating, or you may kill surrounding desirable grasses. Finally, it is always best to plant in areas with past problems with this weed type to prevent future infestation altogether.
Scientific name: Stellaria media
Chickweed is a low-growing winter weed that can establish in cool weather and cause damage to crops early in the growing season. There are two species of Chickweed, namely the Common Chickweed and Sticky Chickweed. This weed is also a common problem for landscape and turf grasses.
Chickweed germinates when soil temperatures reach between 40 degrees F and 50 degrees F, but growth slows as soil temperatures reach 60 degrees F. It thrives in moist soils and low-fertility environments.
Chickweed is very difficult to control due to its spreading capabilities. It is best handled by hand-pulling or cultivation when young and then mulching the area after the weed has died. Remove this weed from your garden as it carries viruses that infect tomatoes and other valuable crops.
Scientific name: Trifolium repens
Clovers are perennial weeds easily identified by their trifoliate leaves. They flower during late summer and early fall, producing white or pink flowers.
Clovers spread quickly and prefer areas with thin or no vegetation cover, such as cultivated fields or abandoned farmlands. They creep along the ground and thrive in nitrogen-starved soil. Identifying this weed on your lawn may indicate poorly supplied nitrogen into the soil.
Once established, it is challenging to eliminate, so preventive measures are best with these types of weeds. Fertilize your lawn to ensure effective eradication. Alternatively, manually uproot the whole plant by hand.
Scientific name: Digitaria sanguinalis
Crabgrass is an annual weed in the Digitaria family, with over thirty listed species common throughout the country.
Crabgrass has smooth stems with circular grooves on them. The leaves are long and thin, resemble blades of grass, and have notches at their base where they attach to the stem. The leaves are usually yellowish-green to lime green in color, making them reasonably easy to spot.
Crabgrass is very difficult to control once it has germinated. The weed thrives in moist soil conditions, which causes its seeds to germinate quickly after the surface breaks by cultivating or rainfall.
Crabgrass is easy to identify, and to pull once you’ve located it around your garden or yard. Proper mowing also helps to eradicate this weed. In addition, remember not to overwater your lawn as moist conditions are perfect for crabgrass germination.
Scientific name: Rumex crispus
Curly dock is a perennial weed that prefers moistened soils. They grow in pastures, roadsides, and crop fields.
Curly docks have a membranous sheath and bulging stem joints. These leaves grow two to five feet in length with wavy edges. Flowers of curly dock appear in clusters on stalks which develop at the top of the leaves.
The best way to control the Curly dock is by mowing down the area regularly. Because curly dock is a native plant, controlling by hand digging can be difficult. If not controlled, this weed becomes a menace in the lawn, especially if left to go to seed.
Scientific name: Cuscuta campestris
Dodder is an annual weed that is difficult to control and highly damaging to crops. The weed is also known as “dodders” because the leaves of this plant are thread-like, and it has vining stems that resemble worms.
It is a parasitic plant that likes to grow in moist, wet conditions. Dodder forms large colonies that can wipe out crops such as:
You can control this weed by hand removal and pruning. Large infestations may require other alternatives if you’ve decided there’s no way you’d like to keep this plant around your yard. But typically removing it, and repeated mowing or plant removal in the area can successfully deal with this plant.
Scientific name: Setaria viridis
Green Foxtail is an annual grass weed. It is a ubiquitous weed found in lawns, crop fields, landscapes, and even gardens throughout the United States.
Green Foxtail grows to three inches high with leaves that are half an inch wide. The seed head of this weed appears whip-like, with many small bristles which have dark green tips. It has fibrous roots and a seed head that looks similar to a foxtail, hence the name.
We don’t recommend using herbicides for foxtail (or any weed for that matter). The general use of herbicides can be more damaging than beneficial and might ruin useful plants and grasses. But it’s important to remove foxtail from your yard and garden, especially if you have pets.
Scientific name: Glechoma hederacea
Ground Ivy is a perennial broadleaf weed found in woodlands and damp ground. It is a very aggressive growing plant that spreads across the land and harms existing valuable plants. Its low-growing properties give it the “ground ivy” name.
Since it lives in low-lying areas, it does well with water exposure, allowing seeds to disperse quickly. Some petals can be purple or white, and pale spots are often visible.
Ground Ivy often appears in shady areas such as mulched flower beds and around trees and shrubs. You can control this weed by hand, but just note that it can be difficult to remove once fully grown. It’s best to identify and remove it early in the life cycle if you’ve decided not to keep it in your yard or garden.
Scientific name: Equisetum arvense
Horsetail Weed is a perennial weed with leaves typically found growing in whorls. Its thin, greenish branches can identify it. The horsetail spreads quickly to form a stout foliage carpet that smothers other plants.
Horsetail Weed prefers moist or wet soils, such as ditches or low-lying spots. It can adapt to most habitats but is more common in sunny areas with rich soils. This weed is poisonous to animals, especially if consumed in incredible amounts.
