What Is Goosegrass?

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When talking about lawn care, goosegrass (Eleusine indica) is a lawn weed that can invade your perfectly-manicured lawn. If left unchecked, it can quickly spread and become a frustrating issue for any homeowner. The team here at Summit Lawns has put together this post to educate you on what goosegrass is, how to identify it, and what you can do to stop it from destroying your grass.

How To Identify Goosegrass

goosegrass base

As is the case with any grassy weed, goosegrass can be difficult to differentiate from the healthy grass growing in your lawn, especially in the early stages of its development. When looking for goosegrass in your lawn, the first thing you will notice is the clump-type growth of this weed compared to the rest of your grass. Its stems are slightly flattened and can reach a height of 2-3 feet. The weed produces small spikelets and zipper-like seed heads as the plant matures.

Goosegrass has a characteristic light-green color that sets it apart from the surrounding turf. The weed is often misidentified as crabgrass, which is another common lawn weed. A good way to tell this weed apart from similar weeds is to look for grass blades that are folded in the bud, causing them to grow flat as the weed matures. You can also identify this weed by its white-colored base when the plant is observed overhead.

Key Characteristics:

  • Folded leaves with flat stems
  • Light green leaves
  • Smooth, nearly hairless grass blades
  • White stems at the base
  • Zipper-like seed heads of 3-8 spikelets
  • Outward, prostrate growth
  • Clump/bunch-type formations
  • Central taproot with fibrous offshoots

What Does Goosegrass Do To Lawns?

goosegrass clump

Goosegrass can take over your lawn and out-compete your desired grass for sunlight, water, and other essential nutrients contained in the soil. As such, this weed can cause significant damage to your lawn and leave bare patches. Its low growth makes it able to withstand low mowing, and it survives in bad soil conditions where turfgrass struggles, such as compaction and drought.

The root structure of goosegrass is the real troublemaker in lawns because of the fibrous offshoots that stem from the central taproot of goosegrass. These secondary fibrous roots creep along just under the soil surface, which means they will absorb any moisture and nutrients that soak into the soil before your lawn's roots can access them. Even one goosegrass weed in your lawn will start to steal resources away from your lawn and cause your grass to become weak and discolored.

When & Where Does Goosegrass Grow?

identifying goosegrass

When: Goosegrass is a warm-season annual, meaning it appears in late spring and throughout summer. The weed will germinate when temperatures reach near 60 degrees, and the growing plant will thrive in temperatures as high as 85 degrees. You can expect seeds to develop roughly 2 months after germination, and seeds will continue to develop until temperatures are too cold for the plant to grow. Though each goosegrass plant only lives for one year, the prolific seed development can ravage your lawn for a long time if the issue is not handled.

Where: Goosegrass is commonly found in compacted soil, damaged lawns, and areas with too much shade. In residential yards, it thrives in areas where the desired turfgrass is thin or weak. It is most commonly found in areas that experience high traffic, such as along sidewalks, driveways, and paths. Goosegrass can also be found in gardens, flower beds, and poorly maintained lawns. It should be noted that this weed seeks out lawns that are not performing well, especially ones that are compacted.

How Does Goosegrass Spread?

goosegrass seedhead

As mentioned above, goosegrass spreads many seeds throughout its lifecycle, with a single plant able to produce up to 140,000 seeds in a season. These seeds are often carried on air currents from other yards, dispersed by foot traffic and animals, and can be transported by rainwater. To make matters worse, the central taproot of goosegrass can grow up to 6 feet deep, and the fibrous roots around it will continue to spread outward under the soil surface. The weed will grow bigger and produce more seeds as the roots expand in the soil.

Preventing & Controlling Goosegrass

What does goosegrass look like

The best way to prevent the spread of goosegrass is to maintain healthy and dense turfgrass. A strong and thick lawn can help choke out weeds like goosegrass, preventing them from absorbing adequate nutrients. Weeds like goosegrass thrive in struggling lawns, so keeping your grass healthy and lush is just as important as any form of direct weed control. Keep the following tips in mind this summer when dealing with goosegrass in your lawn:

  • Mowing: Taller lawns can help block sunlight from the low-growing goosegrass, so consider keeping your grass around 4 inches tall.
  • Aeration: Goosegrass loves compacted soil, so aerating in fall and spring is one of the most effective ways to prevent it.
  • Seeding: If bare patches are present in your lawn, overseeding will help improve soil quality and lawn density to deter goosegrass.
  • Watering: Short watering sessions will not reach deep enough for your lawn to absorb moisture, so opt for longer and infrequent sessions.
  • Digging Roots: If a goosegrass plant is larger, digging around the emerged plant will help ensure that the roots are completely removed.
  • Applying Pre-Emergent: Grassy weeds can be hard to identify until an invasion is widespread, so it is always best to apply pre-emergent herbicides to your lawn in early spring before seedlings emerge.