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Doveweed

Doveweed is a mat-forming, spreading perennial weed that prefers overly moist soil.

Doveweed is a mat-forming, spreading perennial weed that prefers overly moist soil.
Close-up of Bugwood Photo 1391179. John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org

Doveweed (Murdannia nudiflora) has become a troublesome weed in home lawns during the last few years. It is a summer annual weed, and its seeds germinate during the late spring when soil temperatures reach 65 to 70 °F. Doveweed leaves are thick, shiny, and up to 4-inches long with parallel veins. Because of its long, grass-like foliage, doveweed is often over-looked in St. Augustinegrass or centipedegrass lawns. Doveweed spreads aggressively within the lawn by thick aboveground, creeping stems, called stolons.

The flowers of doveweed have three lavender petals and three green sepals.

The flowers of doveweed have three lavender petals and three green sepals.
Close-up of Bugwood photo 5568065. Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Doveweed is in the Commelinaceae (dayflower) plant family and is related to the invasive spiderworts (Tradescantia species), as well as the highly invasive Benghal dayflower (Commelina benghalensis).

Doveweed thrives in overly moist soils because of poor soil drainage or frequent rainfall and irrigation. In these wet areas, homeowners may not realize this grass-like weed is present until large patches of turfgrass have been smothered out. In summer, doveweed produces small, 3-petaled, lavender flowers that, when in bloom, become more noticeable in the lawn.

After flowering, seeds are produced in small, 3/16-inch diameter, green capsules. Doveweed seed can remain viable for several years on the soil before germinating.

Cultural Controls: Limit doveweed growth by maintaining a healthy and dense turfgrass.

Water the lawn deeply, but infrequently to allow the surface soils to dry in between watering. This will improve turfgrass root depth and slow the spread of the doveweed. For more information on irrigation, please see HGIC 1207, Watering Lawns. Additionally, correct any drainage problems to reduce wet areas within the lawn. Core aerate the lawn to improve internal soil drainage, reduce soil compaction, and aid in root growth. For more information on core aeration, please see HGIC 1200, Aerating Lawns.

Have the soil tested and follow soil test recommendations for rates of fertilizers and lime. These recommendations are specific for each turfgrass species. Please see HGIC 1652, Soil Testing, for sampling procedures.

Mow the lawn at the correct height for the turfgrass species. An excessively low mowing height both stresses the turfgrass and may cause the mower to cut and spread pieces of doveweed stolons that can easily root under moist conditions. A lawn mowed at the correct height encourages dense turfgrass growth and partially shades the doveweed. For the correct turfgrass mowing heights, please see HGIC 1205, Mowing Lawns.

If the lawn thatch layer is greater than ½ inch, consider dethatching the lawn at the appropriate time. For more information about dethatching, please see HGIC 2360, Controlling Thatch in Lawns.

Hand pulling of doveweed is ineffective as a control method because pieces of roots and stolons that remain can re-sprout.

Chemical Control: Managing doveweed in a lawn may require two to three years of pre- and post-emergence herbicides use.

Post-emergence Herbicides: Use atrazine on centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass for good to excellent control of doveweed. Apply atrazine after full turfgrass greened-up. Atrazine also has a pre-emergence activity to stop additional weed seed germination. Make a second application a month later, if needed. Do not apply atrazine to a drought-stressed lawn or if the temperatures are over 90 °F. Do not apply atrazine near a water source or if there is a high water table.

Use home lawn care 3-way combination herbicides that contain 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and tall fescue. Apply a follow-up application 10 days later, as needed. Use a reduced rate on centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass, according to label directions. The 3-way herbicides provide fair to good control of doveweed. Do not use atrazine or 3-way herbicides during spring green-up of the four warm-season turfgrasses.

Celsius WG provides good control of doveweed on the four warm-season turfgrasses. Do not use Celsius WG on tall fescue lawns. Additionally, Celsius WG is the only product that can be used on warm-season lawns during their spring green-up.

Treat large areas with doveweed with little or no turfgrass with a 3% glyphosate spray. Products containing 41% glyphosate are available with instructions for diluting in a pump-up sprayer. Re-sod after the doveweed is eliminated.

See Table 1 below for brands and products, including more notes on the use of atrazine, 3-way herbicides, Celsius WG, and glyphosate.

Pre-emergence Herbicides: Apply two applications of pre-emergence herbicide during the spring and early summer to prevent doveweed seed from sprouting. Indaziflam (Specticle G), like many pre-emergence herbicides, stops root formation of both weeds and desirable turfgrasses; therefore, follow the label directions for use. Do not apply Specticle G to a lawn that was seeded less than 16 months prior to application, nor to a lawn sodded less than 3 months prior to application. If Specticle G is applied to the lawn, wait at least 6 months before laying new sod in the same area. Note that lower rates of Specticle G are recommended on centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass. See Table 1 below for more information.

