Master Gardeners: Watch for Nimblewill, an invasive southern grass

It won’t be long before our lawns green up and we see more signs of spring. If you notice patches in your lawn that look straw colored, pay attention to them. When the weather finally stays warm if these patches do turn green, what you might have growing in your yard is a southern grass called nimblewill.

Since it is a warm season grass, nimblewill’s above ground shoots are not cold hardy. This is why it turns green well after our Kentucky bluegrass does, which is a cold season grass. In the fall when we have a frost, Kentucky bluegrass remains green and nimblewill turns brown. The texture of nimblewill is fine and wiry looking and this is especially noticeable when it is dormant. It has often been described as looking like a steel wool pad in texture.

Nimblewill is by nature an aggressive grower and once identified in your lawn it is best to address it to limit its spread. Jim Schuster, retired from the University of Illinois Extension, stated, “Nimblewill is a stoloniferous grass. This means the shoots grow above ground…and the stolons grow out from the crown on bare ground and root at any of the nodes along the shoots. The plant has numerous nodes on the shoots and roots and the ability to start new plants from each node. With each mowing, there is a potential for spreading this grassy weed. Even bagging the clippings does not stop its spread … not all of the nodes are captured in the bag. Some fall to the ground while others stick to some part of the mower and fall off later. Wherever these nodes drop or are blown, there is the possibility that the node will take root and send up a new plant.”

Small patches of nimblewill can be removed by digging a circle 1 foot out from the edge of it. This will capture stolons coming out from the center of the plant. Or non-specific herbicide containing glyphosate can be applied to larger areas, following package directions. Use with caution – it will kill anything green in your landscape. A non-chemical option is to smother the nimblewill under plastic, anchored at the edges.

Visit “Lawn Talk” at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/lawntalk/index.cfm for all of your lawn care questions.

Email your home garden and lawn questions to uiemg-dupage@illinois.edu or phone the Master Gardener Helpline at 630/955-1123. Visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/. 

Julie Moore has been a Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Illinois Extension in DuPage County for 10 years and has a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Illinois.

 

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