Tall Grass Weed With Seeds On Top

Having a difficult time identifying lawn weeds that look like grass? I've rounded up a list of common grass-like weeds to help you ID weeds in your lawn. 13 Common Weeds that Look Like Grass in Your Lawn Lawns can be attacked by all kinds of invaders, including insects, fungi and weeds. Some of those weeds can even resemble grass, but they are

List of Common Weeds That Look Like Grass

You’ve been working hard on cultivating the perfectly manicured lawn, taking all the necessary steps to plant seed or sod, fertilize, and mow appropriately. Despite your best efforts, there seem to be patches of your lawn that don’t match the rest. There are some common weeds that look like grass which tend to blend in with a lawn and thus can be more difficult to identify and target when compared to the average dandelion.

In this article I’ll help you identify these grass-like weeds and offer advice for how to combat and eliminate them from your lawn.

Common Weeds That Look Like Grass

Click to jump to a specific weed that resembles grass

Crabgrass

Also known as finger grasses, crabgrass can be an invasive type of weed that looks very much like grass.

It often sprouts in smaller patches throughout your lawn and has a distinctly coarse texture compared to the rest of your lawn. Thankfully, crabgrass is an annual plant so it only survives for the season and then dies.

That said, it spreads quickly, and because of its thick blades and lateral growth, it can quickly do permanent damage to your lawn by crowding out and smothering the grass surrounding it.

This is why it’s important to be vigilant and act right away if you see crabrass in your lawn.

The best way to get rid of crabgrass is by preventing its germination using a pre-emergent herbicide that can be commonly found in combination with fertilizer that you can spread in early spring.

Once crabgrass has germinated, the best way to get rid of it is by pulling it or using a direct herbicide for your lawn.

Thankfully, crabgrass is not perennial so it is relatively easy to get rid of it with some diligence, and once you improve your lawn the canopy will be too dense for crabgrass to grow.

Wild garlic and onion

While it looks very much like a tall grass, wild onion and wild garlic are very fragrant and thus these grass-like weeds are pretty unmistakable once you get close enough to smell them.

If you finish mowing and it smells like you’ve been making pasta sauce, there’s a good chance you have some wild onion and/or wild garlic hiding in your lawn.

Wild onion and wild garlic also become noticeable as they grow faster than regular grass and quickly surpass the height of your lawn.

They grow in clumps, so if you have them, the rate of growth and growth habit make them pretty easy to identify.

For those who love garlic and onion as an addition to many dishes, this may be more of a fortuitous find (transplant them!). However, even the biggest garlic fans probably don’t want a swath of it in the middle of their lawn.

Thankfully, these weeds that resemble grass tend to only grow in early spring and late fall, becoming dormant in the summer season.

To remove them from your yard, dig them up (I recommend transferring them to a pot or herb garden) – just make sure to get bulb and all, or they’ll come back.

Herbicides will also work to kill wild garlic and onion, just make sure to check the label of the product your purchase to ensure that wild garlic and onion are included in the list of weeds it treats.

Nutsedge

Before it matures and blooms, nutsedge can look much like a tall grass.

Unlike crabgrass, Nutsedge is a perennial weed that can be quite invasive and difficult to get under control due to its hardy root systems.

It can also be spread throughout your lawn (or from a neighbor’s lawn) both by airborne seeds as well as underground rhizomes or tubers. It will continue to come back year after year unless you get it under control.

Sort of like fight club, the first rule of Nutsedge is not to pull Nutsedge.

If you try to combat it by pulling it, you’re likely to leave behind tubers or rhizomes that will end up sprouting.

One of the most effective ways to prevent Nutsedge is to grow a thick and hardy lawn that will crowd out Nutsedge, and prevent this invasive grass-like weed from being able to properly root and grow those rhizomes and tubers that make it so invasive.

But if you have it, recommending that you hop in your time machine and take steps to prevent it doesn’t help you.

If you have Nutsedge in your lawn, there are specific herbicides that can be applied directly to the base of Nutsedge to kill the entire plant including the underground components, and while I always recommend an organic approach when I can, in this case this will be your best course of action.

