The Turf Weed ID Chart

This easy-to-use Australian weed Identification chart enables you to identify weeds by photo. The weed ID chart helps you to get the best results from a weed killer and saves you time and money in managing lawn weeds.

Our weed ID chart links to pages for each weed, what factors favour that lawn weed and how to control it.

The three main things you should consider about weed identification in lawns.

  1. If you identify the weeds from a photo in this weed ID chart, you do not always need to spray. Correct Australian weed identification saves you a lot of time and money, as many lawn weeds often indicate other problems. If you deal with these problems, it deters weeds and will reduce the need to use turf chemicals.
  2. Weeds are grass weeds (also called monocots) or broadleaf weeds (known as dicots). If you can identify the weeds when they are seedlings you get a good start in their control. When seedlings grass weeds have one seedling leaf and broadleaf weeds have two leaves. Broadleaf herbicides do not control grass weeds.
  3. The main thing is if your lawn or turf is thick and healthy, weeds find it very hard to get a foothold.

 

What is a weed?

A weed is any plant that grows where you do not want it. Weeds can be natives or introduced species.

How to Identify weeds with the Weed ID Chart.

Correct Australian weed identification is the first step to manage them, as even though two weeds look the same, they can have a different response to a weed killer.

How a weed emerges gives a good idea whether it comes from a seed, rhizome or other below ground structure, and the best way to check this is to dig up the young weed.

If it’s easy to dig up and has a few fine roots it is likely to be a true seedling. It’s most likely a perennial weed if it’s hard to dig up or has a rhizome.

Once you have the weed in your hand you can use the weed identification chart to identify the weed by photo.

You can group weeds based on their life cycles for Australian weed identification.

Summer Annuals.

Summer annuals grow in the spring or early summer. They then grow through the summer, and towards the end of summer produce seed. They tend to die off as soon as frost occurs. These weeds compete with turf grass for food, and moisture, and can shade out turf. They spread by seed, and broken fragments of shoots, and can re-root and grow into new plants.

Small seeded Summer Annuals.

These seed weeds grow near the soil surface, and in a single season can produce a large number of seeds. Soil disturbance causes the seeds to germinate. Examples of these include: Pigweed, Knotweed, Mallow, Caltrop, Spurge, Black Medic, Capeweed, and Lambsquarters.

Summer Annual Broadleaf Weeds with large seeds.

These weeds emerge from deeper in the soil profile (6-50mm), and grow quickly. They are aggressive competitors, and seed within a single season. Although they produce less seeds, the seeds survive for decades. Examples of these include Morning Glory.

Summer Annual Grass Weeds.

Summer annual grass weeds have huge numbers of small to medium sized seeds. They germinate in the top 50mm of the soil, and some germinate in response to light. Examples include Summer grass, and Crowsfoot.

Winter Annuals.

Winter annuals emerge in late Summer or Autumn, and spend winter as low, compact plants or rosettes. In late Winter or early Spring they start to grow again, and form flowering shoots or stalks. They reproduce by seed in the late Spring or Summer of their second season. In NSW, they may grow through the winter. Examples of these include Wild Mustards, Common Chickweed, and Henbit.

Biennial Weeds.

Biennial weeds germinate, grow vegetatively for one season, and over winter they then go dormant. In the Spring or early Summer of their second year, they bolt, flower, and form seed. Their lifecycle is like the Winter annuals, except in their first season they begin to grow earlier. They live longer than a year, and these weeds have larger main roots than most Winter annuals. Examples include Windmill Grass.

Perennials.

Perennials have deep, strong taproots (broadleafs) or strong fibrous root systems (grasses). This means that if you mow and remove the top of the plant, it can regrow. These weeds spread by seed every year, grow slowly at first, and then become strong competitors once they establish.

Their life span is around several years, and good examples are Broadleaf Dock and Dandelions.

Spreading Perennials.

These reproduce by stolons (at the surface), rhizomes (below the surface), bulbs, tubers, and by seed.

Fragments of stolons or rhizomes as small as 25 mm, can regrow into new plants.

Many of the most serious turf weeds are in this class. Examples include Couch Grass, Nutsedges, and Bindweed.

 

How to use the Weed ID Chart.

You can identify weeds by photo in this weed ID Chart. Questions to ask when you start to ID a weed include:

  • What is the leaf shape, what do the leaf margins look like, and what is the pattern of the leaf veins.

  • Does it have prickles, spines or thorns?

  • Are hairs present and if so, where are they?

  • Does the leaf have a simple or a compound structure?

  • How are leaves arranged on a stem?

  • What is the colour or size of the leaves and flowers?

  • How are the flowers or clusters of flowers arranged?

  • Is there any milk or sap when you cut the stem or leaves?

