How to identify different grass weed types

Updated February 21, 2017

People who pay close attention to their lawns and fields encounter many sorts of weeds, including several species of grasslike weeds that invade their territory. Among these grass weeds are such types as quackgrass, crabgrass, Johnson grass and others. While it may not seem important to know one from another, it may benefit you to have the ability to identify the plant since this can help you to eradicate it in a more effective manner. Each of these grass weeds possess identifying characteristics that you can focus on to recognise them for what they are.

Recognise quackgrass from the auricles, root system and seedhead. An auricle has the appearance of an ear and forms where the grass leaf grows out of the stem. Quackgrass grows as high as 3.5 feet when left unchecked and forms from rhizomes, a horizontal stem underground that produces roots as well as other shoots that grow above ground. The seedhead at the top of the plant is as long as 8 inches and consists of a row of "spikes" on each side.

Distinguish goosegrass by the stems that radiate from a whitish centre. Goosegrass looks like someone constantly stepped on it but the plant refused to die. However, this is how it grows, with the stems reaching out as far as 14 inches in some cases. The white portion in the middle of goosegrass is its most identifiable feature.

Look for the telltale hairs on large crabgrass. These grass weeds get their name from how the leaves growing outward from the middle make the plant resemble a crab, with its legs outspread. Large crabgrass, which grows to 3 feet high when undisturbed, has large numbers of tiny hairs on the stems and leaves.

Identify bristlegrass from the seed head, which can make you think of the type of bristle brush you use to clean out bottles. The head of the plant contains the seeds, which many types of birds will eat. The seed heads sit on top of the stem, which can grow 3 feet tall.

Discern Johnson grass by its height. This introduced species of grass grows up to 6 feet tall in some instances and can rapidly take over open fields and meadows. The top portion of Johnson grass turns a purplish hue when the plant goes to seed.


Purchase a guide to common weeds and use the illustrations to identify various grass weeds.

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About the Author

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.