Scientific name: Fallopia japonica
Japanese Knotweed is a perennial shrub-like weed native to Eastern Asia. This plant can grow up to six inches and has small green flowers. The stem of this plant is hollow, reddish-brown, and covered in spots. Leaves are green and lance-shaped with serrated edges. The plant produces flowers in whitish clusters and roots that grow six inches deep.
Japanese Knotweed usually appears after soil disturbance like tillage or heavy foot traffic where the soil moves to the surface (a common problem around sidewalks). You’ll also find this weed along stream banks and planted landscapes.
Preparing your soil for planting by adding grass seed will help prevent Knotweed infestation. This weed is easy to identify and is usually best served by hand-pulling.
Scientific name: Centaurea
Knapweed is a perennial weed that infests vegetable gardens and native grasses. The significant knapweed types include:
- Spotted Knapweed
- Yellow Starthistle
- Russian Knapweed
Knapweed prefers areas such as roadsides, ditches, and highways. It can adapt to most habitats and is extremely difficult to eliminate once established.
Digging out Knapweed can be difficult due to its extensive roots, but cultivating groundcover can help crowd it out over. Many people consider Knapweed edible and consumed raw, steamed, or boiled.
Scientific name: Chenopodium album
Lambsquarters is an annual weed that harbors viral diseases. This weed is commonly found in hayfields and along streams and railroad tracks. It can grow two feet tall and has grayish-green leaves with a lancet-shaped stem.
Lambsquarters are also edible and nutritious. If you want to try Lambsquarters, take advantage of them when they’re young, not developing hard ragged edges that get more bitter with age.
Regularly mowing your land and consistently aerating the soil helps eradicate this weed. Follow a regular watering and fertilizing of the land to maintain good health in the ground.
Scientific name: Cyperus rotundus
Nutsedge is a perennial weed that spreads by seed and rhizomes (horizontal shoots that grow along the soil’s surface). This weed loves water and can easily be mistaken for a young blade of grass.
Nutsedge has a V-shaped stem that is dark green. This weed can grow to have a diameter of six inches or more. You may find it growing along fences, driveways, sidewalks, grassy areas, and around plants and trees.
Once nutsedge matures, it will release tiny greenish-yellow triangular seeds into surface cracks in walkways and driveways. These weeds thrive best in moist soil but also tolerate dry soils. They are also called “nutgrasses” due to their resemblance to grasses.
Scientific name: Impatiens capensis
The Orange Jewelweed is an annual plant with bright golden-orange flowers and reddish splotches. The weed spreads very quickly as it is adapted to pollination by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Orange Jewelweed thrives in moist areas of lawns and recently disturbed plants. This weed is also commonly referred to as the “spotted-touch-me-not” because of the seed pods that pop up at a touch. It’s an easily identifiable weed by its orange flowers.
Scientific name: Oxalidaceae
Oxalis is a genus of many species in the family Oxalidaceae. It may also be called wood sorrel, sour grass, and shamrock. Some species are prevalent, while others are rare endemics. It often grows in lawns and cultivated fields, especially in recent clearings.
The leaves are heart-like in shape. It can be distinguished from clover by its four-petaled flowers that form a heart shape. It spreads by seed and corms (bulbs). This weed’s flowers are yellow, and easily identifiable. Oxalis spreads quickly and can choke out other plants in a garden. They’re known as shamrock weed because their three oval leaves look like clovers.
Oxalis is difficult to control because it can reproduce from underground corms. We prefer not to treat with a herbicide due to additional damage it can cause to native plant species. The recommended alternative is mowing over several weeks to kill off oxalis and unwanted weeds. Note that this can harm your lawn’s soil and make it harder for grass to grow back quickly.
Pull up Oxalis roots before they spread by hand or use a sharp hoe to cut them off near their base. If you need to dispose of these weeds, place them into a garbage bag and seal tightly with tape to prevent accidental poisoning from their alkaloids.
Scientific name: Amaranthus
Also known as redroot pigweed, wild spinach, and green amaranth, pigweed is a common weed found all over the USA. They have large oval leaves and round seed pods that produce thousands of seeds. They turn brownish-red and split open when ripe, revealing numerous tiny black seeds. The flowers are usually purplish-pink with darker pink stripes running down them.
Pigweed is most common in warmer areas with total sun exposure. They compete vigorously with crops and reproduce by prolific seeding. They survive by spreading their roots underground. The pigweed leaves are edible, and you can include them in your salad.
Scientific name: Plantago
Plantains are broadleaf weeds that are native to Europe. Plantains usually appear in early spring when the soil begins to warm up. There are two species of Plantain plant. These are:
The leaves of these two perennial weeds are easily distinguishable. Ribwort Plantains have ribbed, lance-shaped leaves, while broadleaf plantains have smooth, oval leaves. Plantain plants thrive on compacted soil. The key to eradicating these weeds is keeping your soil healthy and adequately aerated.
They commonly grow in lawns after cultivation and along roadsides where soil disturbance occurs. Plantains are not deep-rooted perennials and are easily controlled with shallow cultivation around the plant’s base, killing it. Chemicals are also very effective against plantains when applied at the right time.