Common couch

Another common weed that looks like grass is couch grass or common couch.

Sometimes referred to as quack grass, this is another invasive species that is hardy and can propagate quickly in your lawn via rhizomes as part of a complex and fibrous root system.

This makes it hard to pull in its entirety.

It also spreads via airborne seeds, thus being able to travel longer distances and quickly find a home in thin lawns.

Similar to many of the other grass-like weeds, prevention by crowding out seeds is the most effective way to prevent these species from invading, which is why proper and regular lawn maintenance and improvement are always my best defense against lawn weeds.

Green foxtail

This weed gets its name from the appearance of the mature heads that bloom on these grass-like stalks. The heads look like small fuzzy foxtails!

They can grow anywhere from 10cm to 100cm tall and are very common in prairies and meadows. Despite its cute name, it is an invasive species that can be quite problematic, especially for farmers, and a nuisance to lawn owners everywhere.

This hardy annual plant with hundreds of seeds per foxtail plume spreads easily, as these seeds can travel great distances with enough wind.

Despite how hardy these lawn weeds are once established, they are quite a picky species when it comes to germinating. They prefer moist soil and are easily crowded out by densely planted lawns or fields.

Green Foxtail also prefers warmer soil in the range of 15 to 35 degrees Celsius (59-95 degrees Fahrenheit), but this weed can germinate at any point in the season as long as conditions are favorable.

Like most lawn weeds, Green Foxtail can be controlled with some herbicidal solutions, but the best way to prevent this invasive species is by crowding it out with a thick, healthy lawn.

Smooth bromegrass

Another hardy perennial, Smooth Bromegrass, is highly adaptable and it is able to grow even in cold conditions and survive for quite a long time once established.

Like Nutsedge, Bromegrass can grow rhizomes underground through intricate root systems, which will help it to spread across your lawn quickly … especially if your lawn is thin.

These qualities make it an invasive species that can easily get out of control.

However, Bromegrass serves an important purposes as hay and grazing fields for livestock and it can also help to prevent soil erosion due to this strong root system.

Despite these qualities, most homeowners probably don’t want it in their lawn. To control and eliminate Smooth Bromegrass in your lawn, I recommend mowing it down low and attempting to crowd it out with a thick, healthy lawn canopy. In a worse-case scenario, you should opt for an application of herbicide designed to target this grass-like weed.

See also  Goat Head Weed Seeds

Slender rush

Also known as “poverty rush” or “path rush”, this grass-like perennial tends to grow in clumps, which is similar to crabgrass.

It is propagated by above-ground seeds as well as below-ground tubers that form with the help of the root system. The deeper root structure with rhizome propagation makes slender rush a particularly invasive species to get under control in lawns, because it can still be present even if you can’t necessarily see it yet.

Herbicides are not usually an effective way to control slender rush.

Manual weed management tends to be the most effective way of dealing with this invasive weed that looks like grass. This can involve pulling weeds by hand. Do so carefully, and be sure to get the root system as well.

The other options is a mowing routine that doesn’t allow for the plant to mature and spread seeds above ground.

Tall fescue

You’ve likely heard this species discussed in the context of a grass, however it is an invasive perennial that has characteristics of a weed, particularly if your lawn is primarily a different type of turfgrass.

Similar to some of the other species discussed above, tall fescue has the ability to propagate via rhizomes underneath the ground. It is highly drought resistant, and in areas where it has been planted it has often taken over, crowding out other species of grass.

If you wanted to get rid of tall fescue grass that has run wild in your yard, you’d probably have to solarize it. Solarizing involves covering up large areas of grass to deprive it of sunlight and also increase the heat underneath the tarp so that it kills everything underneath.

Herbicides could also be used, but it would take a large amount which could get costly and be harmful to the environment, so I recommend solarizing tall fescue.

Restoring Lawn and Order

It’s interesting to compare various grass-like weeds and perennials that are less desirable than the perfectly manicured lawn.

Eliminating Weeds That Look Like Grass

Careful selection of grass species is important in establishing a lawn.

