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Common Weeds in Central Virginia


Bittercress has unique foliage that makes it is easy to identify among other container weeds. The leaflets on the foliage have a club shape, evident here on even small seedlings. Leaves of bittercress seedlings are often simple, while leaves that develop later are generally compound.


Virginia buttonweed is a prostrate-growing perennial with branching hairy stems. The leaves are elongated, lance-shaped and grow opposite one another on the stems and are joined by a membrane. Virginia buttonweed prefers moist, wet conditions. The tubular flowers of Virginia buttonweed are white to purplish, and grow in the leaf axis along the stem. Flowers resemble four-pointed stars. Virginia buttonweed spreads by seed and plant segments.


Common chickweed, a winter annual, is a low-growing, succulent weed that often spreads out in extensive mats. It may survive summer in shady, cool areas that offer sufficient moisture and occurs year-round along the California coast. Seed leaves have prominent midveins and are about four times as long as broad, tapering to a point at the tip. True leaves are broader, opposite, and yellow green. Chickweed mats may cover a large area. Stems are trailing, weak, and slender, with a line of hairs down the side. Mature leaves are ovate and opposite on the stem. Flowers are small but showy with five deeply cut white petals.


White clover is a perennial with trifoliate leaves, stems that root at the nodes, and white flowers. Leaves are composed of 3 leaflets (trifoliate). Each leaflet is egg-shaped, widest at the apex, 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches long, and has an indentation at the apex. Leaflets usually have a lighter green or white 'V-shaped' marking close to their base and a slightly toothed margin. Each trifoliate leaf occurs on a 1-3 inch petiole. Flowers occur on flower stalks (peduncles) that arise from the leaf axils. Each rounded flower head is round or globular in outline, approximately 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches long, and consists of 20-40 individual white flowers.


The dandelion has a thick tap root, dark brown, almost black on the outside though white and milky within. The long jagged leaves rise directly, radiating from it to form a rosette lying close upon the ground. The shining, purplish flower-stalks rise straight from the root, are leafless, smooth and hollow and bear single heads of flowers. Dandelion seeds are carried away by the wind and travel like tiny parachutes. A strong wind can carry the seeds miles away from the parent plant.


Henbit is a winter annual with square stems and pink-purple flowers, reaching 16 inches in height. Its leaves are opposite, reaching 5 inches in length, circular to heart-shaped, with hairs on the upper leaf surfaces and along the veins of the lower surface. Leaf margins have rounded teeth. Stems root at the lower nodes, are square in cross section and are covered with downward-pointing hairs. Flowers are pink to purple in color and are fused into a tube approximately 2/3 inch long.


Lespedeza is a prostrate, freely-branched summer annual with inconspicuous purplish flowers forming mats 15 to 18 inches in diameter. Found throughout the southeast. Lespedeza has a strong, firm taproot. Its leaves consist of 3 oblong leaflets (trifoliolate), 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and 1/3 to 1/2 as wide, obtuse at apex, narrowed at the base. The stems are also firm and woody.


A perennial with trifoliate leaves and yellow flowers. Its leaves are arranged alternately along the stem, long-petiolated, and divided into 3 heart-shaped leaflets. Leaf margins are smooth but fringed with hairs. The stems are green to pink, weak, branched at base. The flowers occur in clusters that arise from long stalks at the leaf axils. Individual flowers consist of 5 yellow petals. The roots are long, slender rhizomes occur with a fibrous root system.


Plantain is a perennial. It grows in a basal rosette with broad oval leaves. Its roots are fibrous with a strong taproot. Its leaves are smooth or slightly hairy, oval to elliptic, with a waxy surface and veins that are parallel to the margins. Margins are untoothed and sometimes wavy. Flowers produced on unbranched stalks (scapes) that arise from the rosette. Flowering stems are 5-15 inches long, clustered with small flowers that have whitish petals and bracts surrounding the flowers.


Speedwell is a winter annual that germinates in mid-fall. Speedwells have a short tap root to fibrous root systems and branching upright stems. The lower leaves are near round with toothed margins. The upper leaves are more pointed. The plant is covered with fine hairs. Corn Speedwell flowers are small and white to blue in color. The flowers are found in the leaf axis and the seed develops into a distinctive heart shape.

Spotted Spurge

Spotted spurge is a summer annual. While similar to prostate spurge, there are several subtle differences in the two varieties. Spotted spurge has a more erect growth habit than prostrate spurge. Its leaves are small and oblong shaped with an irregular red to purple spot in the center. The leaves grow opposite on the stem. Spurge contains a milky sap in the stem. The flower of spotted spurge is small and green in color. It germinates in mid spring and flowers from June to September.

Wild Geranium

Wild geranium, also called Carolina geranium, is a semi-erect winter annual. The erect stems are branching and covered with hair. The alternate leaves are on long petioles and are divided into segmented leaflets which are blunt toothed. The flowers have 5 white to pink petals and form in clusters. The seed forms in a fruit capsule that forms a "storks bill."

Wild Onion - Wild Garlic

Wild onion and wild garlic are both winter perennials. The leaves are waxy, upright and needle shaped growing 8-12 inches long. The leaves of wild garlic are hollow and round and have a strong odor. The leaves of wild onion are solid and flat and appear directly from the bulb. Both plants grow from underground bulbs. The membrane-coated bulbs of wild garlic are flattened on one side and have bulblets. Wild onion bulbs are white inside with a strong odor and are covered with a fibrous, scaly coat. The white to light green flowers of wild garlic develop on short stems above aerial bulbs. Wild onion does not have a stem; white to pink flowers with six elliptical segments. Both wild onion and wild garlic spread by bulbs, seed and bulblets. Both plants flower from April through June.

Wild Violet

Wild violet is a winter perennial, growing 2 - 5 inches tall. It can have a tap root or a fibrous root system, and also can produce rooting stolons and rhizomes. The leaves can vary but usually are heart shaped, on long petioles with scalloped to shallow rounded margins. The flowers of wild violet range from white to blue to purple and appear from March to June. Wild violet flowers are pansy-like with three lower petals and two lateral petals on long single flower stalks.


RICHMOND: 804 285 6200 | WILLIAMSBURG: 757 258 1788 | CHARLOTTESVILLE: 434 975 0100
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