By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
Even today, there are mysteries and riddles which defy understanding. One of those endless enigmas is the common names of objects or tangible things, especially some plant species.
Many plants have identifiers which accurately recognize their function as it relates to human contact. Two examples of locally common plants are purple nutsedge and sandspurs.
Purple nutsedge is a member of the sedge genus, does have a nutlet which produces plants, and has a purple tinge to the base of the main shoot where it emerges from the soil. Likewise, sandspurs commonly grow in sandy soils and produce seed covered with sharp spur-like spines.
These names leave no doubt in the mind of the listener and make identification, even for the inexperience, a simple task. There are, however, examples like doveweed.
Doveweed (Murdannia nudiflora) is an exotic invasive annual weed species which is a member of the dayflower family (Commelinaceae). Another member of this grouping is the native spiderwort.
It the past decade this weed has become a significant problem, especially in residential lawns and sod production. It rapidly invades warm-season grass species and few herbicides are capable of effectively controlling it.
Identifying doveweed in small infestations is difficult for most people because it blends so well with popular turfgrass species. This plant has a leaf width similar to St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass, both widespread lawn selections in Wakulla County.
Doveweed’s leaves are thick with a shiny, rubbery texture. They are attached to low-growing, creeping stems which are capable of producing roots from each node or joint.
This characteristic allows doveweed to be propagated from stem sections broken or torn off of viable plants. In many cases mowers will spread stem pieces inadvertently lodged on the equipment and disperse this weed to new sites.
Unlike St. Augustinegrass or centipede grass doveweed has small, but easily noticed flowers. This specie’s bloom has three purple, or occasionally blue, petals which starkly contrast to the green leaves.
The blossoms produce a fruit which appears as a spherical capsule and commonly holds three seeds. The tiny seed are dispersed by moving water and birds, but may be spread by lawn maintenance equipment.
Doveweed seeds germinate in spring when soil temperatures reach 65°F to 70°F. After sprouting growth will slow when temperatures fall below 70°F, but this is usually when seeds production begins.
Doveweed grows aggressively in wet areas so drainage issues or overwatering will favor the establishment and advance this pest’s hold on territory. Excessively damp conditions also limit turf growth, creating the perfect conditions for the displacement by this weed.
The summer of 2017 in Wakulla County as provided ideal growing condition for doveweed. This native of southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa has flourished in the ample rain, high humidity and sultry temperatures.
It is rare to eliminate a doveweed problem in a single year, especially when the population is well established and plant numbers are high. Doveweed seeds can survive in the soil for several years making doveweed removal at least a two to three year effort.
The eradication project will include herbicide applications, soil moisture control, and correct mowing techniques. Hopefully the doves will collaborate with the effort to clear their name and reputation of this unjust taint.
To learn more about doveweed in Wakulla County contact the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/.
Featured image by JerryFriedman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons