Lush Green Yard Care Blog

What Is Goosegrass?

identifying goosegrass

Goosegrass (Eleusine indica) is a warm-season annual weed that commonly infests lawns in Colorado. It’s known by a variety of names, including crowfootgrass and wiregrass, both of which describe the appearance of this weed. Goosegrass is an aggressive weed, quickly taking over your lawn if left unchecked. 

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to differentiate goosegrass from the turfgrass in your lawn, which is why the team at Lush Green has put together this guide to goosegrass. Let’s dig in and take a closer look at this grassy weed so you can keep your lawn protected against it!

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Identifying Goosegrass

goosegrass clump

Like all grassy weeds, goosegrass looks similar to healthy turfgrass, especially when it is in the early stages of its development. When looking for goosegrass in your lawn, the first thing you will notice is the clump-type growth of this weed compared to the rest of your grass. Goosegrass grows in a prostrate rosette pattern, which will clearly break up the uniformity of a healthy lawn that grows upright. The leaf blades are about 1/3 of an inch wide and about 8 inches long on average, but some plants do develop grass blades up to 2 feet long in areas that are not mowed or maintained.

Grass blades are a light green color that gets lighter towards the base of the plant, with the stems often appearing to have a white color. Leaves of goosegrass are folded in the bud, which results in the stems flattening out as the plant matures. When viewed from above, the white center of a clump of this weed is a good indicator that you are seeing goosegrass instead of crabgrass or similar types of weeds. You will also notice a zipper-like appearance of goosegrass seed heads when the plant is fully mature and setting seed.

Look For These In Your Lawn:

  • Folded leaves with flat stems
  • Light green leaves
  • Smooth, nearly hairless grass blades
  • White base of rosette pattern
  • Zipper-like seed heads of 3-8 spikelets
  • Outward, prostrate growth
  • Clump/bunch-type formations
  • Central taproot with fibrous offshoots

Does Goosegrass Kill Lawns?

Goosegrass thrives in high-traffic areas, as it is able to easily out-compete your lawn for resources. Its low growth makes it able to withstand low mowing, and it survives in bad soil conditions where turfgrass struggles, such as compaction and drought. The root structure of goosegrass is the real troublemaker in lawns because of the fibrous offshoots that stem from the central taproot of goosegrass. 

These secondary fibrous roots creep along just under the soil surface, which means they will absorb any moisture and nutrients that soak into the soil before your lawn’s roots can access them. Even one goosegrass weed in your lawn will start to steal resources away from your lawn and cause your grass to become weak and discolored.

When & Where Does Goosegrass Grow?

What does goosegrass look like
  • When: As a warm-season annual, goosegrass will germinate in late spring or early summer when temperatures reach 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Goosegrass will grow throughout the hottest days of summer, surviving through temperatures near 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Often confused for crabgrass when it is young, goosegrass does not appear until 4-6 weeks after crabgrass germinates. After germination, the weed will flower within 30 days and set its seed within 70 days. Throughout summer, goosegrass will continue to produce and shed seeds until temperatures fall below 60 degrees and the plant dies. Though it is an annual weed, goosegrass will produce seeds that can remain viable in the soil for years.
  • Where: In northern parts of the United States, goosegrass behaves as a true warm-season annual. This weed dies when soil temperatures consistently stay around 60 degrees and frost is seen on the ground in the mornings. However, in warmer parts of the country, goosegrass may be able to survive a mild winter and behave like a short-lived perennial. It can survive both shady and sunny conditions. This weed is most commonly found in areas that experience high traffic, such as along sidewalks, driveways, and paths. Goosegrass can also be found in gardens, flower beds, and poorly maintained lawns. It should be noted that this weed seeks out lawns that are not performing well, especially ones that are compacted. If your lawn receives heavy foot traffic and you notice issues like standing water or hard soil, goosegrass may not be far behind!

How Does Goosegrass Spread?

goosegrass seedhead

Goosegrass spreads easily through its resilient seed heads that break off in clumps of 3-8 spikelets and are dispersed by wind and/or animals that pass through your lawn. Even rainwater or just the act of mowing your lawn can scatter these tiny seeds across your turf. A single plant can produce up to 140,000 seeds per year if conditions are right. These seeds will fall into the soil of your lawn, or they may be blown in from another yard somewhere, which makes the emergence of goosegrass very difficult to predict.

Aside from seed dispersal, which is the primary way this weed spreads, the roots of goosegrass also help spread the invasion in warmer climates. More tropical areas with mild winters may see goosegrass behaving as a perennial because temperatures do not get cold enough to kill the weed. In these situations, the central taproot of goosegrass can grow up to 6 feet deep, and the fibrous roots around it will continue to spread outward under the soil surface. The weed will grow bigger and produce more seeds as the roots expand in the soil, which is why it is so important to remove the plant, roots and all, as soon as you see it emerge.

How To Prevent & Control Goosegrass

Core Aeration

The best way to prevent goosegrass from taking hold in your lawn is to make sure your turf is healthy and well-maintained. Remember that this weed seeks out struggling lawns, so proper lawn care is a must if you want to prevent goosegrass. It is also important to keep the soil surface loose and fluffy so that water, air, and nutrients can penetrate deep into the soil where your lawn’s roots can absorb the resources. Performing any lawn care task helps deter weeds from growing, but some of the best methods for preventing and controlling goosegrass include the following:

  • Aeration: Goosegrass loves compacted soil, so aerating in fall and spring is one of the most effective ways to prevent it.
  • Seeding: If bare patches are present in your lawn, overseeding will help improve soil quality and lawn density to deter goosegrass.
  • Watering Deeply: Short watering sessions will not reach deep enough for your lawn to absorb moisture, so opt for longer and infrequent sessions.
  • Pulling Roots: If spotted early, small patches of goosegrass can be pulled up before the taproot develops many fibrous offshoots.
  • Digging Roots: If a goosegrass plant is larger, digging around the emerged plant will help ensure that the roots are completely removed.
  • Applying Pre-Emergent: Grassy weeds can be hard to identify until an invasion is widespread, so it is always best to apply pre-emergent herbicides to your lawn in early spring before seedlings emerge. If you are in the Grand Junction area and need any weed control services for your lawn, call Lush Green Services today at (970) 201-1967!
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