Once you've identified nuisance plants, you can more readily access information on eradication. In some cases, however, finding out more about the plants in question may persuade you to show more tolerance toward them. There are even some edible weeds. Some are worth your time to remove while others don't cause much harm (and may even have beneficial aspects).
Several of these weeds can cause rashes. Use proper clothing and gloves when working around these weeds, or enlist professional help to eradicate them.
Here are 17 types of weeds you might encounter in your garden.
01 of 17
Poison sumac is a shrub (some consider it a small tree) that grows in swampy areas, often next to Cinnamon ferns and cattails. You will not find it trailing over the ground or climbing trees, as you sometimes find poison ivy. Every part of the plant is poisonous, meaning it can cause serious rashes if touched. As is often the case with toxic plants, it can also be very attractive; its white berries and bright fall foliage is pretty as well as dangerous.
02 of 17
Polygonum cuspidatum goes by several other common names, including Japanese knotweed and fleece flower. Several other common names include the term, "bamboo," such as "Mexican bamboo." While its autumn flower does, indeed, look fleecy, "fleece flower" is just too dainty a name for so tenacious a weed!
03 of 17
Being an annual weed, crabgrass perpetuates itself via seed—millions of seeds. To control crabgrass, you'll need to address the issue in spring when the plant is at its most vulnerable. The best option is to remove the plants by hand, roots and all. After that, use an organic fertilizer to encourage the growth of lawn grass which will crown the crabgrass out.
04 of 17
Dandelions are a harbinger of spring. Their bright yellow flowers often poke up through lawns and appear between cracks in driveways and sidewalks. The seed heads of dandelions are probably better known than those of crabgrass, but dandelions are perennial, not annual weeds.
While dandelions have multiple medicinal uses and can be eaten in salads or used to make wine, many homeowners would prefer to eliminate them. Keeping dandelion seeds from germinating won't be enough to get rid of dandelions. It's possible to use herbicide to eliminate your dandelions, but the most effective and least harmful approach is to dig the flowers up from the roots.Continue to 5 of 17 below.
05 of 17
A rather innocuous plant, common plantain can simply be mowed whenever you mow the lawn. Its relative, Plantago lanceolata is a similar weed, but with narrow leaves. Now a ubiquitous lawn weed in North America, broadleaf or "common" plantain was brought to the New World by colonists from Europe for its medicinal uses. Common plantain has many medicinal uses. Mashed, it can be used as a poultice for bee stings; the leaves can also be dried and made into a tea to treat diarrhea.
06 of 17
Common ragweed may be an important weed for you to identify, even if you don't care about keeping your yard weed-free for aesthetic reasons. If you're an allergy sufferer, you should be aware that common ragweed is a major source of hay fever.
07 of 17
It's not for nothing that this plant is named, "giant ragweed." It can grow up to 15 feet tall, with thick roots and branches. Like its ragweed cousin (and unlike goldenrod), giant ragweed produces a great deal of pollen which causes serious allergies.
08 of 17
Hedge bindweed has a fairly attractive bloom, similar to that of the morning glory, which can be white or pink and have a pleasant fragrance. But this is no innocuous weed. If you let hedge bindweed get out of control, your yard will feel like Gulliver in Lilliput. There is a reason for that "bind" in "bindweed."Continue to 9 of 17 below.
09 of 17
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederaceae)
Ground ivy, a common lawn weed, goes by a number of names. For instance, it is also called "gill," "gill-over-the-ground" and "creeping charlie." Although considered a weed, ground ivy has a pretty flower and, when you mow this weed, it gives off a pleasing aroma. Ground ivy is also used as a medicinal herb.
10 of 17
Purslane is the edible weed, par excellence. Purslane contains five times the amount of essential omega-3 fatty acid that spinach has, and its stems are high in vitamin C. A succulent mat-forming plant, it has a crispy texture and interesting peppery flavor. It is often served raw in salads but can also be cooked as a side dish.
11 of 17
The flowers of stinging nettle plants are inconspicuous. You'll pay plenty of attention to its barbs, however, if you're unfortunate enough to brush against stinging nettle! The discomfort these weeds can cause seems incongruous with the fact that stinging nettle is edible. But the young leaves of stinging nettle are, indeed, cooked and eaten by wild foods enthusiasts. Just be sure to pick at the right time and prepare properly to ensure safe consumption.
