Recently I had several homeowners call and bring in samples of weeds for identification at the Clemson Extension office. I was amazed that they were all the same weed, which is apparently showing its fluffy white seed heads in great profusion in lawns all over the Pee Dee region of South Carolina.
This invasive, winter annual weed is annual trampweed ( Facelis retusa) . This highly competitive weed is colonizing any bare spaces in low-fertility lawns and roadsides. As we discussed in an earlier column, weed seeds will take advantage of any little bare spot in your lawn where they can germinate and grow.
If you are seeing the fluffy stuff, there is no need to try to kill the weeds now, as they have already gone to seed. You can try to reduce the spread of annual trampweed (for next year) by using a bagger on your lawnmower to catch the seeds along with the clippings.
For more information on dealing with annual trampweed, please see our fact sheet at the Clemson Extension Home and Garden Information Center
The best defense against weeds is to do everything you can to eliminate those bare spots, by following soil test recommendations for lime and fertilizer and by mowing and watering correctly.
In looking at all of those weed samples, I also learned something new about this plant. I knew that the tips of the tiny leaves were curved in, like the top of a Valentine heart. What I did not know is that there also is a little sticky bristle there, which I discovered in moving a sample off my desk into the trash. Unfortunately, the homeowner had already discovered this in walking around barefoot through her little patch of trampweeds. Ouch!
Another, more pleasing white flower that is just starting to bloom now is the Oakleaf Hydrangea ( Hydrangea quercifolia) . This is one of my all-time favorite native deciduous shrubs. It usually grows at the edge of the woods to about 6 feet tall and wide. It has deeply lobed, oak-like, 8-inch leaves that turn a beautiful bronzy color in the fall. The striking white flowers are on a cone-shaped head (rather than rounded, like most hydrangeas), and they turn pinkish as they age. The many kinds of hydrangeas that grow well in South Carolina, including the oakleaf, are described in our HGIC fact sheet at hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/hydrangea/
The flowers of the oakleaf hydrangea also signal that it is time for certain types of scale insects to start laying eggs and crawlers (their mobile immature stage) to start hatching out. We will talk about scale insects (and their trail of destruction on woody plants) in next week’s column.
Trish DeHond is the home horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator for Clemson Extension in Florence and Darlington counties. She can be reached by email at email@example.com. Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.