Common Weeds In Nebraska

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Nebraska, as well as the Great Plains in general, has become home to some of the most destructive and resilient weeds over the years. With the wide open pastures and large farmlands in our area, invasive weeds have many opportunities to spread their roots and take over plots of land. This guide is intended to help you identify and treat some of the most common weeds in Nebraska.

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How to identify crabgrass

This annual, grassy weed is one of the most prevalent across Nebraska and most other parts of the United States. One single plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds that will emerge in the following season, which makes crabgrass quite formidable for any landscape enthusiast. Crabgrass grows very low to the ground, has strong roots, and it can be difficult to control once emerged.

How To Identify:

  • Leaves from faint yellow to dark green
  • Flat and wide leaves
  • Long and thin stems
  • Outward growth of immature leaves
  • Upward growth of mature stems
  • Growth is often described as a star pattern

How To Treat:

  • Apply liquid pre-emergent designed for crabgrass
  • Prevent crabgrass by keeping grass 3 inches or taller
  • Remove emerged crabgrass before it sets seeds
  • Dig out all the clumps of leaves and roots as weed emerges

Canada Thistle


Also known as creeping thistle, Canada thistle is one of the most damaging and persistent noxious weeds in Nebraska. This prickly, perennial weed is notorious for its complex root system that can quickly overtake the roots of healthy vegetation and spread via both rhizomes and seeds. Canada thistle is especially harmful when it grows near livestock, as this weed is inedible and results in less forage.

How To Identify:

  • Stems between 1 and 4 feet tall
  • Spear-shaped, barbed leaves
  • Smaller leaves near the top of the stem
  • Pink, purple, or white (rare) flowers
  • Flowers appear to be stringy or spiked
  • Stems produce clusters of multiple flowers

How To Treat:

  • Control must take place in both spring and fall
  • Pull out weeds in small clusters as soon as they emerge
  • Look for herbicides containing glyphosate and 2, 4-D
  • Cut open stem and apply herbicide with eye dropper

Musk Thistle

identifying musk thistle

This broadleaf weed is similar in appearance to Canada thistle, but you will notice some key differences if you know what to look for. Unlike Canada thistle, musk thistle is either a biennial or annual weed that spreads only by seeds, making it a bit more easy to control than perennial thistles. These weeds can be found across all types of properties, but they are especially prevalent in pastures and fields of the Great Plains. Livestock can not consume musk thistle, which makes controlling this weed very important.

How To Identify:

  • Stems can grow between 1 and 10 feet tall
  • Wide, serrated, hairless leaves
  • Rosette leaf-shape around the stem
  • Rose purple-to-white disk florets
  • Stems are highly branched and spiny
  • Globed-shaped heads

How To Treat:

  • Pre-emergent to prevent germination
  • Hand-pulling the roots
  • Post-emergent applications
  • Proper fertilization and lawn maintenance

Leafy Spurge

identifying leafy spurge

Also known as wolf’s milk, leafy spurge is a very common perennial weed in Nebraska. Leafy spurge is commonly found in a variety of environments, including open fields, pastures, roadsides, irrigation ditches, and many more. This pesky weed spreads via seeds, shoots, and roots, and human transference often plays a major role in seed distribution. Aside from its signature pale yellow, heart-shaped flowers, leafy spurge is well known for the milky latex it excretes from severed stems and leaves.

How To Identify:

  • Grows up to 1-2 feet
  • Linear leaf shape/pattern
  • Hairless leaves and stems
  • Produces milky latex substance
  • Pale yellow-to-green, heart-shaped leaves
  • Very deep roots

How To Treat:

  • Dig out deep roots
  • Do not pull by hand
  • Utilize a 33-percent mixture of glyphosate (2 parts water)
  • Allow goats and sheep to eat leafy spurge (but not cattle)

Yellow Nutsedge

how to identify nutsedge

Like leafy spurge, as well as many other weeds, yellow nutsedge thrives in areas with poor drainage. An immature yellow nutsedge plant can be difficult to identify because its leaves look very similar to regular grass blades. However, the mature plants develop triangular stems and yellow spiked flowers at the ends of the stems, which make identifying this weed much easier. This weed spreads by seeds, rhizomes, and tubers, and a single plant can produce thousands of tubers in a season.

How To Identify:

  • Can grow up to 3 feet tall
  • Stems are triangular and smooth
  • Stems do not branch off
  • Leaves are grass-like, glossy, and stiff
  • Flowers can be described as yellow spikelets
  • Flowers form in clusters at the end of a stem

How To Treat:

  • Only pull weeds before they flower
  • Use herbicide on all mature yellow nutsedge
  • Look for halosulfuron- or sulfentrazone-based products
  • Make sure your yard is draining properly



This weed is often mistaken for morning glory flowers, and it belongs to the same family as morning glories. Bindweed is known for its complex root system that can create many problems when trying to eradicate this weed. As perennial vine-type weeds, bindweed targets immature plants in your garden that it can wrap around in order to steal nutrients. However, bindweed is not known to have much of an affect on mature plants, which means keeping healthy vegetation in your yard is a great way to deter this weed.

How To Identify:

  • Grows low to the ground on its own
  • Often seen climbing up taller plants
  • Smooth stems (slightly hairy)
  • Twinning stem formation
  • Arrowhead-shaped leaves
  • Trumpet-shaped, white-to-pink flowers

How To Treat:

  • Prune bindweed down to vine consistently
  • Apply glyphosate (can combine with dicamba)
  • Cover area with mulch (after cutting back)
  • Maintain healthy vegetation in gardens