White, Fluffy Tufts in Lawns May Be Trampweed

White, Fluffy Tufts in Lawns May Be Trampweed

Do you have a low-growing weed that is producing tufts of white, fluffy, dandelion-like seeds, which float in the wind when disturbed or mowed? This is Annual Trampweed (Facelis retusa). I did not see this weed in North Florida until recent years. It’s native to South America.

Mid-April to early May is the time of year when this winter annual weed goes to seed in North Florida. That’s what it is doing now and it is a prolific seed producer. Each white tuft contains numerous seeds. Each tiny seed is attached to a small individual bristle, coming out of the larger tuft, which is carried by wind. This allows hundreds of seeds to move to other locations.

Trampweed is approaching the end of its life as we move into early May. As a winter annual, the individual weed dies in response to warm temperatures only to leave behind hundreds of seeds that survive the summer. These same seeds come up the following fall to early winter to begin the next generation. The best time to attempt chemical control with an herbicide is well before these weeds mature and begin flowering.

Trampweed in bloom in lawn
Trampweed in bloom. Credit: Larry Williams

One chemical control option is to apply a lawn preemergence herbicide during October when nighttime temperatures drop to 55° to 60°F for several consecutive nights. This will be just before these winter annual weeds emerge. Done correctly, the application of a preemergence herbicide forms a temporary chemical barrier along the soil surface preventing the winter annual weeds from emerging. Hence the name preemergence.

A second application of preemergence herbicide may be required six to nine weeks after the initial application to achieve season-long control, based on the product’s label directions.

If you miss this narrow window of opportunity to apply a preemergence herbicide, watch for the small young weeds in winter and treat then with a postemergence herbicide that is labelled for use in the type of lawn grass you are growing.

Waiting until trampweed is producing flowers and seeds in April and May to attempt control is almost worthless in controlling this weed. Correct timing is critical.

Trampweed usually is found in areas of a lawn that are already weak and thinning. It favors open, dry, stressed and low-fertility areas of a lawn. So, try to manage your lawn correctly. This involves learning to mow, irrigate and fertilize correctly for the type of lawn grass you are growing.

More information on Florida lawns is available at https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn or from the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County.

Winter Lawn “weeds,” a Place for Pollinators & Eggs

Winter Lawn “weeds,” a Place for Pollinators & Eggs

As a boy I remember our St. Augustinegrass lawn. I fondly remember winter annual weeds in that lawn.

Many of these so called “weeds” are native wildflowers. And a number of pollinators use these wildflowers.

To see clumps of winter annuals in our yard and in neighbors’ yards was a natural part of the transition from winter to spring. They added interest to the lawn. It was expected to see henbit with its square stiff stems holding up a display of small pinkish purple flowers in late winter to early spring. A clump of henbit was a great place to hide an Easter egg, especially a pink or purple one.

A pink Easter egg hidden in a mix of clover. Photo Credit: Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension - Okaloosa County
A pink Easter egg hidden in a mix of clover. Photo Credit: Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension – Okaloosa County

Wild geranium offered another good hiding place for eggs with its pink to purple flowers. Large clumps of annual chickweed would nicely hide whole eggs. Green colored eggs would blend with chickweed’s green leaves. 

Crimson clover with its reddish flowers, hop clover and black medic with their bright yellow flowers provided good hiding places for Easter eggs. Plus, clovers add nitrogen back to our soils.

A yellow Easter egg hidden in a mix of clover. Photo Credit: Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension - Okaloosa County
A yellow Easter egg hidden in a mix of clover. Photo Credit: Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension – Okaloosa County

The lawn was healthy and thick enough to limit summer weeds. But during fall and winter, as the lawn would naturally thin and go dormant, these winter annuals would run their course.

I remember the clean smell of freshly mowed grass in spring with the first mowing. Once mowed and as the heat took its toll, by late April or mid-May, these winter annuals were gone. What was left was a green lawn to help cool the landscape as the weather warmed. The lawn was mowed high as St. Augustine should be, watered only occasionally during dry periods, played on and typically not worried with.

Most lawns have winter annuals that let us know spring is near. Perhaps we worry too much with these seasonal, temporary plants that may have wrongly been labeled as weeds. Besides, how long have we been doing battle with them and they are still here. Most lawns have winter annual seeds that await the cooler temperatures and shorter days of early winter to begin yet another generation. By May they are gone.

UF/IFAS Extension agents in the Florida Panhandle are asking you to join in on “No Mow March” in 2023. The idea is to holdup on mowing until the calendar flips to April, allowing pollinators to enjoy these common winter annuals.

Here is a website with more information on No Mow March. On this site, you’ll find a link to sign up to be a participant, check out what Okaloosa and other counties are doing by clicking on “Events” and see more about pollinators, all on this site. 


Landscape Lessons from Recent Freezes

Landscape Lessons from Recent Freezes

There are important landscape lessons to learn from recent, early and widespread freezes.

First, know the average climate for the region you live in here in Florida. The work has already been done for you with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Here is a link for the map: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov. Find your zone on the map. Note that Northwest Florida includes zones 8a, 8b and 9a.

The newest map, with interactive features, was updated in 2012.

This map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature and is divided into 10°F zones. It can help you determine which plants are most likely to thrive in your zone. There are areas bordering Alabama, located in the extreme northern portions of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Holmes Counties, that are in Zone 8a, with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 10 to 15 degrees F. Most of these counties fall within zone 8b, with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 15 to 20 degrees F. The extreme southern portions of these same counties (bordering the Gulf) are in Zone 9a with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 20 to 25 degrees F. As you go south in Florida, you move into Zones 9b, 10a, 10b, and 11a. Zone 10b has an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 35 to 40 degrees F. Zone 11a; which includes a small portion of West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, most of Miami and all of the Florida Keys; has an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 40 to 45 degrees F.

