Questions From The Plant Clinic: Dollarweed
Dollarweed is a common issue in Florida lawns and gardens. This week Master Gardener and Master Naturalist Don Philpott (firstname.lastname@example.org) discusses what you can do to get rid of dollarweed, and why you might consider keeping it! Read Don’s other articles [here].
When the weeds talk to us we should listen
There is no such thing as a weed, it is simply a plant growing where we don’t want it. The appearance of many of these plants, however, can be nature’s way of trying to tell us something.
Take Dollarweed (a member of the Apiaceae family, Hydrocotyle genus*) for instance, one of the most common ‘weeds’ found in lawns in Central Florida. Also known as pennywort (wort is an old English word for plant), dollarweed gets its name from its round leaves about the size of a dollar coin.
If you have dollarweed take heed – because its presence is likely a sign that you are doing something wrong in the garden. You may be over watering so check your irrigation and make sure the areas where the dollarweed is growing are not getting too much water. Adjust your sprinkler heads if necessary or reduce the amount of time that you irrigate. Dollarweed thrives in moist growing conditions so there may be a drainage problem. Check for puddling and see how damp the soil is. Cutting the grass too short can also allow dollarweed to take a hold as can over fertilizing.
An edible solution to dollarweed
The good news is that if you do have dollarweed it is edible. Provided no chemicals have been applied to your lawn, you can eat your way out of the problem. Wash if necessary and served with salads – the leaves are less bitter than the stems. Powdered dollarweed is sold in health food stores for sprinkling on food or used for an herbal tea. It can even be fermented to make a ‘kraut’ or ‘kimchee’.
One reason why the edible solution is a good one is that it is also good for the environment. There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the U.S. – four times the acreage under corn – and 80% of all homes have grass lawns. Over 50% of water used in the U.S. goes towards irrigation, about 30% on watering of lawns.
The average homeowner will spend 150 hours a year maintaining their lawn. Homeowners also spend around 3 billion hours annually mowing lawns, according to Bloomberg. Each year 250,000 people – 17,000 of them children – are injured using lawn mowers – three times the number injured by firearms, said the U.S. Council on Consumer Product Safety.
According to the EPA, every year Americans buy about 70 million pounds of chemical fertilizer to keep lawns lush, and over 32,000 lbs. of pesticides are used on lawns – at a cost of $2.2 billion. Per acre, it costs more to maintain a lawn than it does to grow corn, rice or sugarcane.
Next time you’re looking for a solution for your dollarweed problem, keep in mind that a change in practices can produce better results long term. If you get a little peckish from all that yard work, you can always try to eat the weeds.
You can read more about chemical controls of dollarweed [here]. Remember, if you aren’t 100% sure of a plant I.D., have a professional identify it for you before eating it! Never eat a plant you do not have a positive I.D. on, the results can be deadly.
Contact the Plant Clinic
The Seminole County Master Gardener Plant Clinic is open Monday – Friday from 9am-Noon and 1pm-4pm. For more information on how to contact a Master Gardener about your gardening questions, visit our website at this [LINK].
Edit: 3/23/2020 Thanks to Mari for the correction on Family vs. Genus!