Since doveweed seeds germinate when the soil temperatures reach 65 to 70 °F, make the first application of pre-emergence herbicide in mid-April in the Upstate with a repeat application 45 days later. In the Midlands, apply the first application around April 1 with a repeat application 45 days later. In the coastal areas, make the first application in late March with a repeat application 45 days later. Water granular applications into the lawn. However, if the lawn has bare areas over which the turfgrass must spread and become rooted, eliminate the second application for better turfgrass root formation.

Table 1. Examples of Herbicides for Doveweed Management in Residential Turfgrass.

Brands & Specific Products Herbicide Active Ingredient % Active Ingredient in Product Labeled for Use On
Pre-emergence Herbicides
Specticle G1 Indaziflam 0.0224 Tall Fescue
Bermudagrass
Zoysiagrass
Centipedegrass
& St. Augustinegrass
Post-emergence Herbicides
Bayer Advanced Southern Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate; & RTS2 2,4-D
Mecoprop
Dicamba
7.59
1.83
0.84
Tall Fescue
Bermudagrass
& ZoysiagrassUse at lower label rate on:
Centipedegrass
& St. Augustinegrass

Applications may be repeated as needed after 10 days.

Bonide Weed Beater Lawn Weed Killer Concentrate 2,4-D
Mecoprop
Dicamba
7.59
1.83
0.84
Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawn Concentrate 2,4-D
Mecoprop
Dicamba
7.59
1.83
0.84
Ferti-lome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer Concentrate 2,4-D
Mecoprop
Dicamba
5.88
5.45
1.21
Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec® Concentrate 2,4-D
Mecoprop
Dicamba
3.05
5.30
1.29
Ortho Weed Be Gon Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate; & RTS2 2,4-D
Mecoprop
Dicamba
8.658
2.127
0.371
Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer Atrazine 4.00 Only for use on Centipedegrass & St. Augustinegrass
Southern Ag Atrazine St.
Augustine Weed Killer Conc.
Atrazine 4.00
Image Herbicide for St. Augustine & Centipede with Atrazine Concentrate Atrazine 4.00
Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns for St. Augustine & Centipede Lawns RTS2 Atrazine 4.00
Scotts Weed EX Southern (granular) Atrazine 1.44
Celsius WG Herbicide3 Thiencarbazone
Iodosulfuron
Dicamba
8.7
1.9
57.4
Bermudagrass
Zoysiagrass
Centipedegrass
& St. Augustinegrass4
Non-Selective Herbicides
Ace Concentrate Weed &
Grass KillerBonide Kleenup Grass & Weed Killer Concentrate; & RTU2

Eliminator Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate

Gordon’s Groundwork
Concentrate 50% Super
Weed & Grass Killer

Hi-Yield Super Concentrate Killzall Weed & Grass Killer

Knockout Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate

Martin’s Eraser Systemic Weed & Grass Killer

Monterey Remuda Full Strength 41% Glyphosate

Quick Kill Grass & Weed Killer

Roundup Original Concentrate

Roundup Pro Herbicide

Southern States Grass & Weed Killer Concentrate II

Tiger Brand Quick Kill Conc.

Total Kill Pro Weed & Grass Killer Herbicide

Ultra Kill Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate

Zep Enforcer Weed Defeat III

Glyphosate 41% (most brands) For use within the lawn as spot spraying to kill large patches of doveweed. Then re-sod or re-seed these areas after doveweed is dead (at least 1 week later).
1 Specticle G is for use on well-established lawns, at least 16 months since the lawn was seeded or 3 months since sodded. Do not install sod in an area for at least 6 months after this pre-emergence application to the lawn. Use the lower rate of 2.9 pounds per 1000 square feet of lawn if soils are sandy, as indaziflam may leach downward and cause turfgrass injury.

2 RTS: Ready-to-Spray (hose-end sprayer)

3 Celsius WG requires the addition of 2 teaspoons of a non-ionic surfactant (such as Hi-Yield Spreader Sticker), which is a wetter-sticker agent to aid in weed control and added at 0.25% by volume in a gallon of water.

4 Spot treatments of Celsius WG to St. Augustinegrass at temperatures above 90 degrees may cause temporary growth regulation. Celsius WP is not for use on fescue lawns.

Note: Do not apply any post-emergence herbicides, except Celsius WG Herbicide, to lawns during the spring green-up of turfgrass. Wait until the turfgrass is fully green.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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