If you've ever been stumped by a weed in your lawn, you're not alone. Weed identification can be tricky, especially for homeowners who aren't experts in the field. One of the most common lawn weeds is Asiatic hawksbeard. This weed can be difficult to identify because it shares characteristics with several other plants. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about Asiatic hawksbeard: what it looks like, where it grows, when it blooms, how it spreads, and how to control it!
Asiatic hawksbeard is a warm-season, annual, broadleaf weed that is generally considered a nuisance more than an ecological threat. Though the name is certainly quite unique (if not a bit odd), Asiatic hawksbeard is slowly becoming one of the more common weeds found in Louisiana lawns.
Known by its scientific name, Youngia japonica, Asiatic Hawksbeard is native to Asia, and it is within the same family as flowers like daisies or sunflowers. Today, this weed is found all over the world, especially in humid climates like ours. Other weeds have similar appearances and even share the "hawksbeard" nickname, but there are a few key differences that can help you differentiate this common lawn weed from other weeds.
The most easily identifiable attribute of Asiatic hawksbeard is its flowers. These yellow-to-orange flowers are found in clusters near the top of its stem. These flowers very closely resemble dandelion flowers, so it is important to know what else to look for to help you differentiate this weed from similar ones. The flowers typically bloom during late spring or early summer and can remain on the plant for several months.
Asiatic hawksbeard grows anywhere from a few inches to a few feet and has a simple, upright form. In residential lawns, most of these weeds you encounter will not be more than a few inches to less that 1 foot tall. Its leaves are usually light green or yellowish in color and have a jagged or lobed shape, especially closer to the base of the plant. The leaves sit close to the ground and grow alternately along the stem. The lower leaves are much larger than those at the top and have jagged edges.
Asiatic hawksbeard also produces seeds that measure about 5mm long and resemble tiny rectangles when viewed with a magnifying glass. Much like the yellow flowers produced by this weed, the seedhead that emerges looks somewhat similar to a dandelion's seedhead. Luckily, these can be easily differentiated, as dandelions have much more full and robust seedheads.
Asiatic hawksbeard is a summer annual, but it can grow at any time of year in ideal conditions. In our region, it typically germinates in late spring and can survive until the first frost of winter. However, this resilient weed is also known to survive more mild winters in warmer areas, so it is not always a guarantee that it will die every year.
This weed generally thrives in warm, humid climates and prefers partial to full sun. It has a high tolerance for drought, a mild tolerance for cold, and it is adaptable to many different soil types, making it a problem for lawns all across the country! It is most commonly found in lawns that are watered regularly or near irrigation systems. Asiatic hawksbeard will even grow in compacted soils, clayey soils, and sandy soils. This weed is infamous for its rapid rate of spreading, so knowing where to look for it is the best way to start controlling the spread.
Asiatic hawksbeard spreads almost exclusively through its seed production, as each plant produces thousands of seeds every year; however, some species of the Youngia genus do occasionally sprout new plants from fragmented stems or roots. In general, though, Asiatic hawksbeard relies on its puffy white seedheads to set seed every summer and spread new weeds. In fact, though Asiatic hawksbeard is mostly considered a nuisance weed, it is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the fastest-spreading weeds in the South!
The slightest touch against these cotton-like seedheads is all it takes to spread this weed. Lawn mowers, foot traffic, and critters running around your yard are just a few examples of how easily this weed spreads its seeds. A single mature plant can flower, set seed, and drop old blooms all at the same time, which can make controlling them a bit more difficult than it would be when the weed is in the earlier stages of its development.
If you have read any of our other blog posts about weeds in Louisiana, then you are probably tired of reading this, but it bears repeating -- PREVENTION IS KEY! Once Asiatic hawksbeard sets its seeds, the problem is only going to get worse. But, because this weed only spreads vis seed dispersal, preventing the spread is actually quite doable!