It’s also possible to crowd out many of these invasive species by planting additional grass seed seasonally (overseeding) to create a thick and lush lawn.

Pre-emergent methods can also be an effective backup method of prevention, and using a pre-emergent every spring for several years as you overseed, fertilize, and use proper irrigation to improve your lawn can help to create that thick, dense lawn canopy that will prevent weeds from taking root in your grass.

Finally, spot treatment with the appropriate herbicide can nip any problematic weeds in the bud.

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by Sarah The Lawn Chick

I’ve learned to love caring for my lawn naturally and enjoying it daily. On this blog I’ll share some of my best tips and tutorials to help you make your lawn the best on the block!

16 thoughts on “ List of Common Weeds That Look Like Grass ”

Need help with naming an invasive looking weed that has leaves that look like a rocket, long thick body with small wings. It’s overtaking my raised beds. I have a photo.

I’ll see if I recognize it! Email me a photo (my first name @ lawnchick.com)

Hello Sarah,
I have a few new spring weed grasses popping up that I didn’t see last year. Are you ok with sending the pics to your email for your opinion?

Thank you
Brian

Sure, Brian – I may not get back to you until this weekend but I’ll take a look as soon as I can!

Hi Sarah!
I just discovered your website/posts while researching ‘weeds that look like grass’. I breed, raise and train springers which are flushing dogs. Recently, I came back from an excursion and one of my springers got a ‘grass thorn’ stuck in her paw. I always check for these things but somehow I missed this one. Nasty little thing but it was removed and after treatment, my dog was right-as-rain!
I was researching lawns / grasses etc. as I’m planning to re-do my yard, making it more ‘dog friendly’. I was shocked to learn that Tall Fescue grass is considered an invasive weed on your website. This was the grass that was ‘highly recommended’ for those who have dogs. As I’m not keen on putting anything in that resembles bamboo in it’s underground system (I’ve had a 30 yr battle with this horrific stuff), can you suggest anything else? Any information you may provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the comment. Springers are great dogs!

There are a LOT of different types of fescue, and as with any grass … what some consider a weed, others consider the foundation of a beautiful lawn. If you like the characteristics of fescue, I’d recommend you consider Turf Type Tall Fescue. It’s an improved variety designed for lawns and something I think you’ll be really happy with if you’re determined to go with a single type of grass for your yard.

You can read more about all of your options for Fescue here, and I have a comparison of TTTF and Kentucky Bluegrass which you may find interesting here.

You also may be interested in my article about how to grow grass with dogs that love to destroy it, which has some good tips on maintaining your lawn with four-legged friends. You can check that one out here.

Finally, I’d suggest that it might be a good idea to get a blend of grass seed, with whatever you settle on as the primary seed. I’m in New England and my lawn is a mix of Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and a few different fescues. Getting a seed blend that’s made for your area will give you good results, and provide good coverage in different areas of your lawn (full sun, part shade, shade, wet, dry, etc.). I think that’s easier to maintain than having to baby a single type of grass on parts of your property where growing conditions might not be ideal. With a blend of seed you allow different grasses to become dominant where the conditions are best suited for them, and your whole lawn looks and feels healthier.

Hope this helps – good luck!

Hi Sarah! Thank you so very much for all your help! This is the most information I have ever received! I love the idea of mixing grass seed … this could be a very good solution. My lawn is not very big … I have four ESS and of course they have worn paths to their various ‘barking stations’ ! The lawn is basically sunny and has thrived well. But, over time, some of the grass has worn despite my best efforts at ‘re-seeding’. I was relieved to learn that there are many types of Tall Fescue Grass. I would really like to see some great photos of lawns using this variety: google just doesn’t cut it!
Again, thanks so much Sarah. I live in BC., Canada so our climate is quite different from yours. Fortunately, living in the southern part (coast), we experience quite a mild climate, lots of rain in the winter with very little snow and our summer highs almost never reach higher than 34C. I will take all your suggestions under advisement and begin my research pronto!

You bet, Sharleen! Good luck and have fun with your project!