Scientific name: Toxicodendron vernix
Poison Sumac is a tall, woody shrub that forms dense thickets in swamps and wet woods. You can quickly identify it during the winter months due to its bare stems marked with small red spots. The leaves are arranged oppositely on the stem and have prominent veins.
Poison Sumac grows throughout the United States near water sources, such as swamp borders or lowlands where water stands for several days. However, in rare cases, you may find the weed in the western states such as Texas.
Poison Sumac has an oily, white resin called urushiol throughout the plant. Urushiol acts as a toxin to humans and animals when it comes in contact with the skin or eyes. It would help if you avoided any plants with these characteristics until you were sure of their identification.
If you think you have come in contact with Poison Ivy or any other toxic plant, immediately wash your skin with soap and cold water to remove the urushiol oils. If you experience an allergic reaction to the poison ivy oils, see your doctor immediately.
You can control Poison Sumac by cutting or mowing down its stems when they are young and weak. The sooner you catch it, though, the better as mature Poison Sumac trees require professional removal.
Scientific name: Portulaca oleracea
Purslane is an annual herbaceous weed with succulent leaves and stems. This common weed is often found in lawns and among garden plants. Purslane looks similar to dandelions and can differ by the leaves, which are oval-shaped and broadest near the rounded tip. The leaves are attached to their purplish-green stems.
The most successful way to get rid of purslane is to pull up all visible roots using hand tools like trowels or hoes rather than relying on herbicides. Do not let purslane go to seed because it will rapidly spread once you have established a colony.
Scientific name: Elymus repens
A common turfgrass weed that also grows in non-turf areas, Quackgrass can be identified by its long leaves and coarse appearance. Its leaves are more comprehensive than the usual law grasses with rough grass blades.
The plant’s root system is highly developed and deep, spreading quickly in lawns. A single plant can have thick roots extending underground. The best way to avoid this weed is by taking preventive measures such as regular lawn mowing.
Scientific name: Ambrosia artemisiifolia
Ragweed is a widespread weed found throughout the country. It is a source of allergies that affect many people, especially in the fall.
Ragweed grows upright and has a large, deep taproot. This plant is recognizably different from other weeds by its flowers with a yellowish appearance. Ragweed is also recognizable by its hairy leaves.
Ragweed has grown to be an immensely prevalent weed species often found in lawns and gardens. It’s considered an invasive weed because it has no known natural predators and its seeds stay dormant for years.
The most successful way to deal with ragweed is by regularly mowing your lawn or piece of land. Cultivate and hoe the soil constantly to eradicate any dormant ragweeds.
Scientific name: Capsella bursa-pastoris
This low-growing plant is a quick-growing plant that spreads rapidly and is difficult to eradicate. Though the lifespan lasts four to six weeks, the seeds can survive for years in fields, making it difficult to control through manual removal alone.
The plant grows three to six inches long and prefers low soil temperatures. This is not a difficult weed to manage, or prevent from growing if it’s become a problem. Regularly pull the weeds, and mow over the area for best results.
Scientific name: Bromus inermis
Smooth Brome is a perennial weed identified by its long, smooth leaves. It grows in almost any climate, is considered a major invasive species, and chokes native plant life.
If you’re unsure whether you have Smooth Brome, look for its compact seed heads that stay on top of the stems and are about four to six inches long. Smooth Brome is good forage for livestock. This weed is not tolerant to floods, and you can eradicate it much more efficiently by spot treating with a more selective herbicide.
Scientific name: Urtica dioica
Stinging Nettle is a perennial weed that is part of the Urticaceae family. The leaves of the Bitter Nettle plant form in pairs across from each other, with a bigger leaf at the end of each pair.
These leaves are oval, serrated, with saw-like edges, and are smooth to touch and grow to about four to ten inches. In addition, the fine hairs on the leaves contain irritating compounds produced when the plant comes into contact with the skin.
Stinging Nettle usually appears after over-fertilizing your lawn or dumping yard waste on the soil; it then spreads into neighboring areas via stolons that root at the nodes along its length.
The best route for removing and controlling stinging nettle control is uprooting by hand. Since this weed can be quite painful to touch, attempts at removing it by hand should only occur with gloves on.
Scientific name: Festuca arundinacea
You may have seen tall fescue amongst grass seeds that you can plant in your yard. But tall fescue, is in fact, a weed. It’s a perennial weed that has a bunch-like growth pattern. It produces a dense root mass that makes it extremely hard to uproot from the ground.
Fescue lacks the essential nutrients required by livestock to grow healthy and reproduce. Because the fungus produces toxins on the strands of Fescue, it is harmful to the plant’s health. You can control these weeds by digging seedlings in the early stages of growth.
Weeds can cause various problems in agricultural and landscape settings. They compete with desirable plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight and reduce crop yields. In gardens, weeds reduce property aesthetics by altering the color palette and attracting unwanted insects.
Prevention is always a better strategy than control. When establishing a new planting area, consider using a weed-free growing medium and mulch to reduce the likelihood of weeds taking hold in your garden or landscape.