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Ensley: What is that sticky weed?

April 25, 2017 GMT

The question we have been getting in the Polk County Extension Office is “what is this sticky weed on my lawn and how do I get rid of it.”

The weed causing a stick is the most common lawn burweed (soliva pterosperma) a.k.a. spurweed, sand bur and sandspur. Lawn burweed is a winter annual member of the aster family. The weed germinates in the early fall months as temperatures cool and remains small or inconspicuous during the cold winter months. However, as temperatures warm in the early spring, or about the same time as spring activities, lawn burweed initiates a period of rapid growth and begins to form spine-tipped burs in the leaf axils. The sharp-tipped spiny burs of this weed can cause irritation to the skin.

Lawn burweed can be easily controlled during the winter months. December, January, and February are ideal months to apply herbicides for the control of this weed.


The first line of defense against burweed is to have a healthy lawn. Soil sample and follow UGA recommendation for liming and fertilization.

The key factor to effectively control lawn burweed is to apply an appropriate herbicide during the winter months. Contact the Polk County Extension Office for herbicide options to control lawn burweed.

Lawn burweed is small and easier to control during winter months than in April and May. Turf grasses are not actively growing during the winter months and have better tolerance to some herbicides. Lawn burweed can be controlled in late March, April, and early May.

However, two main facts should be considered. Lawn burweed begins to die as late spring temperatures approach 90 degrees, and the plant is harder to control once the spiny burs or stickers are found.

Dead lawn burweed plants contain dead or brown spine tipped burs. Dead or alive, the spiny burs still are present.

For more information about burweed, contact the UGA Extension-Polk County office at 770-749-2142 or email us at

Information for this article provided by Dr. Tim Murphy, retired Extension Weed Specialist.