I have an area of lawn that has really compact soil, where a portion of the section gets scorching sun and the remainder is covered in shade. This year, I’ve tried growing Bermuda grass, but that is only taking somewhat in the sunny area. It has been so bad for so long that I’m now researching “weeds that look like lawns” that I can plant in this area and just be done with it! We are in central Virginia and have hot/humid summers and still some winter.

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The transition zone can be tough for grass for some of the reasons you’ve outlined here. I’d try the Combat Extreme Transition Zone seed blend from Outside Pride. I’d plant it in September to give it the best chance of success so it can establish itself as things start to cool down in your area and it can build roots and come back strong and healthy for next season. The Outside Pride website has a calculator specific to this seed that will tell you exactly how much you’ll need to order and spread (I’d go a bit heavy, but that’s me). Here’s a link to an article with some resources to measure the lawn area you plan to re-seed so you’ll know exactly how much you need. I’d give this one (or one like it) a try before you throw in the towel. You need a good blend that can take sun and shade, and a fescue blend should be best for you as it’ll have the deep roots needed to withstand your summer heat.

Do you know what species prefer weeds to monocultures? All pollinators! Please consider why you feel you need a vast monoculture of grass in the first place.

Totally agree with you – I have huge perennial beds filled with native, pollinator-friendly plants that are in flower from spring through late fall for exactly this reason. I’m of the mindset that you can create a beautiful lawn for your family to enjoy while also supporting pollinators.

I have quite a few resources on this site that address this subject, as well. Here are a couple you may enjoy:

Thanks for your comment!

I just happened upon your website, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with those of us who want weeds diminished in our lawns. Is there a specific herbicide that we should consider in dealing with nutsedge? Thanks for your attention to this matter. Frank

I’d try the Ortho Nutsedge product. It’s probably something that’s available locally, but you can also get it online (Amazon link). I like it because it comes ready-to-use in a hose-end sprayer. For those of us who don’t really like mixing herbicides, that’s a benefit.

As with any herbicide, I recommend testing it out in a small area before you spray it all over your lawn just to be sure it’s effective and that it isn’t going to kill your turfgrass in addition to the Nutsedge and cause a big headache for you.

We’re trying to identify a grass-like plant in our lawn (we’re in New Hampshire). I think it looks like a flat circle of knives. Pretty, but not the nice soft grass you’d want to walk through barefoot.

We have a picture that we can send.

I’ll see if I recognize it! Email me a photo (my first name @ lawnchick.com)

13 Common Weeds that Look Like Grass in Your Lawn

Lawns can be attacked by all kinds of invaders, including insects, fungi and weeds. Some of those weeds can even resemble grass, but they are still unwelcome arrivals since they can damage areas of your lawn or even kill it.

At first, grass-like weeds might not be easy to spot, and you may mistake them for part of your lawn – so to help, here are 13 weeds that look like grass to help you identify and deal with them quickly and efficiently.

If you want to learn about all the weeds that can grow in your lawn – including some we talk about below – you can check out this video before reading on.

List of Weeds that Look Like Grass

1. Crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis and Digitaria ischaemum)

One of the most common lawn invaders you may come across is crabgrass. Crabgrasses are also known as fingergrasses and belong to genus Digitaria.

In the northern US, the most prevalent species is Digitaria sanguinalis, commonly known as large crabgrass. In the southern half, Digitaria ischaemum, also known as smooth crabgrass, is more frequently encountered.

Crabgrasses thrive in sparse lawns that are lightly watered, unfertilized and poorly drained. They are annual, so they die out each year at the start of winter, but each plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds a year, which germinate the following spring.

When it dies, crabgrass can leave unsightly areas of dead grass in your lawn, but it is easy to deal with. If you reseed your grass and ensure your lawn is watered, fertilized and in good health, crabgrass won’t be able to compete and so won’t return the following spring.

However, once it takes root, it can spread rapidly throughout your lawn if you don’t act. To combat it, pull it up by hand when it appears or simply keep cutting it to prevent it from seeding. Alternatively, you can also consider turning to herbicide for more serious infestations.

Identification: Crabgrass looks very similar to regular grass, although it grows in clumps and has a thicker, less attractive look. It can reach around 20 inches in height if left to grow.