  • Does it smell if you cut or crush it?
  • Is it annual, biennial or perennial?

  • Does the weed have a large main root or rhizomes?

  • Is there a leaf sheath, and what does a cross section of the stem look like?

  • Does it grow along the ground, or is it upright?

  • What is the size, shape, structure, and colour of any seeds.

Other traits that can help identify the weed by photo include:

  • How much branching is there, and how are these branches arranged on the main stem?
  • What is the size of the leaf?

 

Online weed resources.

The sites below will help if you still cannot identify the weed from our Weed ID Chart.

Web Sites.

Hornsby Council in Sydney is a great resource for weed ID.

Ground Covers

Some Weed removal Techniques.

Weed Glossary for Identification

Australian Government Weeds Identification Tool. You can look up weeds by name, place, growth habit and flower colour.

PlantNET.

Weed Seedlings.

Brisbane Weeds.

 

 

Iphone apps.

Leafly

NSW Weed Wise

Picture This

Plant Net

Weed Scan

 

First of all apologies in advance for the images below. I don’t claim to have any ability as an artist and these pictures confirm this. Identifying weeds can be difficult but all weeds do have traits that help with this.

identify weeds by photo by looking at the leaves
Identification of weeds by weeds by photo by their leaf shapes and leaf arrangements
Identify Weeds by leaf shapes
identify weeds by photo by their Leaf morphology
Diagram showing parts of a flower for weed identification
The ligule can help identify grass weeds. This shows a hairy ligule
 

Properties of weeds in the Weed ID Chart.

The table below outlines some properties of turf weeds found in our Weed ID Chart that help with Australian weed identification such as:

  • How viable they are over time?
  • How many seeds do they produce? and
  • At what depth do they germinate the best?

Common name

Latin name

Main growth period

Max seed production per year

Seed bank persistence

Optimum seed germination depth

Barley grass

Hordeum leporinum, H. glaucum

Mainly the Winter

877

2-4 years

Bedstraw

Galium tricornutum

Winter-spring

14,000

4 years

20-60mm

Button grass aka finger grass

Dactyloctenium radulans

Summer

200,000

> 3 years

Surface

Caltrop

Tribulus terrestris

Spring-summer

19,000

> 4 years

Crowsfoot

Eleusine indica

Late Spring to early Summer

140,000

82% of seeds survived one year burial under turf 

Best at the soil surface or from the top 2 cm

Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale

Early to mid Summer but also all the year round

up to 5,000

1-5 years

0-2cm. No seed emergence below 8cm depth. 

Double gee, spiny emex, three corner jack

Rumex hypogaeus (syn. Emex australis)

Winter-Spring

429

> 4 years

Very few seedlings emerge from 10cm deep.

Fat hen

Chenopodium album

Spring -Autumn

200-75,000

Several decades

2 mm. >25mm little seed emergence.

Feather top Rhodes grass

Chloris virgata

Summer

140,000

2 years

Majority of germination occurs from the 0 to 2 cm

Khaki weed

Alternanthera  pungens

September - November

>1000/m2

4-5 years

Marshmallow

Malva parviflora

Winter

16,000

Several decades

0.5-2 cm.

Oriental Hawksbeard

Youngia japonica


Up to 20 years

5-10 cm

Oxeye Daisy

Leucanthemum vulgare

Spring

26,000

6 years

Parramatta Grass

Sporobolus africanus

Mainly the Summer

80,000

20 Years

Up to 20cm

Windmill grass

Chloris truncata

Summer

88,000

2-3 years

Surface

Wireweed

Polygonum aviculare

All year round

123,000

> 4 years

All the images below allow you to identify weeds by photo. By clicking on an image it then links to a page for the weed.

 

Weed ID Chart.

 

Broadleaved Weeds.

All the images below allow you to identify weeds by photo. By clicking on an image it then links to a page for the weed.

 

Grass and Sedge Weeds.

Lawn weed control after you use the Weed ID Chart.

Once you use the Weed ID chart for Australian weed identification, and to identify weeds by photo, there are options for you to control them. There are several ways to class weed killers and weed control products.

 

Pre-emergent herbicides are used before weeds emerge, so you need to use these before weeds appear. These kill lawn weeds as they germinate and have no effect on weeds that already exist. You use these for grass weeds like Winter grass and Summer grass, and some work against broadleaf weeds. They can be liquids or granulars.

Once weeds grow you need to use post-emergent herbicides. They can be contacts like MSMA, or systemics like the sulfonylureas. A good example of a post-emergent is ProForce Recondo, which is an alternative to Monument herbicide.

Contacts work when the chemical comes into contact with the plant, and work best when you use them on young weeds. Good examples are Diquat, Carfentrazone, plant oils, and herbicidal soaps.

