Mystery weed!

Asked May 14, 2019, 9:35 PM EDT

Hello from Murdo! I have so, so, so much of this weed growing in my empty lot next door. I have been trying to identify it so I can remove it correctly. I THINK it might be Ceratocephala testicular but that is strictly an uneducated guess. I have attached photos and would greatly appreciate any help you could give me in identifying and eradicating it. Thanks so much~Deb Byrd

Jones County South Dakota

1 Response

This is indeed bur buttercup (Ceratocephala testiculata). Good job on identifying it correctly. It is an early spring flowering, low-growing winter annual that usually flowers once temperatures reach the mid-40s to 50°F in the spring. While the flowers are yellow, the flowers in the second image you posted are actually dandelions. It then quickly sets seed by the first part of May. The seed are in the little “burs” that develop on the plant and give the plant its name. The plants are quite small, usually reaching no more than an inch or two in height. The flowers are only about 1/4” across and mature into a spiny fruit, which can be quite painful to step on while barefoot. It also tends to grow in large mats containing many individual plants. It can be a tough one to control.

I would recommend using combination weed control product in the fall or glyphosate, if you do not have other plants mixed in you want to save. They will be much more effective on the young seedlings in fall than in the spring. It grows best in areas where it doesn’t have a lot of competition, so if that empty lot does not have grass growing in it, it is more likely to do well there. Often this weed will be growing along the sidewalks, in pathways or in other sites with compacted soil. The other side of the problem is that with this well-established population of plants, it will likely continue to be a problem for years to come, unless something more competitive is planted in that lot. But I imagine keeping grass green and competitive can be a challenge in Murdo at times as well.