To see the difference between crabgrass, quackgrass and tall fescue, give this video a quick watch.

2. Annual bluegrass (Poa annua)

Annual bluegrass is a common problem in North American lawns. This weed likes cool, moist climates, and it commonly grows in areas of lawns that are shaded by trees.

It is related to Kentucky bluegrass but has a lighter, brighter green shade. You can also identify it by the long ligule (membrane) holding the base of the leaf to the stem.

The best course of action is to ensure you don’t provide it with the conditions it enjoys, so avoid creating the shaded, moist environment in which it thrives. If you see some growing, you can treat it with herbicides; pre-emergent herbicides also exist to prevent its return.

Identification: Look for the light, bright green color and the long ligule that attaches the leaf to the stem.

3. Common couch (Elymus repens)

Common couch, Elymus repens, also goes by several other names, including couchgrass and quackgrass. A perennial weed that is equally at home in the sun or the shade, it is a hardy species that spreads via rhizomes, and it has a tough root system, making it difficult to remove.

It will probably arrive in your lawn as airborne seeds, and it likes to make its home in sparse, unhealthy lawns, so the best way of deterring it is ensuring your lawn is always in good health.

When you see it growing in your lawn, you can dig it up by hand – but you need to pull out every last piece, or anything left in the soil will regenerate, and you will quickly find yourself dealing with a new growth.

If left unchallenged, it will spread quickly throughout your lawn, so you should deal with it as soon as you notice its presence.

Identification: Look out for course patches of blue-green grass with finger-like leaves growing around the stems.

4. Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus and Cyperus rotundus)

Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) and purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus) are two weeds you really don’t want in your lawn. They can arrive either by air via seeds or below ground via rhizomes or tubers, and as a perennial weed, once it’s in, it’s extremely hard to get out.

The problem is, since it will regrow from any fragments you leave in the ground, pulling it up won’t help – and may even make the problem worse.

The best plan is to keep your lawn lush and healthy so nutsedge can’t move in in the first place. However, once it’s there, you’ll probably need to turn to herbicides to kill it and prevent it from returning.

Identification: Young nutsedge can look very similar to regular grass and has a light green color. However, it is easy to identify by the nut-like tubers on its roots that give it its name.

5. Yellow salsify (Tragopogon dubius)

Native to southern and central Europe and western Asia, this weed is now also present in North America, where it is considered an invasive species.

See also  Starting Weed Seeds With Led Lights

Yellow salsify, also known as western salsify, enjoys sunny areas, and as it grows, it develops yellow flowers, which are followed by large puffballs.

If you mulch your garden and lawn and keep your lawn healthy, this weed won’t be able to establish itself. If it does, you can simply pull it out, and you can also cook and eat the roots, which are said to have a flavor reminiscent of oysters!

Identification: Before it flowers, look for course gray-green leaves. Later, when it develops its yellow flowers or white puffballs, it will become more obvious which species you are dealing with.

6. Green and yellow foxtails (Setaria viridis and Setaria pumila)

Named for their resemblance to foxtails, these grass-like weeds are another annoyance often faced by lawn owners. One problem is that those fluffy-looking foxtails contain hundreds of seeds ready to spread the species throughout your lawn and the rest of your garden.

As with many of the weeds that like to invade lawns, foxtails can be kept at bay simply by keeping your grass healthy. Where grass is thriving, it won’t be able to get a foothold, and this is the best solution.

If it does manage to take root, you can simply pull it out or even just leave it to die since it is an annual rather than perennial weed. Once it dies, take steps to improve the health of your lawn because if your grass is thick and lush, foxtails won’t be able to return the following year.

7. Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense)

If left to its own devices, johnsongrass can reach heights of up to seven feet – although most homeowners are unlikely to allow this to happen in the middle of their lawn.

It is a perennial weed, but you can deal with it relatively easily just by digging it up or by dousing it in vinegar.

Another solution for larger patches is tilling the soil to expose the rhizomes to the cold of the winter, which will kill them – though of course, you will have to reseed the following year.