Systemics work better on older weeds, and these move inside the plant to kill the target weed. Examples are Glyphosate, Quinclorac, Triclopyr, 2,4-D, and Dicamba.

Selective weed killers, kill weeds without any damage to the turf, and only kill certain plants or weeds. Good examples of these are Warhead Trio which kills only broadleaf weeds and not grasses. Non-selectives kill all vegetation including turf.

More information to use along with this Weed ID Chart, is in our turf chemicals section or the free 2024 Guide to turf pesticides.

Correct use of the weed identification chart to identify weeds by photo helps you know what lawn chemical to use, and will give you better results.

FAQ

Where can I find free independent advice regarding weed management?

There are several independent organisations that can help you on how to manage weeds. Failing that feel free to call us and we can point you in the right direction. Our list of free phone apps and useful websites will also help with this.

If I am unable to identify a weed using an online key what should I do?

If you are struggling to identify a weed using the weed ID chart feel free to reach out and contact us directly on the contact details below. Our list of useful free weed identification sites and phone apps should also help.

What should I do if after I identify a weed there is no chemical control listed?

Unfortunately in some cases identification leads to weeds where chemicals to control is limited at best. In these cases feel free to contact us and we can discuss alternative control options.

Are there other options to identify weeds, such as Facebook groups like Plant Identification Australia?

You have several options at your disposal for identifying plants, including weeds. For instance, you can utilize social media platforms where there are dedicated groups. Alternatively, community-based science apps offer resources where enthusiasts and experts come together to help identify various plant species based on the photos you upload.

How can I confirm the identification of a weed once I have made a preliminary identification?

A weed is only a weed if it’s a plant where you don’t want it. Also, if you don’t know what it is, how can you control it properly? So use this Australian weed identification chart carefully. Once you have made a preliminary identification using the chart, cross-reference the information and images provided with the plant you are investigating to ensure accuracy.

If your findings align but you’re still uncertain, it might be wise to double-check the features you select. Should doubts persist, reaching out to local experts like a weeds officer or participating in plant identification groups online can provide further insights. Additionally, if there’s a chance you’ve identified a high priority weed, such as prohibited matter, it’s important to notify the relevant authority immediately.

What is the best way to manage weeds in lawns?

The best way is to stop them growing in the first place. A healthy, thick and dense grass cover will stop weeds growing. Weeds are great opportunists so if the grass is weak and struggling to grow, there are thin patches or the soil is compact weeds will grow. 

If weeds still continue to be a problem then the using pre emergent herbicides is worth considering. These work by stopping weed seedlings from developing and vary in longevity from 10 weeks to 8 months. So basically you can apply once and have no weed issues for this length of time. 

Remember though, that you need to know what the weed is that you are trying to control as not all pre emergents work as well against all weeds.

Why is weed control important?

In agriculture weeds are a major problem as they dramatically reduce yields. In a turf situation we generally don’t deal in yield but weeds will limit turf growth by taking valuable nutrients and water away from the grass.

Weed control in couch lawns

The simplest way of controlling weeds is too hand pull them. However, in some cases weeds can be too widespread too effectively hand weed. Then I guess it depends if your trying to control grass or broadleaf weeds.
If the couch goes dormant (totally browns out over winter) then you can simply apply glyphosate and it will kill all the weeds no matter if grass or broadleaf. Adding a spray buffer or an appropriate spray adjuvant will guarantee the best possible results.
If your wanting to control weeds in couch when it’s growing then use a broadleaf post emergent herbicide is the way to go. If you want to stop them from becoming a problem use a pre emergent herbicide.

What can I use to kill weeds in my lawn without killing the grass?

The first option is too hand weed by simply pulling out the weeds. However, be aware that this can actually cause the problem to worsen I.e. nutgrass.
If the weed infestation is widespread then consider using a selective herbicide. Which one will depend on whether they are grass or broadleaf weeds and which particular weed.
jerry spencer senior turf agronomist
Senior Turf Agronomist at Gilba Solutions Pty Ltd | 0499975819 | Website

Graduated from Newcastle University with an Hons Degree in Soil Science in 1988, Jerry then worked for the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) as a turf agronomist before emigrating to Australia in 1993.

He followed this by gaining a Grad Dip in Business Management from UTS. He has worked in a number of management roles for companies as diverse as Samsung Australia, Arthur Yates and Paton Fertilizers.

He has always had a strong affinity with the Australian sports turf industry and as a result he established Gilba Solutions as an independent sports turf consultancy in 1993. Jerry has written over 100 articles and two books on a wide range of topics such as Turf Pesticides and Nutrition which have been published in Australia and overseas.