Sticky Seeds From Weeds Whether it’s summer or winter, fall or spring, there will be weeds growing in Florida. One that I’m receiving a lot of calls on now is particularly annoying with it’s How to Get Rid of Sticky Willy. Sticky willy (Galium aparine) goes by many different, descriptive common names including bedstraw, catchweed, beggar’s lice, scratchweed and velcro plant. This annual plant is often an unwanted weed where it invades roadsides, home landscapes and vegetable or flower gardens, often … Sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It's an annual and easy removed.
Sticky Seeds From Weeds
Whether it’s summer or winter, fall or spring, there will be weeds growing in Florida. One that I’m receiving a lot of calls on now is particularly annoying with it’s sticky seeds called, chickweed. There are a couple of different chickweeds (mouse-ear, common, West Indian) but they are all primarily winter annuals and prefer moist soils. The dainty white flower is beneficial to pollinators, but if this weed is left alone it may quickly encompass your lawn in seeds that stick annoyingly well to clothing, mowing blades, and pet fur. Also, pieces of stem from this plant can sprout roots in moist soil conditions and begin new populations.
The best defense against weeds is to have a healthy lush lawn by utilizing best management practices. Mow your lawn according to the recommended height. Depending on the cultivar, St. Augustine typically likes to be mowed high around 4 inches, bahiagrass between 3 – 4 inches, and zoysia needs it short between 2 – 2.5 inches. The other critical step to reduce weed pressure is to avoid overwatering, particularly in the winter months. In Marion County our turfgrasses all head into dormancy when the days shorten and the weather cools. To maintain a bit of green color, it is recommended that you water your zoysia or St. Augustine lawns once every 10 – 14 days in the winter. An established bahiagrass lawn shouldn’t require any irrigation except during periods of severe drought. It is also best to irrigate in the early morning hours between about 3 a.m. – 8 a.m. to avoid moisture sitting on the leaf blades overnight.
Despite all best efforts, there are no 100% effective weed preventatives. And some weeds are overall quite beneficial both to pollinators as well as to the health of your lawn by reducing pest and disease pressure and even adding nitrogen to your soil in some instances. But if you can’t find peace with the weeds, first try mechanically removing weeds before they flower and go to seed. It’s easiest to eradicate weeds while they’re young. If hand-pulling isn’t feasible, talk to your local UF/IFAS Extension Service about herbicide treatments best for your particular lawn. The Weed Management Guide for Florida Lawns is also a helpful resource.
The sticky seeds of chickweed are common hitchhikers on clothing and pets
For chickweed, the best method of treatment will be to use pre-emergent herbicides in early spring and fall to prevent the seeds from germinating. In Marion County, the general dates to aim for are around February 15th to help control spring and summer weeds, and then again around October 31st for the fall and winter weeds. Always follow label instructions and note that some products will need to be reapplied 6-9 weeks later and watered in to be effective. Pre-emergent herbicides are oftentimes sold to homeowners as ‘crabgrass preventers’ or Weed and Feed products. The UF/IFAS does not typically recommend the use of Weed and Feed products because they usually contain nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer that should not be applied at the same time as the pre-emergent herbicides. However, there are some products on the market with a 0-0-7 formulation that only contain potassium which is not an issue. Otherwise, consider hiring a licensed landscaper to assist you with herbicide applications. Some sources for trained and certified landscapers include the FFL Professional Certification list or the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association. Any landscaper that applies fertilizers and pesticides for hire should also be able to show you active licenses from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
How to Get Rid of Sticky Willy
Perhaps best known as Sticky Willy, Galium aparine – USDA growing zones 3 to 7 – is an annual plant, largely considered to be a weed. With some basic steps, however, the savvy gardener can effectively remove it from his or her yard. Also known as Goosegrass, Coachweed, Catchweed and Cleavers, it can cause some serious problems for both gardeners and farmers.
Why Get Rid of Sticky Willy?
The sap of the plant can cause severe skin irritation in people who are sensitive to it. If left unchecked, the plant can also severely hinder other plants’ ability to grow. If left unchecked in agricultural operations, the plants can reduce crop yield in some species by between 30 and 60 percent.
The seeds and foliage of Sticky Willy can contaminate the wool and fur of some livestock raised for the production of clothing. If animals consume it, it can inflame their digestive tracts. Its seeds can get stuck in the fur of animals and is very difficult to remove. It can also carry with it different diseases and pests.