Identification: In its early stages, johnsongrass resembles corn seedlings. Later, you can identify it by leaves up to an inch in thickness with a white vein running down the center.

8. Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)

This perennial grass species is sometimes planted deliberately and is a popular choice for putting greens and fairways on golf courses in the northern US.

However, it can also invade lawns, spreading through stolons and appearing as light patches in your grass. It doesn’t like too much heat and will turn brown when the temperature starts to rise.

If you are invaded by creeping bentgrass, the best option is to turn to a suitable herbicide to kill it off.

Identification: This is a species that can be spotted as light patches of fine grass in your lawn. If you let it grow taller than an inch, it will start to take on a puffy appearance.

9. Smooth bromegrass (Bromus ramosus ramosus)

Another tricky customer that is best avoided, smooth bromegrass can rapidly take over a lawn if you don’t do anything to stop it. This is because of its dense root system and its ability to spread via rhizomes – and once it’s established, you’ll have trouble getting rid of it.

However, it will struggle if mown short and crowded out by the grass of your lawn, so if you make sure the grass you want growing is healthy and thriving, it will defeat the bromegrass on its own. On the other hand, for more extensive growths, effective herbicides also exist.

Identification: If left to grow, this weed can reach between three and seven feet in height. It features long, drooping leaves that can be between eight and 20 inches in length and that are covered in fine hairs.

10. Carpetgrass (Axonopus compresus and Axonopus affinis)

These two related perennial species grow in thick mats and can reach up to 12 inches in height. They prefer moist, shaded areas with acidic soils – to kill them, you can use a quarter of a cup of salt mixed in a gallon of water or a treatment of lime to lower the acidity of the soil.

Identification: Look for thick mats of grass-like growth of a medium green color. In summer, look for tall seed heads that look similar to those produced by crabgrass.

11. Path rush (Juncus tenuis)

This weed can grow up to 24 inches and is also known as slender rush, field rush, slender yard rush and poverty rush. It spreads underground via rhizomes, making it a challenge to get under control once present.

Herbicides are not effective against this unwelcome arrival, so you’ll need to get on your hands and knees and pull it up manually. When you do this, try to pull up the whole root system in one go to stop it regenerating from pieces left underground.

Another option is to keep your lawn mown short, which will prevent it from sending out seeds – although as a perennial, it may keep growing back from the roots still in the ground.

Identification: In the early stages, look for clumps of grass-like weeds. The leaves all grow from the base while the stems are partly covered by sheaths and have distinctive cymes, clusters of branches holding seeds, on top.

12. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

This long-lived perennial is another species of grass that is commonly used for lawns – but that can also arrive uninvited to take over if not controlled properly. The properties of this grass that make it such a great option for lawns are also what make it a formidable weed.

It is a hardy species that spreads via rhizomes and is resistant to drought, making it difficult to vanquish once present. Your best option is smothering it, covering it with tarp, cardboard, newspaper or something similar and letting it die through lack of sunlight.

Identification: This grass is characterized by thick, wide leaves featuring pronounced veins the whole length of the leaf. The edges of the blades feel rough to the touch, and the bottom of the leaf is a lighter color than the top.

13. Goosegrass (Eleusine indica)

This small but invasive grass prefers warmer climates and is named for the shape of the strands that spread out in the shape of a goose’s foot.

It is capable of moving into disturbed areas of lawns, especially where the soil is compacted and in full sunlight. This means the best preventative action is ensuring your lawn is well aerated and drains well. It can survive being mown closely and will still produce seeds.

The use of herbicides is an option for removing it from lawns, but some strains have become resistant to herbicides.

Identification: Goosegrass is easy to identify by the distinctive strands at the top, which can number from two to ten.

To see how to tell the difference between goosegrass and crabgrass, check out this video.

Prevention is better than cure

As you have probably noticed, most of these grass-like weeds become established when they find lawns that are in poor health. This allows them to move in and spread, and once they are there, they can often be tough to remove.

For this reason, you can stop them in their tracks by ensuring your lawn is always in good health and well cared for. However, if these grassy weeds do make your lawn their home, you need to identify them quickly and remove them to prevent them from propagating further.