Most of the Panhandle is in USDA Hardiness zone 8b.

It seems that some people move to extreme north Florida and think they are in extreme south Florida. They move barely below Alabama or Georgia and want to plant the palms, citrus and tropical plants that thrive in extreme south Florida. If you live in Zone 9a, perhaps you might get by with growing a few plants that are well suited for 9b. But it is wise to mostly grow plants that are known to flourish in the Plant Hardiness Zone where you live. 

Secondly, follow principle one, which is Right Plant, Right Place, as explained in the UF/IFAS Extension Florida-Friendly Landscape™ (FFL) Program. Following this principle results in developing a healthy, low-maintenance landscape by using Florida-Friendly plants that match your site’s soil, light, water and climatic conditions and that require limited supplemental irrigation, potentially less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

More information on the FFL Program is available through this UF/IFAS Extension link (https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu) or from the Extension Office in your County.

Using these tools may be a great goal for 2023 as we replace cold-injured plants.

Autumn Brings Changes in our Landscapes

Autumn Brings Changes in our Landscapes

The shorter days and cooler temperatures of autumn bring on changes in our shrubs and trees.

Most people expect to see changes in leaf color in deciduous trees and shrubs during fall. But some people become concerned when the leaves on certain evergreen plants begin to turn yellow with the change in the seasons. For many plants this is normal.

Azaleas may lose a few leaves now. These are the older leaves on the branches near the center of the plant. There is no need for alarm by the loss of a few older azalea leaves from now until spring. However, if the younger leaves, those nearest the tip of the shoot, turn yellow or brown there is cause for concern. Poor drainage, lack of water or alkaline soils may cause this condition. Be sure to keep azaleas and other ornamental plants well-watered during dry weather that may occur from now through spring.

Other plants such as gardenias, hollies and camellias may have yellowing leaves now. But as with azaleas, these are the older leaves on the stem near the center of the plant. The mature leaves will drop from the plant from now until spring. This is only the normal aging of older leaves. However, be careful to not confuse this normal process with spider mites, scale, lace bugs, nutrient deficiencies, poor growing conditions or salt injury. Just keep in mind that this normal change in leaf color and leaf drop occurs on the older leaves generally during cooler weather – it’s a seasonal change.

Young red maple with fall foliage. Photo credit: Larry Williams

The leaves of sycamore trees have changed from green to brown by now. Although the sycamore is a deciduous tree, this phenomenon may not be caused by a change in day length or temperature alone. This change in leaf color in sycamores can begin in late summer. Many times, it is the result of sycamore lace bugs feeding on the leaves. By the time the damage is visible, there is little that can be done to correct the problem. However, this problem will take care of itself since sycamore trees will soon be dropping their leaves.

We do have some trees that exhibit beautiful fall foliage this time of year. A few to consider include hickory and gingko for their bright yellow fall foliage, black gum for its early display of brilliant red, purple or orange leaves and Chinese pistache for its late reddish-orange fall show. There are plenty of other good trees to consider for fall color here in North Florida such as dogwood, crape myrtle, Florida maple, sourwood, shumard oak and the list could continue.

Select and Plant Trees for Florida’s High Wind Climate

Select and Plant Trees for Florida’s High Wind Climate

Many future problems can be avoided by paying attention to tree selection, planting and maintenance in Florida’s high wind climate. We may think of tropical storms causing tree damage but our typical summer thunderstorms can produce winds in excess of 50 miles per hour with downbursts reaching over 100 mph. 

There is no way to protect trees from all storm damage. Trees are not adapted to worst-case storms, such as Hurricanes Michael or Ian, only to our average wind climate.

It’s wise to take time to select and correctly plant the right trees for North Florida.

Past hurricanes have taught us that large growing trees planted too close to curbs, sidewalks or buildings blow over easily because they don’t have adequate room to develop a sound root system. It’s best to either plant these trees farther away, plant trees that may stay small, or increase the size of space allocated for tree root growth.

Research and storms have taught us that tree roots need large soil spaces for strong, stable growth. The more rooting space trees have, the less likely they are to fail. Strong root growth is essential for tree stability and health. Large maturing trees need at least 30 feet by 30 feet (900 ft. sq.) of rooting space. Many construction practices such as paving over roots, raising and lowering soil grade, and soil compaction from equipment result in root injury for existing trees, making them less durable and less stable.

Magnolia Tree in the Landscape. Photo courtesy Stephen Greer

Studies have also shown that trees growing in groups better survive high winds compared to individual trees. A group was defined as five or more trees growing within ten feet of another tree, but not in a row.

A short list of large maturing, storm resistant trees to consider include live oak, sand live oak, bald cypress, pond cypress, black gum and magnolia.

Do some homework and take a look at tree species that have done well in your area. If you don’t want or need a large tree in your yard, there are many small and medium sized wind-resistant trees from which to choose, like Crape Myrtle and Vitex. Many palms are wind resistant too, particularly the cabbage palm.

Having success with trees in the landscape involves starting with healthy, well-developed trees. Plant the right tree in the right place. Follow good planting procedures, including not planting trees too deep and providing adequate root space to allow for strong, healthy root growth. Practice correct maintenance techniques, which includes learning how to prune to produce a structurally sound tree. Finally, consider if it is time to be proactive and have large over-mature, declining trees removed and replaced before the next storm.

The following UF/IFAS Extension link, Trees and Hurricanes, includes the most current recommendations on tree selection, planting and pruning. https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/treesandhurricanes/wind_and_trees.shtml