Identifying Sticky Willy by Its Small Spines
Sticky Willy is quite easy to identify, thanks to the downward-pointing brown prickles on its leaves – which appear in groups of between six and eight – and stems. Its oblong-shaped eggs have slightly notched tips. Its seed leaves, or cotyledons, are smooth, however. If allowed to mature, Sticky Willy can grow to be 40 inches tall. Large groups of the plants often spread in dense mats over the ground, made all the more dense by their spines. Their flowers are four-parted and often white or greenish-white.
The weed can be found around the world. Most often, Sticky Willy grows in moist and shady areas such as areas filled with waste, on roadsides and in gardens. The species can also affect the growing of hay, rapeseed, sugar beets and various cereals.
Removing Sticky Willy Is Harder Than You Think
Getting rid of a Sticky Willy plant is easy enough; in fact, it’s just a matter of pulling it from the ground. However, each plant can have between 300 and 400 seeds, which spread readily and can lie dormant in soil for six years.
The best way to remove the plants for good is to get them out of the soil before the plants flower and develop their seeds — ideally in the early spring. This can be done using a hoe or another tool that gets to the roots, or by hand. As the plant’s sap is irritating, wearing gloves is an important step if you choose the latter option. If the plant has already flowered, attempting to remove it will only spread the seeds.
Applying a heavy layer of organic mulch or using plastic mulch can also prevent the seeds from reaching the soil or getting enough light to grow.
Gardeners looking to avoid Sticky Willy near their homes should be sure to brush down their clothing and pets after walking in areas where the weed is commonly found, or after exposure. Like most parts of the plant, the seeds are covered in tiny barbs that can stick to cloth or fur easily. The seeds spread easily, and even a few of the hardy seeds can cause an outbreak in a garden.
Chemical Solutions for Galium Aparine
Some herbicides have proven to be effective in removing the pesky plant. Contact herbicides containing acetic, fatty or pelargonic acids can scorch off Sticky Willy’s foliage, including its seed leaves. However, these can damage nearby plants, so covering desirable garden plants is recommended, at least until the chemicals dry on the weed foliage.
Glyphosate can be used in the same way, but it’s more important to ensure none of it gets on any other plants.
Goose Grass, Sticky Willy
Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It’s an annual and easy removed but also easily spreads with its self sown seedlings. Can grow up to 4ft high. Sticky Willy can grow rapidly during warm weather. The sticky stems are able to scramble around the garden, smothering small, cultivated plants and setting masses of seed. It’s usually introduced on the coats of animals, birds’ feathers or human clothing. Its lifecycle is approximately eight weeks from germination to setting seed.
The leaves and stem are covered with hooked hairs that latch onto anything that brushes against them.
2 to 5 stalked flowers appear at the end of a stem. Individual flowers have 4 pointed white petals with a greenish center, and are about 1/16 inch across.
Sticky Willy is a common garden weed and likes shade. Keep a close eye out for it as it will creep around your plants, spreading as it goes.
Remove Sticky Willy regularly by hand, or hoe off young seedlings before they set seed. Avoid getting seeds on clothing, as this can inadvertently spread it around the garden. Mulch borders with a 5cm layer of garden compost or composted bark to suppress seedlings.
Not Just a Weed
The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear.
Sticky Willy is a reliable herb and is used to clean urinary stones and to treat urinary infections.
Welcome to Weedipedia.
At Vialii, we are strong proponents of organic gardening and try to avoid weedkiller if we can. To many people, weeds are wonderful things, whether they are grown as pretty wildflowers or for their health benefits. But we understand they can be frustrating in gardens so our Weedipedia pages detail our most common weeds, how to identify & get rid of them but also their benefits too. If you need help getting rid of your own weeds please get in touch.
Goose Grass, Sticky Willy
Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick.
Horse or Mares Tail
One of the most dreaded of weeds, Mares Tail can spread like wildfire so if you see it, deal with.
Larger Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed
Bindweed is a notorious, perennial weed which no gardener wants to find in their garden as its so hard to.
Chickweed is one of the most common of weeds with the most delicate tiny white star-shaped flowers hence its Latin.
Creeping buttercup is a common perennial weed with low-lying foliage that forms mats. Its instantly recognisable glossy yellow flowers appear.