12 of 17
Curly dock (also called "curled dock" or "yellow dock") is more than just distinctive, it's also useful: curly dock serves as a home remedy to treat stinging nettle burns--though it can be toxic to consume. You'll be able to identify curly dock by its greenish blossoms that cluster long thin flower stocks. After the flowers have dried and turned brown, they remain in place, making the plant easy to recognize. The flowers start out a much less distinctive light-greenish or reddish color. Blooming occurs in clusters in the form of multiple, long, skinny flower stalks at the top of the plant.Continue to 13 of 17 below.
13 of 17
Wild madder is, like sweet woodruff, in the Galium genus. Wild madder is also called "bedstraw." Apparently, people did actually once use this weed as a bedding material. Sweet woodruff is a creeping, mat-forming perennial that pretty clusters of white star-shaped flowers in spring and has very fragrant, lance-shaped dark-green leaves.
14 of 17
While many consider clover a "weed," there's really nothing wrong with having a little clover mixed into your lawn. The Irish consider various tripartite clover leaves (such as the one in the photo here) to be "shamrocks." The tradition behind the shamrock is quite distinct from that behind four-leaf clovers.
15 of 17
Like curly dock, orange jewelweed (or "jewel weed") can be used as a home remedy for poison ivy. The taxonomic name of orange jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, classifies it as a wild version of the colorful impatiens flowers sold so widely for shady annual beds.
16 of 17
There are three plants named, "bittersweet." American bittersweet is harmless, but Oriental bittersweet should be regarded as a weed since it can harm your trees. The third type of weed that goes by this name (bittersweet nightshade) is one of our most poisonous plants, despite being related to the tomato.Continue to 17 of 17 below.
17 of 17
There's more than one kind of "horsetail." Equisetum arvense is a thoroughly weedy-looking plant that will spread out of control if given a chance, even in dry soil. Equisetum hyemale, by contrast, is a more useful horsetail plant to the landscaper. It is an architectural plant that can be employed as an accent around water features. If given moist soil, it, too, will spread, so consider potting it up for use around water features so that you'll have firm control over it.
Brown, Sydney Park. Identification of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, and Poisonwood. EDIS New Publications RSS, Environmental Horticulture
Crabgrass. University of Maryland Extension
González-Castejón, Marta, et al. Diverse Biological Activities of Dandelion. Nutrition Reviews, vol. 70, no. 9, 2012, pp. 534–547., doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00509.x
Álvarez-Acosta, Thais, et al. Beneficial Role of Green Plantain [Musa Paradisiaca] in the Management of Persistent Diarrhea: A Prospective Randomized Trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 28, no. 2, 2009, pp. 169–176., doi:10.1080/07315724.2009.10719768
Chen, Kuan-Wei, et al. Ragweed Pollen Allergy: Burden, Characteristics, and Management of an Imported Allergen Source in Europe. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, vol. 176, no. 3-4, 2018, pp. 163–180., doi:10.1159/000487997
Ghosh, Balaram, et al. Cloning the CDNA Encoding the AmbtV Allergen from Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia Trifida) Pollen. Gene, vol. 101, no. 2, 1991, pp. 231–238., doi:10.1016/0378-1119(91)90416-9
Kikuchi, Masao, et al. Glycosides from Whole Plants of Glechoma Hederacea L. Journal of Natural Medicines, vol. 62, no. 4, 2008, pp. 479–480., doi:10.1007/s11418-008-0264-x
Uddin, Md. Kamal, et al. Purslane Weed (Portulaca Oleracea): A Prospective Plant Source of Nutrition, Omega-3 Fatty Acid, and Antioxidant Attributes. The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2014, 2014, pp. 1–6., doi:10.1155/2014/951019
Urtica Dioica. North Carolina State Extension
Guide to Poisonous Plants. Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Motz, Vicki Abrams, et al. The Effectiveness of Jewelweed, Impatiens Capensis, the Related Cultivar I. Balsamina and the Component, Lawsone in Preventing Post Poison Ivy Exposure Contact Dermatitis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 143, no. 1, 2012, pp. 314–318., doi:10.1016/j.jep.2012.06.038
Bittersweet Nightshade Identification and Control. King County
Common Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense). United States Department of Agriculture